Respect for lineage is something that comes across clearly upon meeting siblings Alexandra (“Alex”) and Andrew Weisz at the gleaming offices of the headquarters of the RPW Group in Rye Brook.
Refurbished within the past year, the bright, white space is being adorned by Alex with a green plant “wall” the morning I arrive to interview them. Settling into a glass-enclosed conference room with the children of Robert P. Weisz, founder of this thriving, commercial real estate development firm, I learn of their deep respect for their father’s South American heritage and the business he founded and has so carefully cultivated.
RPW had acquired this former headquarters of Philip Morris International in 2004, when the two were still in high school, but they remember how proud their father was to add such a significant building to his portfolio. Reimagining it as a multitenant space, he changed the orientation of the hallways — radically, Alex tells me — repositioning the outdoor windows to serve as light sources along internal hallways and enhancing the services.
As an immigrant to the United States from Uruguay, Robert and Argentine-born wife Cristina, the siblings’ mother, settled in New Jersey where Robert started his first venture, a wholesale furniture manufacturing business utilizing imported raw materials. The endeavor, which began before their children were even born, spawned an ever-increasing interest and further talent for acquiring and rehabilitating commercial buildings — largely warehouse and industrial spaces between Weehawken and Newark, New Jersey, at the outset, they both explain.
Spanish was their first language at home for the young children. Throughout their childhood and up to now, they have traveled at least annually to the family’s home in Punta del Este, Uruguay. They speak of those trips as being very grounding and playing a key role in their development, exposing them to a way of life so different from their own upbringing.
Two years apart — Alex is older — they spent their early years in New Rochelle, then Purchase, before settling into a home their father built in Greenwich. Alex attended Greenwich Academy for her entire elementary and secondary school education, while Andrew went to Hackley School in Tarrytown. Alex tells me she was focused almost solely on her academic subjects, with her sights set on attending a top-tier college. She met that by goal by attending Harvard University for her undergraduate education, majoring in philosophy, before obtaining her juris doctor degree from the University of Pennysylvannia.
While at Hackley, Andrew was an avid tennis player and then later turned his energy and attention to squash, as the school had installed new courts during his time there. His passion for the sport continued at Trinity College in Hartford where he was a four-time national champion while pursuing a degree in international studies. Each a staunch advocate of the other, he gives the point for academics to his sister, but she is quick to return the compliment. “Andrew is more even-keeled,” Alex tells me. “He has tremendous people skills and what he’s been able to do on the leasing end here is very palpable.”
After law school, Alex went into practice at the New York office of the large, international firm, Weil, Gotschal and Manges. But after two and a half years, she acknowledges that it wasn’t feeding her soul. She became increasingly drawn to “meditation and mindfulness,” she told me, adopting these centering practices in earnest.
It was about this time that she turned her attention to his father’s business in a professional capacity. Things were good at RPW — growth was steady and many new buildings along Westchester Avenue were recently acquired — but there was room for improvement and modernization. True that many of her father’s original employees had been at the firm for decades, but meaningful enhancements and programs were needed, not only for them, but for their tenants.
Andrew, who had chosen to start his post-college career in commercial real estate at Cushman & Wakefield in New York, was then at Newmark Knight Frank where he was specializing in leasing and acquisitions, the position he holds today at RPW as a vice president of the firm. His path prepared him well for spearheading the efforts to lease the company’s second Manhattan acquisition and its only presence in the borough currently, 275 Madison Ave., a class-A office building in midtown.
Though Alex had joined earlier, it was just September of last year when the two joined forces at RPW, dividing their time between the Rye Brook base and the offices in New York City, where both reside. Both speak of the close kinship they share and the efforts each has undertaken, singularly and together, to enhance and preserve the company’s resources, operations and employment culture. Working in concert, the siblings handily and quickly accomplished some “significant” projects — institution of employee reviews and advancement programs, a new company website, renovation of the offices in Rye Brook, infrastructure improvements at many of their buildings and implementation of a tenant portal for their two newest properties, 925 and 1025 Westchester Ave. in White Plains.
Married in June of this year, Andrew is actively engaged in City Squash, a nonprofit that helps New York City youth in pursuit of academic, athletic and personal achievement. He is also a founding member of a unique charity in Cartagena, Columbia — Squash Urbano — which provides children with an opportunity to play sports while continuing their education, something not readily available to them in this impoverished region of the world. Benevolence runs through the members of this family, who regularly lend their buildings’ beautiful common spaces and atriums for fundraisers. They are also deeply involved with Reaching U, a charity that assists single mothers and children in Uruguay.
Alex now finds herself in an advisory capacity to the firm while she shifts into a new career — life coaching. It is somewhat ironic that she had formulated her plans for RPW with the hope that Andrew would join her, and now she is leaving the daily operations aside.
“It’s odd not having her here every day,” Andrew says, “but I know she is never far away.”
Alex tells me she hopes others will reap the benefits of this bold, new move, saying, “I would like to leave a little bit on the planet.”
I somehow find it hard to imagine that there will only be a little bit left behind by these folks.
For more, visit rpw.com.