Although he owns more than 11 million square feet of office space, Charles S. Cohen is not your typical New York real estate mogul.
For one, he spends a lot of time in Los Angeles -- calling it his second home -- and it seems clear why L.A. culture appeals to him. A lifetime film aficionado, Cohen, 49, has made award-winning shorts and written a book on film trivia. Still, he is far from the bohemian artistic types who populate Hollywood -- he dresses impeccably, and is conservative and soft-spoken. But he is also a man with a vision who has radical ideas for what real estate should be doing for the community.
"In real estate, people tend to dwell on the importance of location," Cohen told The Journal from his office in New York City. "Location is critical, but what is more important is to connect the location and the building to the community." Cohen takes a very hands-on approach for every building his company, Cohen Brothers Realty Corporation, owns. It is not enough to simply fill an office building with tenants -- the building itself has to give something back to the community, he said.
This is why Cohen feels so passionately about his plans to "raise the blue whale" and revitalize the Pacific Design Center (PDC) on the corner of Melrose and San Vicente. It is the second of three design centers that his company has purchased around the country. Cohen, who bought the 12-million-square foot PDC two years ago, envisions a building that will work with local communities, becoming a place where people can learn about design and attend design-related events. He also hopes that the local entertainment community will embrace the state-of-the-art theater in the PDC, and use it to hold first-run film screenings.
Cohen's community service ambitions extend beyond business to philanthropy. He supports a range of causes from medical institutions such as Cedars-Sinai, to law enforcement, military and religious institutions like Yeshiva University and United Jewish Appeal. On Oct. 25, a day proclaimed by West Hollywood and Gov. Gray Davis to be Charles S. Cohen Day, B'nai B'rith International will honor Cohen at the Regent Beverly Wilshire with its Distinguished Humanitarian Award. (He will also be honored by the organization at a luncheon Nov. 12 at the St. Regis hotel in New York City.)
His business and philanthropic travels have not been curtailed by the attacks on America. "America was founded as a country, as a respite and a home for freedom. That is what is being threatened here, and that is unacceptable. We can't have our freedoms abridged. I am proud to be an American, and proud to be a Jew, and I am ready to do anything I can to help."
Cohen, who is in the process of establishing his own foundation, said, "I am at the beginning of what I hope will be a long philanthropic career, which I hope will contribute many millions of dollars to good Jewish organizations."
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