Matt Clark, a Gen Y lawyer-turned-developer, is bullish on downtown Lakeland but bearish on personal technology; he’s more Post-It notes then electronic organizer. We talk with him about his personal work style and his passion for making downtown Lakeland a place where people want to live.
Name: Matt Clark
Title: President, Broadway Real Estate and StoreRight Self Storage. Broadway is our downtown-Lakeland-focused, traditional commercial real estate company dealing with office space and more recently getting into residential. Our other company, StoreRight, has 10 self-storage facilities throughout Central Florida.
Age: 37. I was in the first class to go through Jenkins High School all four years.
Define what you do in 25 words or less: We’re a full-service real estate company. We own and manage our own portfolio of Class A commercial space in and around downtown Lakeland.
Where do you spend most of your worktime? A good bit of time is at my desk. We have a good-size boardroom in the back; we do a lot of collaboration and a lot of meetings back there when we’re going over new projects like NoBay or the federal building or Gore Appliance Store on Massachusetts. That one will probably be a combination of retail and residential.
What in your workplace shows off your passions? I’ve got some Gator gear here. I’m very passionate about Gator athletics. I went to UF for undergrad and law school. Tarpon on the wall back here — I love to get out fishing on the west coast around Homosassa. Pictures of my three girls ranging from 2 to 7.
What project are you excited about? That would definitely have to be the NoBay project (residential and commercial complex on Bay Street between Kentucky and Tennessee avenues). We’re excited to see that happen downtown. Going through the Ignite Lakeland process, doing a vision strategy for downtown, one of the things that really stood out in other successful urban areas is having a residential population. (Without it) you can’t get that vibrancy that we all want — we want more restaurants, more retail, more bars, more music, more options. Until you get heads in beds at night you can’t really create that. So I’m excited that NoBay is going to help get us going on that path.
What’s your most important work tool? My computer and my voice: I enjoy speaking with people. I enjoy speaking publicly. I enjoy trying to drive initiatives forward.
Mac or PC? PC. I am very non-IT savvy. I joined Facebook two years ago when Ignite Lakeland got started. I had not been on until then, but thought it was important to communicate with a broader audience. I do have an iPhone and iPad, but I am PC and old school when it comes to technology.
Favorite productivity tools: My favorite would be working on a Word document or email. I do a massive amount of emails.
Is there anything you do to keep your emails organized? I have a pretty comprehensive filing system. I keep my inbox very small but I have a thousand folders that I file stuff in.
Tip for keeping organized: I keep a journal of to-dos that I update pretty regularly. I put my priority to-dos on Post-its. I am not the right person to ask for advice on technology and how it can keep you organized.
Favorite diversions on your iPhone: I enjoy Pandora and Spotify for music. As far as biggest hobbies, I really enjoy going to hear live music — all kinds of genres. There’s nothing better than going to a live show; I can lose myself in that moment. Also the camera. I take a ton of pictures of my family.
Favorite information site: I read The Ledger every day; I just read the Local section to keep up to speed on local issues; I try to read the Wall Street Journal every day to keep up with national economics and the real estate world. Then Facebook to keep me up to speed again with more local issues.
What do you usually wear to work? My standard outfit is a pair of dress shoes, blue jeans, dress shirts and blazers. After my lawyering days of wearing suits and ties I still wanted to be dressy but if you walk into a real estate meeting in a suit and tie you’re almost not trusted. The blazer keeps it semi dressy.
How did you prepare for what you do? My background was in law. I practiced up in Atlanta and back in Lakeland for close to six-seven years of mostly business litigation. It was a good way of learning how to analyze issues and a way to deal with confrontational situations and try to find some middle ground. So I think it served me very well in this new career. But I realized litigating other people’s problems all day long wasn’t my life’s calling. It wears on you when your whole day’s conflict. I don’t mind being an a-hole when I need to be or fighting for a cause when it’s important, but to do that all day every day wasn’t sustainable for me. And I always felt more business and entrepreneurial minded than legal minded and had dabbled in a couple of side businesses. I was coming to the end of my legal path and got together with my dad (lawyer Ron Clark) and brother-in-law (Tom Anderson), who had a real estate background but wanted to start his own company and I wanted to start my own company. We got together and formed Broadway in June of ’09 and bought into and took over control over of a pretty large office portfolio and since then have added to it. We’ve had several acquisitions over the years and recently getting into other commercial space and multi-family space.
What were the larger acquisitions? This building — the McKay Building — in December 2009. Our main holdings are Century Plaza where CenterState Bank is, SunTrust Plaza, the Herring-Bowyer Building at Kentucky and Pine — I understand it’s the oldest still-standing commercial building in Lakeland.
What book, TV show, movie or music has captured your imagination lately? Umphrey’s McGee is my favorite band. I actually had the opportunity to meet them at a show at the House of Blues in Orlando several months back. One of the friends we were with had a friend who’s the cousin of the keyboardist and they got us backstage.
What’s your favorite leisure activity? I love to go see live music.
What was your last concert? Well, I’m in a bad streak. I was up in New York when the blizzard hit. I was going to go see Umphrey’s McGee at the Beacon Theatre. Then I was going with friends to see Def Leppard and Styx at Amway and that got cancelled. So two back-to-back Saturday shows I was going to got cancelled. But the night before Umphrey’s McGee got cancelled, Joe Bonamassa played up in New York. He was a child prodigy guitarist — opened for BB King when he was 12 or 13.
Is there something you’re working on that makes Lakeland a more livable community? I’d have to go back to NoBay. There’s a lot of demand for residential downtown but there’s very little supply, so we hope that NoBay can add to that, and hopefully we can do more NoBay-like projects to get more people living downtown.
What about Lakeland makes you excited? I love Lakeland. It’s a corny phrase, but I really do. What drew me back and makes me passionate about trying to make it a better place is it truly has a sense of community that I feel is very rare. Lakelanders as a whole care about the greater good of Lakeland, and people are willing to take their time for charitable boards or organizations and willing to fight for causes.
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