I Love My Job: Jacob Cooper

The MSC Retail partner and Center City native on gentrification and what Philly developers should care more about.

An MSC Retail partner and managing director now, Jacob Cooper got his start in real estate about 10 years ago when he first joined the company as an associate after pursuing urban studies and art history at the University of Pennsylvania. And here’s the thing: Cooper currently works a few blocks away from where he grew up. This Philly native knows the cityscape better than most, and in his time with MSC, he’s helped owners and developers reshape the streets of his childhood — and he says he never wants to leave. Cooper shares with us his choice for Philly’s finest piece of architecture and the number of restaurants he’s checked off on the 2017 Best Restaurants list.

I grew up in … Center City. I like to think I’m loyal.

I’m currently working on … Penn’s portfolio of retail space, which is approximately 350,000 square feet, as their retail advisor. Penn has been a leader in urban real estate development for quite some time, so it’s very exciting for me to be a part of the transformation that’s happening west of the Schuylkill.

The best thing about Center City is … the walkability. You can get from river to river in 20 minutes.

The worst thing about Center City is … that there aren’t enough trash cans. It costs money to pick up trash, and the city is slowly removing the trash cans.

A Philly neighborhood I’m attracted to right now is … Old Kensington. It’s got a grittiness to it with its history and old factories and ports along the Delaware. It’s going through a total renaissance right now.

Of the 50 restaurants on Philly Mag’s 2017 Best Restaurants list, I’ve been to … 45. Ambra, #39, was the best meal I’ve had all year.

Gentrification is … complex. It can be easily confused with redevelopment and neighborhood improvement and new neighbors moving into new places, but there are clearly some very strong and negative implications in urban neighborhoods where displacement occurs. The natural economics of real estate have to be balanced with a political movement for affordable housing to help longtime residents stay in their homes.

My most prized item in my wardrobe is … by far my Schott motorcycle jacket that I got in Austin a few years ago.

Coming up on 10 years at MSC, a powerful lesson I’ve learned is … that my job is about bringing people together and building relationships. The development part is secondary.

Philly’s greatest asset is … the people. Our passion. Our loyalty. The fact that we’re never wrong.

Philly developers should care more about … design and architecture. Unfortunately, we’re apparently the third most expensive city to build in when it comes to construction prices; so building materials and architecture take a back seat. As Philly matures and grows, we need to spend more time with forward-thinking, first-class designers.

Jacob Cooper on his honeymoon in Thailand last year. Photo courtesy of Jacob Cooper.

Jacob Cooper on his honeymoon in Thailand last year. Photo courtesy of Jacob Cooper.

The show I can’t stop watching is … Chef’s Table on Netflix.

My apartment smells like … leftover Vietnamese food.

Creative placemaking in the retail space will … render stagnant brick-and-mortar stores dead. Creative placemaking is experiential and is pushing to a new level with design. It’s also about co-locating retail uses like what United by Blue is doing with coffee and Urban Outfitters with Vetri.

The best place to people watch in Philly is … 18th between Walnut and Locust. I call it Broadway.

My favorite house in Philly is … the Split Level House at 4th and Poplar in Northern Liberties designed by QB3.

One company I’d like to work with but haven’t yet is … Curalate. There’s a lot of synergy between what they do and what we do and alignment between our brands.

I take my job seriously because … our compensation is 100 percent commission-based.

Social media makes me feel … distracted.

One skill I’m still honing is … meditation. Finding time alone and unplugging is becoming harder to do, but it’s critical.

I admire leaders who … give all the credit to the people who work for them.

My favorite piece of architecture in Philly is … the main reading room of the Fisher Fine Arts Library at Penn. Such a spectacular piece of architecture, designed by Frank Furness.

Follow @fabiolacineas on Twitter.