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Meet Buzz Ruttenberg of Belgravia Group

Today we’d like to introduce you to Buzz Ruttenberg.

Buzz, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My dad, David C. Ruttenberg, became interested in real estate through my mother, his wife when they married in 1940. Her father owned one multifamily apartment building, which piqued my dad’s interest. In 1946 after WWII and the lifting of rent control, my dad and Louis Supera partnered in a small rehab of a 6-unit building in the 2700 N block of Pine Grove St. It was a ½ block from our rental home at 450 W. Wrightwood.

The property rented well, and the team of Supera and Ruttenberg did several other Lincoln Park rehabs. After I completed law school at Northwestern School of Law in 1966, I worked at Kirkland & Ellis law firm for about two years and then joined my dad in his law firm. We also started to build new buildings, and within 15 years, we were devoting full time to real estate development and were practicing law only for our own activities.

The buildings developed in the 70’s and 80’s were mostly retail and some mixed use. We aided in the growth of Clybourn St and North Ave as key shopping areas. In 1990 after the Gulf War, we pivoted toward condominium development. We knew the infill opportunities were just our size…. not too small and not too larger… Just Right for us ($20 to $100 million).

We thrived, and we survived the challenges of the Gulf Wars, the crash of 2000, the Great Recession (during which we completed 600 N. Lake Shore Drive, a 400 unit project on the lake), and we survived the many ups and downs of our Chicago market!

In 2011 as the pessimism was rising about the future of homeownership post Recession, we began developing new condominiums in the West Loop, and from 2012 -2014 Belgravia was the Leading New Condominium developer in Chicago…. basically no one else was building for-sale homes.

Today we have 4 buildings at various stages of development in the West Loop, River North and West Lincoln Park (about t $350,000,000 of development in all). Our office is small, with only 22 professionals. The spirit of togetherness and family is a joy to me. In addition to real estate, my parents also passed on their love of art to me and my brother.

Together, we continue to our parent’s legacy through their foundation and through our sponsorship of the arts and emerging artists. My love of art is evident throughout the office and our development, which adds to the positive environment and family feel of our business and product.

Has it been a smooth road?
As a business, we have endured many cycles–the Oil Embargo of 1974, 21% Prime rate in 1979-81, a 25% stock crash in ’87, two gulf wars, the crash of 2000 after Y2K, the 911 crisis, and the Great Recession of 2008.

We have stood our ground, honored our commitments, and never failed to finish any development. NO BAD LOANS on our record.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Belgravia has a small, family-like environment. We have been working in Chicago, and along with my dad’s work, for over 70 years. We have a brand that is known by all for honesty and quality. That is what makes us special–long-term vision, the ability to stay the course, and local focus and local knowledge. Also, we do not develop in many markets, ONLY CHICAGO.

Our employees are loyal and stay with our company for many years. The CFO is about 40 years at her spot, the CEO is about 30, and our senior General Counsel also 40 years. Me, I have been in my dad’s footsteps for over 70 years… and counting.

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
The way our team all pulled together to survive the crisis of 2008. We never failed to finish and paid in full all our bills. And we had happy buyers!


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