Joe McMillan, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of DDG, an investment, architecture, construction and development firm, founded in New York in 2009, in a time when global real estate was in a downturn. The former Wall Street executive has since expanded the company to cover California, Florida and New York.


The company designs, constructs, develops and manages its projects in-house. In New York, DDG is currently building 180 East 88th, a tower on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and have nearly completed The Standish in Brooklyn Heights. 100 Franklin and 5 Avenue of the Americas in Tribeca and 532 West 20th in West Chelsea, in Manhattan, are also underway. DDG has completed 41 Bond in NoHo, 345meatpacking in the Meatpacking District, XOCO 325 and 25 Wooster in SoHo and 12 Warren in Tribeca.


Recently completed projects in California include 8 Octavia, 400 Grove and 450 Hayes all located in the arts, fashion and design-focused San Francisco neighborhood of Hayes Valley. Projects underway include mixed-use multi-family and retail projects at 188 Octavia in Hayes Valley and 235 Valencia in the Mission District of San Francisco.


The firm’s first Florida project, 3550 South Ocean, is currently under construction in Palm Beach.


We caught up with Mr. McMillan, 46, to discuss how uniqueness defines luxury, why fitness is the hottest amenity around, and more.


Mansion Global: Describe your dream property.


Joe McMillan: Surrounded by nature. Mountains on one side, and the ocean on the other. Preferably close to an airport, which I realize is the Catch-22.


MG: What does luxury mean to you?


JM: It’s a feeling, not a thing. When you experience something, and it makes you feel special, unique and that you’re the only one that has it, that to me is luxury.


MG: What area do you think is the next hub for luxury properties?


JM: Within North America, Chicago is the next market that has a lot of opportunity. It’s the capital of the Midwest and there’s significant shoreline on the lake. It’s been overlooked in the past. But you’re seeing lots of Midwesterners migrating there.


Prices are much lower than other cities, and it has tremendous room to run.


MG: What’s the biggest surprise in the luxury real estate market now?


JM: The number of all-cash buyers. There never seems to be a lack of all-cash buyers — up markets, down markets, anything, there’s a tremendous amount of liquidity.


MG: Where are the best luxury homes in the world and why?


JM: The best in the U.S. are in New York and Palm Beach. Outside the country — St. Barth’s and South of France. There’s nothing like them in the world. They’re as blue chip as they get.


MG: What’s your favorite part of your home?


JM: My living room, where I can look out a wall of glass at a private planted garden.


MG: What best describes the theme to your home and why?


JM: Casual elegance. In a home, you want a place where you feel comfortable and can relax. There’s nothing in my home that can’t be sat on or touched.


MG: What’s the most valuable amenity to have in a home right now?


JM: Outside of quality and craft, I would say fitness. Fitness is the new luxury. Having that attached to your home or in your home is a big benefit. It’s hugely beneficial.


MG: Best piece of real estate advice?


JM: Focus on location. I’d rather own the worst looking property in the best location, as opposed to the opposite. You can fix your property, not your location.


MG: What’s going on in the news that will have the biggest impact on the luxury real estate market?


JM: It’s macroeconomic — about interest rates and the stock market. The market needs to stabilize and digest what’s happening with rising interest rates and a volatile stock market. Over the next few months we will see markets react and adjust to both of those factors. It takes a while. Real estate is measured in months, quarters and years, but not in short periods of time.


MG: If you had a choice of living in a new development or a prime resale property, which would you choose and why?


JM: A new development, or a historic property that’s been redeveloped. It’s hard to compare to something that incorporates the latest technology and amenities.


MG: What area currently has the best resale value?


JM: It’s about location and scarcity of unique amenities. Regardless of price point, if you focus on what makes a property unique and special, you’ll be fine.