Where We Come From
Founded in 1931, Binswanger started out as a family-owned organization that has consistently served fortune 500 corporations and institutional clients as well as some of the largest family-owned businesses in both large and small towns throughout the U.S. Impressively, the company now has fourth-generation family members participating in its success. Frank G. Binswanger, Jr., and John K. Binswanger are the Chairmen Emeritus of the company, and David R. Binswanger and Frank G. “Jeff” Binswanger, III serve as Managing Directors.
Family companies typically differ from others balancing a sense of entrepreneurialism with the dedication and sensitivity that only comes when one’s name is the brand. Almost 90 years after its founding, Binswanger remains at its heart, a “family business.” The company has found a way to combine the expertise, processes, and philosophies of a progressive global company with the personal touch, quality and care found four generations ago.
1931: The Founding of Binswanger
Frank G. Binswanger, Sr., built the foundation of Binswanger from a single office at 1420 Walnut Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At a time when other Americans were struggling to endure the greatest financial crisis in the nation’s history, Frank Binswanger created a company that would one day expand beyond borders and oceans. His tenacity gave Binswanger its well-deserved reputation as a bulldog, doing anything necessary to get to a successful outcome while treating employees as an extended family.
1933: Selling “State Stores” After the Prohibition
In December of 1933, the U.S. Government rescinded Prohibition. The Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania wanted to ensure that the sale of liquor was tightly controlled by the state, and therefore, the Liquor Control Board was established four days prior to the end of Prohibition. The Governor was opposed to the repeal and had spent little effort preparing for the change.
Frank Binswanger was recommended to help institute the roll out of the retail liquor stores. He came up with a novel plan. Realizing that almost every town in Pennsylvania had a bank that had closed due to the Depression, he suggested that the banks be alternatively used as a “State Store” with liquor locked away in vaults to be ordered and then “withdrawn” by the staff. He also realized he could acquire bank buildings affordably because of the Depression, even though they were typically some of the best located and nicest buildings in town.
Frank became known as the young entrepreneur who was perceived as bringing liquor back to towns and counties of eastern Pennsylvania.
1939-1940: Founding the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR)
In 1939, Frank and his colleague in the industry, David Houston, felt that there was little representation for Industrial and office realtors within the existing National Association of Real Estate Boards (NAREB). With a war coming, the two realized that there was going to be a true need for a coordinated effort to identify the most appropriate places for industrial facilities that would support the war effort. They organized industrial relators across the U.S. and Canada and founded the Society of Industrial Realtors (SIR) in 1940 before Frank enlisted in the military and was stationed in Boston to serve in the war in 1942. The organization remains vital today with a slight name change, The Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR).
1945: The Beginning of a Holiday Tradition
As he returned to civilian life in 1945, Frank started a new tradition. He began taking a picture of his family each December and sending it out as a holiday card to his friends and clients. While a holiday photo is commonplace today, it was highly unusual back then. The Binswanger holiday card is an annual tradition spanning more than 70 years and now including almost 50 family members. The card is eagerly anticipated by thousands each year and has gained considerable notoriety –even earning a mention on NBC’s Today Show!
1949: A Family Business
Binswanger became a family business when Frank Binswanger Sr.’s three children began working for the company. Frank Binswanger Jr. and John Binswanger joined the company as brokers in 1949 and 1954 respectively. Robert, Frank Sr.’s middle son also worked briefly for the company before becoming a professor and social justice pioneer.
1950’s-1960’s: Predicting the Sun Belt Migration
As jobs began shifting away from the Northeast cities after World War II, Binswanger foresaw American Industries migrating to the Sun Belt. Being nimble and aggressive, the company seized the opportunity and created the Southern Division in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1956. This was the first time any real estate brokerage firm expanded into a market well outside of its place of origin. It also explains Binswanger’s unique ability to deal with corporate assets, wherever they are – through an organized and centralized approach. The company continued to push westward in the 1960s and ‘70s – eventually covering the entire United States – but the Southern Division remains Binswanger’s largest branch operation.
1960’s-1970’s: Notoriety Continues to Build at Home
Frank Binswanger, Sr. continued to build the Binswanger reputation in the 1960s and ‘70s with several important steps and transactions. He was a major force in the creation of Philadelphia’s Penn Center, a sizable office corridor consisting of over 5 million square feet, built by submerging elevated train tracks (known as the “Chinese Wall”) in the heart of the city. He also helped to create one of the country’s largest and most successful Industrial parks, The Philadelphia Industrial Park, which revitalized the northeast part of the city. The company also contributed to the changing face of its hometown creating headquarters for many of its leading corporations including Blue Cross, IBM, ARA Services, Philadelphia Savings Fund Society, Westinghouse Broadcasting and Philadelphia National Bank. Then in 1978, he was presented with the William Penn Award, Philadelphia’s most prestigious honor for outstanding contributions toward the betterment of the region, professional accomplishments, and commitment to charity. His son John won that same award some 25 years later.
1980’s: Expanding Overseas through Partnerships and Advisory Services
In 1978, Frank Binswanger III (known as Jeff) joined the family business with his cousin, David Binswanger, coming on board shortly afterward in 1982.
The now third-generation company had firmly established itself in the U.S., and Binswanger began a period of ambitious international growth. In 1983, Binswanger established a global partnership with Auguste-Thouard and Edward Erdman. Later, a partnership with Chesterton Blumenauer (which was eventually acquired by Engle & Völkers) further expanded the reach to the European market and South East Asia. Through partnerships in 1984, Binswanger was the first company to establish partnerships through all of Latin America including smaller markets in Peru, Ecuador and Costa Rica. At that time, Binswanger Advisory group and other service offerings also expanded the business with multinational clients including Kodak, Motorola, Bank of Boston, Intel and Bayer.
1983: Building the Largest Mixed-Use Center in South Carolina History
Binswanger’s commitment to its corporate clients and the communities they serve was on display in Columbia, SC when it built the Palmetto Center. The mixed-use project included a 460,000 square foot headquarters for South Carolina Electric and Gas, a 300-room Marriott hotel, and a variety of supporting retail, which at the time was the largest private development project in South Carolina history. This support continued throughout the Southeast with the development of buildings for IBM, Raleigh Federal Savings and Loan, and Wang Laboratories.
1987: Influencing the Just-in-time Japanese Automotive Movement to the U.S.
As Japanese auto manufacturers considered migrating production to the US, Nobuo Matsunaga, the Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. and Dia-Ichi Kangyo Bank, invited Binswanger to Tokyo to present to automotive suppliers and other manufacturers, a streamlined process for site selection. This visit kicked-off what would become a multi-billion-dollar trend for foreign automotive and technology companies to expand into the U.S. Due to relationships with suppliers, Binswanger was at the forefront of the just-in-time movement that enabled companies like Toyota, Nissan and Honda to come to the U.S. Over time, Binswanger’s Asian operations began advising American firms on how to enter Japan and other Asian markets.
1990’s: Modernizing the Business Philosophy
Traditionally, the Company had viewed its operations as two distinct sectors – Office and Industrial. However, David and Jeff Binswanger saw that as companies began to conglomerate, the lines between the sectors were blurring, creating a real need for across-the-board expertise. No longer was it good enough to know what was available. It became essential to provide multi-disciplined expertise leveraging state-of-the-art technologies as they became available. Processes and data spanned across geographies and professionalism became a partner to market knowledge. Binswanger was a very early adopter to this philosophy as its historically centralized structure meant that consistent service and shared expertise were the company’s norm. David and Jeff created both Advisory and International Divisions which meant that clients were served with the optimal set of resources no matter where they were located. Major firms such as General Motors, AbbVie, Timex, Motorola and Siemens took advantage of these offerings and Binswanger’s reach touched every continent except Antarctica.
Early 2000’s: More Partners and Greater Reach
In 2001, the company expanded even further into the areas of technology, life science, aerospace, transportation, distribution and supply chain, and food sectors and began working with clients such as Comcast, BASF, Amgen and Abbott.
Binswanger formed strategic alliances with top real estate groups and those serving the industry including global engineering and equipment companies such as Engel & Völkers, Liquidity Services (beginning in 2001), Kidder Mathews (beginning in 2003). By leveraging these relationships, Binswanger serves as a singular source of cross-border real estate services; our combination of local perspectives, sophisticated international expertise, and cutting-edge technology offers complete property services across four continents.
2008: Negotiating the Largest Office Deal in Philadelphia
Binswanger has represented Comcast across the nation for more than 20 years – but one of its proudest most recent accomplishments was its representation of the cable/media giant to create Comcast Center, the largest office deal in the history of Philadelphia as well as serving as the company’s Project Manager for the 1.2 million square foot skyscraper. Binswanger’s leadership in the City of Brotherly Love continues to this day having represented many of the City’s most iconic names including the Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News, Tastykake, Beneficial Bank (now WSFS), AmerisourceBergen as well as its involvement with the Comcast Technology Center, the largest building in the U.S. outside of New York City and Chicago.
2018: An Employee-Owned Binswanger
After more than eight decades of family ownership, in July of 2018, the company expanded its ownership group to include many talented and highly motivated employee partners to further focus on providing superior industrial and commercial brokerage and consulting services globally. As part of this new direction, the company has developed and implemented a variety of tools, processes and personnel to be well-positioned for the dynamic and fluid future of commercial real estate.
2019 and Beyond: A New Era for Binswanger
Binswanger continues to be headquartered in Philadelphia though the company maintains coverage throughout North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. The company provides true global capabilities – no market or client, whether large or small, is out of reach. Binswanger has reinvented its approach to sales and marketing, both in terms of how the company promotes its services and capabilities and how agencies are marketed. The company also continues to honor Frank Binswanger Sr.’s vision and energy that firmly established the company’s reputation for predicting trends and seizing opportunities, which continues today.