Ricardo Pagan isn’t your average developer. In fact, his story is something of a Hollywood screenplay. Born in 1981 in the Dominican Republic, Pagan immigrated to the United States in 1991, first to Puerto Rico, then to New York, with his parents and sister. “We got visas because of my mother being a doctor,” he explains. As a young adult, and with the help of a college friend, he started selling houses in Queens. His trajectory rose sharply from there.

In 2000, Pagan founded Claridge Properties, a real estate investment and development firm that garnered him myriad projects, including a waterfront site in Brooklyn and the restoration of Detroit’s historic Book-Cadillac Hotel. He continued with projects in Atlanta, Houston and Phoenix, amassing a portfolio of over $1 billion in acquisitions and assets development. But rebuilding communities, creating jobs and championing affordable housing wasn’t enough. “I wanted something bigger,” he says. That’s when he set his sights on Los Angeles.

“I came to L.A. in summer 2011 and saw such opportunity,” he recalls. (He’s lived here since 2012 and recently bought a home in Encino.) “I love the city’s vibrancy, but people need to be able to walk to amenities and we just don’t have great public services like New York.” That’s what inspired him to acquire and develop Angels Landing, the largest residential towers on the West Coast, replete with dining, retail, hotels, green spaces and a new charter school. The DTLA project, slated to open ahead of the 2028 Olympics, should inject $1.6 billion into the local economy, but it’s the people who have Pagan most excited. All of the investors are multiethnic and BIPOC, and there is a mandate to ensure 30% minority inclusion across the board. “Someone gave me a chance; I want to give someone a chance too,” he says. And while he may have come to L.A. to “change the skyline,” he says, his mindset may prove his greatest legacy.