All-female lineup of real estate power players on transportation and affordable housing

July 29, 2016

During an event Thursday morning featuring an all-female lineup of prominent real estate professionals, developersLissette Calderon and Avra Jain voiced their support for a Miami-Dade County legislative proposal that would require builders to set aside units for blue collar workers currently priced out of the South Florida market.

“We have to have housing that is affordable,” Jain, CEO of the Vagabond Group, told attendees. “This is not a new idea. It’s been done in New York.”

In September, the Miami-Dade County Commission is set to vote on legislation that would require developers in the unincorporated area of the county to provide at least 10 percent of their projects for workforce housing. In exchange, the county would grant builders a 15 percent density bonus on to of the maximum number of units allowed by current land use and zoning regulations.

Half of the units classified as workforce housing would be made available to residents who make 60 percent to 79 percent of the median income in Miami-Dade. The other half would be set aside for people who make 80 percent to 140 percent of the median income.

Similar laws have been passed in the five boroughs of New York City and neighboring Long Island. Jain, a guest speaker at the Bisnow Power Series: Women of Influence panel discussion, said the lack of affordable housing in Miami has to be addressed.

She noted that her company purchased and renovated apartment buildings near the Vagabond Hotel Miami to provide affordable housing for her employees. “They couldn’t afford to live close by,” Jain said. “I had people who were taking two buses to get to work.”

Calderon, the Related Group’s president of international and strategic projects who was also on the panel, agreed with Jain. “These are the assistants, the teachers, the police officers and the firefighters,” Calderon said. “When you set aside 10 percent, you can attract a true community.”

In addition to Jain and Calderon, the panel included Tere Blanca, CEO of Blanca Commercial Real Estate; Beth Butler, president of Compass Florida; and Cristina Sullivan, chief operating officer of Gables Residential. Held at the Miami Beach Woman’s Club, Women of Influence also featured panels on transportation, design and construction with Miami Beach Commissioner John Elizabeth Aleman, Miami-Dade transportation director Alice Bravo, 13th Floor Investments Vice President Nicole Shiman, and Meg Daly, founder and president of Friends of the Underline, among others.

During the transportation discussion, Shiman talked about working with Miami-Dade County to create transit-oriented mixed-use projects. Earlier this month, county commissioners approved a deal with 13th Floor and the Adler Group to build 970 residences, a 150-key hotel, 70,000 square feet of retail space and a public plaza on a 7-acre site at the Douglas Road Metrorail Station.

Known as Link at Douglas, the project will be built in four phases with the first consisting of residential tower, the hotel and a portion of the retail section that will include a “premium supermarket.” The developers claim the project will create 1,400 construction jobs and a minimum of 223 permanent jobs once it’s completed. The Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works will also reap $464 million in revenue during the first 30 years of the 99-year lease.

“We are big believers in migration to urban centers,” Shiman said. “We will develop a really exciting mixed-use development to drive ridership up and encourage people to get rid of their cars.”

A Trio Of Influence: Nicole Shiman, Meg Daly And Tere Blanca

July 27, 2016

It probably comes as little surprise that the brawn behind 13th Floor’s various projects—VP Nicole Shiman—comes from a real estate family. And she’s just one of the featured speakers at our Power Series: Women of Influence this Thursday, 7:30am, at the Miami Beach Women’s Club.

Nicole grew up in commercial real estate, her family involved in development and investment in Canada. That exposure planted a seed of interest in the business at an early age, she says. Nicole’s first job was in her teens when she worked on job sites and in property management. Soon after school, Nicole took a post with The Boston Consulting Group, where she was a financial analyst.

That eventually led to 13th Floor, where Nicole went full-bore into development on such projects as the 1010 Brickell condo (here) and the Motion @ Dadeland apartment tower projects, and the project she’s proudest of to-date: Link @ Douglas, a mixed-use development in JV with Miami Dade County and Transit for 7.5 acres around Douglas Station. Nicole, an avid runner and yoga aficionado, says women entering the business should seek out mentors. “Prioritize thinking through your career trajectory, future opportunities and the steps to take now to get you to where you want to go,” she says.”Don’t be scared to fail.”

For Meg Daly, it took a bike accident and two broken arms to become a Woman of Influence. The head of the Underline project, Meg crashed her bike four years ago, and the injuries required her to go to physical therapy without the ability to drive a car. One hot July afternoon, as she was taking the Metrorail, Meg says she was shaded beneath the elevated tracks. “It was comfortable. I noticed how much land was there and that I was the only one there. I thought this should be Miami’s High Line [the famous NYC park].” And thus began the great effort to create a new trail path beneath the Metrorail, the one thing she considers her legacy beyond her family. And it’s an idea that has caught fire in Miami.The Underline’s master plan has been completed as has the economic impact study. She has hunted down more than $7M to fund the first phase of the park trail at Brickell, with construction slated to begin next fall. Meg, as the founder and president of Friends of The Underline, has also been instrumental in raising funds from notable donors, including $600k from Swire Properties, more than $500k from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and $50k contributions each from Pinnacle Housing Group, Banyan Street Capital, Mary Brickell Village and Publix Charities (to donate, click here). Meg’s advice to young women “Work harder than anyone else. Never compromise your integrity. Be firm but fair.”

A native of Cuba, Tere Blanca was one of those who never planned to get into real estate. But upon moving to San Diego after graduating with an MBA from the University of Miami, Tere took a job with a CRE company and was immediately hooked. “The fact that you meet so many interesting people that connect you to the community and allow you to learn new perspectives is always exciting,” says the founder of Blanca Commercial Real Estate. “Soon after, I came back to Miami and decided to dedicate my career to commercial [real estate] and still feel just as motivated and hooked as I did from the day I started my career,” she says. When it comes to young women looking to enter the business, Tere says she has simple advice: “Actively seek continued learning, identify and cultivate greamentors and sponsors, and always be ready to embrace change,”she says. “Just as important, find causes you believe in and generously give back to the community.”

Codina tops off luxury rental and office building in Coral Gables

Leasing for the apartments is expected to begin next year

July 21, 2016

Codina Partners and its affiliate CC Residential just topped off 2020 Salzedo, an office and luxury rental tower in Coral Gables.

General contractor Facchina Construction broke ground on the 16-story early last year and is speeding toward an expected completion date of this fall.

Located at 2020 Salzedo Street, the tower is split into three distinct sections: a parking garage with 566 spaces, 213 luxury apartments and 49,379 square feet of Class A office space. The building also has 6,882 square feet of retail on the ground floor. Its office and residential portions will also have separate lobbies at street level.

Leasing has already begun for both the office and retail portions under brokerages Blanca Commercial Real Estate and Koniver Stern Group, respectively.

According to a recent LoopNet listing, the retail space is asking $45 per square foot annually, while prices for the office space is listed as “negotiable.”

The residential section, however, won’t start looking for tenants until the first quarter of 2017.

In June 2015, Codina scored a $53 million loan from Regions Bank to help finance 2020 Salzedo’s construction. The Mediterranean-style tower was designed by BC Architects, a Gables-based firm that’s worked on projects like the upcoming Biscayne Beach condo tower in Edgewater.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Koniver Stern Group was handling leasing for the project’s apartments. The brokerage is instead representing the developers for retail leasing.

Writing The Next Chapter

July 6, 2016

Millennials may have earned a reputation for changing jobs often, but seasoned CRE professionals, too, are making career moves, albeit on a more strategic level

Millennials are known for frequent shifts from one job to another. A recent LinkedIn study found that members of this generation have, on average, changed employers—and, often, industries—four times during their first decade out of college. That’s a faster pace of change than Generation X managed during the same life stage, let alone Baby Boomers, and the pace is increasing among more recent college graduates. However, within commercial real estate it’s not only professionals in the early stages of their careers that choose not to stay in the same place for the long term. Their more seasoned counterparts do the same, even if it entails climbing out of a comfortable berth and into something less familiar.

“There are personal and professional considerations that influence an industry veteran to be attracted to a new position, and each person is unique in what he or she is searching for,” Jana Turner, principal with Newport Beach, CA-based recruiting firm RETS Associates, tells Real Estate Forum. “One of the top considerations is culture. People wantto be part of a culture that is complementary to where they are in life.”

Another key consideration for many industry veterans is family and quality of life. “Whether it’s important to be near kids, parents or other relatives, many employees are considering the needs of the family when looking to move positions or accepting new ones, says Turner. “In a recent proprietary study, we discovered that 60% of real estate employees have considered relocating to new cities across the west. The survey found that quality of life and accessibility to outdoor activities were among the top drivers” leading employees to consider relocating.

Separately, Turner adds, “professional factors greatly drive a seasoned employee’s decision to seek or accept a new job.” In the same RETS study, “a defined career path was the number-one consideration when looking to relocate.” Other common factors driving an industry veteran’s decision to seek a new position include “exhausted growth opportunities with a current company, changes in compensation components and/or packages and company reorganizations,” says Turner. The veteran may find that such a reorganization takes the form of a merger, an initial public offering “or a change in leadership or management that causes concerns that misalign with his or her desired career path. Depending on personal preferences, people may enjoy a nimble, entrepreneurial company with more opportunity or an employee may prefer to be in a structured, large company with defined roles.”

When Barry Polen, a finance veteran with nearly three decades’ experience, joined Hunt Mortgage Group this past November, “it was to move from a bigger shop to a smaller shop,” he tells Forum. “I think it’s natural to want to get out of a bigger organization where you’re kind of a cog in the wheel and part of the chain, as opposed to a smaller place that’s more entrepreneurial, where the experience you gained in larger organizations can be put to use” and the ability to influence the outcome is greater.

Before joining Hunt Mortgage as a managing director, capital markets in its New York City office, Polen served as managing director with Guggenheim Securities and before that headed the CMBS capital markets desk at Credit Suisse. Often in the financial services sector, he says, “you come to the job on the ‘sell’ side and it’s a daily sprint. You’re trying to get a lot of things done, but there isn’t a lot of thought process on the longer-term ramifications of what you’re doing. You’re buying something with the idea that you’r going to be selling it in a very short period of time.”

By contrast, “in a ‘buy’ organization like Hunt, there’s more use of your brain power” to determine how a particular transaction “achieves value for us in a long-term hold.”

In common with another industry veteran who took a senior role with a major services firm earlier this year—Mitchell LaBar, now COO at Marcus & Millichap—Jim Underhill came to his current position via a consultancy. For both men, their current posts represent a return to the fold: LaBar rejoined M&M, for which he’d worked for 24 years beginning in 1984, while Underhill’s position as CEO of Cresa entailed returning to the tenant-rep sector. He’d founded and led the Staubach Co.’s Northeast division before the Staubach organization was sold to JLL in 2008.

In the interim, Underhill served as Americas CEO at Cushman & Wakefield. “After I left Cushman at the end of 2014, I wasn’t necessarily looking to get back into this type of role,” he told, sister organization to Forum, earlier this year. “But I’ve had a lot of respect for the Cresa organization,” and he knew some of the partners and leaders in the firm’s Washington, DC operations. “They asked if I’d be interested in an advisory post, knowing that I came with a good perspective on the industry and had roots in tenant rep.”

Cresa’s invitation was motivated in part by the company’s interest in developing a strategic plan, on grounds that it was “an important time for them to take advantage of the fact that they had built what today is the largest tenant rep firm in the world but with a lot of growth potential.”

While serving on Cresa’s board as a strategic advisor, Underhill got to know the firm better “and found that there were things I just loved about it. Part of it is the culture, which is very different from where I was. It’s a 100% employee-owned company that didn’t have outside shareholders or private equity that was driving us to do things. Everybody sitting around the table had a significant ownership stake in what we’re trying to do.

“I also loved the focus that the firm had,” he continued. “Today, everybody is trying to be the biggest firm in the world, and I think it’s really hard for them to differentiate themselves. I’ve been in that role. But I came here and had meetings with clients; they loved the fact that Cresa was focused on doing one thing and doing it very well.”

Miami-based Blanca Commercial Real Estate today is among the most successful independent brokerages in the Southeast, but founder and CEO Tere Blanca’s 2009 departure from her position as head of Cushman & Wakefield’s South Florida region was seen as a risky move in the middle of the country’s worst recession in decades. “The biggest driver for me was missing the closer interaction with clients,” Blanca tells Forum.

Prior to joining Cushman & Wakefield, Blanca spent 14 years with Codina Real Estate/ONCOR International, where she was consistently among the firm’s top producers. The interaction, she says, “fueled my creative abilities in terms of helping clients succeed. I really wanted to get back to that side of the business, as opposed to playing only a managerial leadership role.” She opted to make this return by launching her own firm, rather than taking a job elsewhere. “I enjoy the freedom and decision-making and the ability to be very proactive about how we approach the business.”

Although Blanca CRE was launched amid the downturn, Turner cites reasons why career moves are more likely to occur in an upcycle. “Most prominently, when there is more money in the industry due to a healthy economy, more job opportunities are created,” she says. “More opportunities in turn create an increase in competition for top talent that leads to a ‘talent war,’ similar to the one that we are currently experiencing.”

As demand for top talent increases and supply decreases, companies compete by offering “more growth opportunities, appealing office cultures and increases in compensation packages,” adds Turner. “In this type of environment, the candidate is most often in control and has the ability to ‘job hop’ every few years as more job opportunities arise.”

Naturally, growth within organizations can create more such opportunities, yet Underhill states, “Smaller firms are always trying to get bigger, but with a bigger firm come a lot of challenges and complications. One of the biggest is that at some point you grow to a size when you’re overcrowded and you’re too big. That’s one of the issues driving all the musical chairs in the industry—it’s not just money being thrown at people. Rising stars in particular want to see career progression, growth opportunities and a chance to be a significant person in the organization.”

Rising stars could learn a fair amount from the “veterans” on making smart career-change decisions, Turner and others agree. The key, Turner says, is to do one’s due diligence. “Younger industry professionals need to step back from the appeal of more money and assess the company and opportunity as a whole. This assessment includes understanding the capitalization of the firm, the culture, its industry specialization, people and management and more. We advise talent of all ages that the ‘grass isn’t always greener on the other side’ and continue to stress the importance of doing your homework and understanding all the components” of the assessment, in particular the company’s growth plans.

In terms of knowing when it’s time to consider finding other opportunities, Blanca counsels that regardless of whether it’s earlier or later in one’s career, “The impression that you make coming into a role, how you play that role and then how you exit that role are really critical. It’s important to understand that in our business, as in many other businesses, the relationships that you build early in your career are always there for you as you progress and people move around. So you always want to do the right thing.”

She notes that “there’s this eagerness for immediate results” among the current younger generation of professionals. “In an industry like ours, the advisory world of commercial real estate, it takes time to build your career. It takes a number of years for you to become an expert. Some patience is important to allow yourself the opportunity to learn and grow.”

Polen takes a fairly dim view of job-hopping, citing his own career trajectory—three employers since college—as an example. “When you change jobs, almost by definition you’re going to get an increase in pay, but it’s a short-term gain for a long-term loss,” he says. “When you make inroads into an organization and you’re well liked, you could go elsewhere and maybe get a 10% pay raise, but the relationships that you build internally are very valuable. People shouldn’t take lightly the fact that when you go to a new place, you have to establish yourself all over again.”

That being said, the new organization can benefit from filling a vacancy with an outside hire, even one who was strongly identified with another brand. “In addition to transferable skills, a new employee brings a fresh set of eyes, ideas and experiences that can potentially shape a new way to do business and attract new clients and employees,” Turner says. “It is important for the hiring company to understand what they have, what they don’t have and what they’re looking for in a candidate to best understand the key attributes that they require to achieve their business goals.”

A 2015 report from executive search firm Korn/Ferry similarly makes the point that a fresh perspective from an outside candidate can be beneficial. “When it comes to driving execution for businesses, it turns out that a deep knowledge of the lay of the land—in this case, the relevant industry—is vitally important,” the report states.

Data from Korn Ferry’s CEO Readiness Assessment indicate that “executives with longer tenures in the same industry are more likely to be skilled at driving execution compared with those who have jumped between industries. At the same time, it helps to have changed companies within that industry too.”