You have been with JLL for 17 years – and in 2017 you were promoted to a leadership position. Can you tell us about your journey? How does a Property Manager become a VP?
To be honest, I consider myself a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to a big career subject. I had been with JLL for 12 years before the promotion to VP and managed several buildings in one way or another. I was good at my job, I loved it – but I was not opening myself up to everything that the commercial real estate community had to offer.
Once I realized what was holding me back, I started looking for opportunities to grow and spread my wings. This included networking more, not just meeting people but having deeper meaningful dialogues and listening to different ideas. Ultimately by growing my network, I was getting critical information about what’s going to impact our real estate community, our business, and our clients.
I soon learned that BOMA New York and REBNY (Real Estate Board of New York) were the perfect places to learn everything coming down the pike in terms of legislation for New York City and how it can impact real estate and landlords.
In hindsight, I grew so much just with that exposure – and that’s what helped me get to the next level of my career.
What’s an example of useful information you learned at an industry event that you shared with your team?
Local Law 97 is a perfect example – New York City’s initiative to reduce our carbon footprint. This means that owners have to look at their infrastructure and make sure that they’re operating efficiently. If a building doesn’t meet a certain criteria in terms of reducing its carbon footprint, managing energy, and achieving sustainability, there will be fines imposed.
So the question is – how can we at JLL help our clients prepare for a new regulatory landscape? What’s the game plan to get to 2025 and beyond?
More specifically: If a landlord sells the building and the plans are not in place, then the buyer is going to request a credit because they will need to pay to secure the efficiencies as mandated by the city. I obtained this information early on and brought it back to my team to discuss.
So your advice to younger property managers who want to get into leadership positions is to get involved in local industry events. What other qualities made you successful?
At the end of the day, it boils down to three things: Firstly, it’s all about confidence – and that comes with age and experience. Second, you need to really know your stuff – be committed to learning the business: infrastructure, contracts, budgets – and find creative ways to stay informed about everything that is happening (or about to happen) in the building you are managing.
Lastly, it’s about communication and managing your clients’ expectations. You need to inform them – whatever has happened, good, bad and ugly. This means anticipating their needs, worries, and anxieties.
“This is what’s happening at the building. Here is who is impacted and how we’re taking care of it. I’ll let you know what happens next, and here is when you should expect the next update.”
My years in this industry has taught me early – real time communication is 90 percent of the job.
Can you give an example of a particularly tough scenario where this skill came into play for you? COVID-19?
Covid-19 is definitely one of the toughest scenarios. We, the property management professionals, were at the forefront of the pandemic, setting up safety protocols, safeguarding the buildings, keeping building staff and tenants safe, and working with tenants who were struggling to pay the rent, and doing everything we could to mitigate the damage. And let’s not forget about having to deal with civil unrest and looting when the city initiated the original re-occupancy in June 2020.
Another challenge I had to face during my career – which was quite unique for New York – was Hurricane Sandy in 2021.
A previous assignment – 90 Broad Street – was literally submerged in water. Both the basement and sub basement were underwater, plus four feet of water in the lobby! As part of the recovery, we decided to think about the asset strategically. We put in new switchgear, lit up the tower, did some major work in the basement, and renovated everything. For a project that large, we had to bring in the JLL project management division. I worked with them and all of the different vendors to make it all happen. Day in and day out, our whole team was on site hustling to recover from the disaster – the security team, cleaning team, and engineering team. In fact, our engineers were working around the clock. Let me tell you – that was an unforgettable experience, and it was a big turning point in my career because it was such a unique, high-stress event.
After all was said and done, fixing the damage and upgrading the asset, 90 Broad Street actually sold for a profit! It hit the market as if it was brand new.
One of the most fantastic compliments that I received from my client at the time was how impressed they were with my communication with them and the tenants during the process. We set up a Facebook page to help in that effort – my first foray into social media. I was constantly updating the client and the tenants, especially during the first few weeks after the hurricane.
It is our job as property managers to communicate to clients that everything is under control, what steps we are taking, and what to expect. Our clients see it as reassurance – “Okay, she’s on it, she’s going to take care of it. We’re going to be okay.”
And that’s the ultimate comfort level, right? It’s confidence in your property manager.
You are the subcommittee chair of historical buildings for BOMA NY’s Pinnacle Awards*. Do you have a favorite building?
(*BOMA New York’s Pinnacle Awards. It celebrates the best of the buildings in New York City in different categories. For the historical building category, the criteria is a building that is 50 years or older. – Jones)
A couple of buildings come to mind:
One property that feels special to me is 500 5th Avenue.
It’s on 42nd street and overlooks Bryant Park – and it’s phenomenal!
With this building, we get the best of the two worlds. On the one hand, we have lots of architectural detail and interesting backstories on what was happening when that building went up. And then you have to run the building to today’s standards, which is particularly challenging.
The architect firm is the same that was behind the Empire State building (Shreve, Lamb & Harmon). The building has lots of tiers, incredible vintage decor inside, as well as some remnant mechanical systems including older boilers, you name it. The architectural firm did an amazing renovation of the basement – they removed all of the columns and executed a massive structural project to create an open and modern space. The space is now occupied by Zara’s flagship store, and I thought it was brilliant.
Another building that I think is just amazing (and also is one of the most recent Pinnacle Award Winners) is the Equitable Building downtown at 120 Broadway. They did an incredible job renovating the building with a beautiful amenity space, tenant club house, at the top floors, activated terraces, to take in sweeping views of the city.
One of the interesting things about this property is that it used to be a poster child for unregulated tall building construction development. It was the tallest building downtown at one point, where it cast a shadow six times of its own area. This was the building that prompted the landmark 1916 Building Zone Resolution which was the first comprehensive zoning regulation that put restrictions such as maximum allowed building height in place. Ironically, The NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) that enforces this zoning regulation is now a tenant at that very building. How funny is that?!
Commercial property management is such a tough job. Do you ever wish you were in a different field?
No! I am so lucky to be in this industry. This is a great niche business for those who love a high pace, ever-changing work environment.
To me, property management is not just the back of the house – it’s all of it. The infrastructure, the people, the clients, the leases, the contracts, the marketing, the public relations, the safety – I get to be involved in all of it, and I love it.