CPE’s Stars to Watch 2019: Chicago’s Tower Powerhouse

It would be overstating the case to say that Nooshin Felsenthal and her colleagues cornered the Chicago market last year, but not by all that much.

Nooshin Felsenthal, 35

Managing Director, JLL

Nooshin Felsenthal
Nooshin Felsenthal

It would be overstating the case to say that Nooshin Felsenthal and her colleagues cornered the Chicago market last year, but not by all that much. Felsenthal is the co-leader of the team that completed five of the 10 largest transactions in the city, accounting for nearly two-thirds of downtown sales exceeding $25 million. All told, the team closed deals on seven significant downtown Chicago assets in 2018, totaling more than $2.2 billion in sales and upward of 8 million square feet.

That performance was remarkable, yet it also fits a pattern of achievement. Felsenthal, who heads JLL’s central U.S. CBD investment sales practice alongside International Director Bruce Miller, has closed more than $8 billion worth of investment deals during her career. Her group has handled many of Chicago’s most high-profile transactions, including deals for such trophy properties as Aon Center, 353 N. Clark, 111 N. Canal, 333 W. Wacker and 225 W. Wacker.

Felsenthal joined JLL’s Chicago office right after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in finance. (She also holds an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.) She has always been a numbers person, but she finds the tangible nature of real estate much more compelling than stocks and bonds.

After getting her start on the occupier side of the business, Felsenthal moved to JLL’s Capital Markets team in 2010, just as the U.S. was emerging from a recession and Chicago was climbing out of a brutal office investment slump. Today she specializes in the disposition and recapitalization of office assets throughout the Midwest.

Although Felsenthal emphasizes that every transaction is special, she counts the 2015 deal for Aon Center among her proudest accomplishments. She represented Piedmont Office Realty Trust in the $712 million sale of Chicago’s third-tallest building. “For a long time, that asset had a pretty stigmatized view in the market,” she recalled. “We were creative in our approach, and developed a really compelling investment thesis for that asset that went far beyond the office component.”

The buyer, 601W Cos., proceeded to renovate the 83-story tower, which is now home to JLL’s global headquarters. “It was one of the most competitive processes we’ve ever run, and generated a really outsize result for our client, which always thrills us,” she added.

Felsenthal likes the dynamism of the real estate capital markets business, which engages the full range of her abilities, from financial and analytical talents to marketing and problem-solving skills. Her dedication is well known to her peers. “Nooshin is one of the hardest-working executives in the industry,” said Stephen Sotoloff, senior principal at Walton Street Capital LLC. “She treats every asset she’s marketing as if it’s her own equity and finds creative and actionable value propositions for the next buyer.”

Biggest Mentor: Nooshin Felsenthal admires Holly Duran, owner of a boutique Chicago-based tenant representation firm. “She’s one of the most exceptional talents I’ve ever worked with. I don’t know if she knows that she’s my mentor, but she is one.”

Meet the rest of CPE’s Stars to Watch for 2019—commercial real estate’s top young talent.