CPE’s Stars to Watch: Rising Leaders in Commercial Real Estate

Challenging times are the true test of talent, and the past recession has provided more of a test than most. This year’s group of Stars to Watch rose to the challenge, though, drawing on such strengths as ingenuity, honesty, commitment, a desire to learn and, of course, good old-fashioned hard work to close deals, develop research programs, cut costs and add to the bottom line.

Challenging times are the true test of talent, and the past recession has provided more of a test than most. This year’s group of Stars to Watch rose to the challenge, though, drawing on such strengths as ingenuity, honesty, commitment, a desire to learn and, of course, good old-fashioned hard work to close deals, develop research programs, cut costs and add to the bottom line.

CPE selected 10 such rising stars, choosing from among those aged 40 and under representing different aspects of the industry—investment, development, finance, services and research—and considering not just what they have accomplished but how they are benefiting their clients, their companies and the industry at large. These 10 particularly stood out, but there were others worthy of consideration; look for them to be featured throughout the year on cpexecutive.com.

For more on these stars, including further details on their accomplishments, secrets to success, words of wisdom and what others have to say about them, be sure to read “Getting to Know the Stars.”

Jason Black, 31, Director
of Architecture and Sustainability, Reckson, a Division of SL Green

For Jason Black, sustainability is a passion. What began as a small effort in SL Green Realty Corp.’s suburban properties has expanded significantly during the past four years. “What’s exciting about sustainability is really it’s a blank canvas these days,” observed the director of architecture and sustainability for the suburban properties, which include 32 buildings totaling 4.5 million square feet in Westchester County, New York; Fairfield County, Connecticut; and New Jersey. Black, who spends his spare time training for Ironman triathlons—he is now preparing for his third—graduated from Roger Williams University with an architectural degree. He joined Reckson in 2004 as a regional architect and construction project manager and stayed on when SL Green acquired Reckson in 2007.

Black is also active in community efforts, including stints on the Westchester County Global Warming Task Force and Climate Change Advisory Council, the White Plains Sustainable & Environmental Enhancement Committee and the Port Chester Architecture Board of Review

Memorable Achievements: In all, has developed $4 million in energy conservation programs, saving $1.5 million a year; expanded the construction recycling program to include more than 1.2 million square feet of carpet and ceiling tile diverted from landfills; and secured more than $1.4 million in state and utility incentives. Six properties have been award Energy Star labels. LEED Accredited Professional.

Goals: Sees sustainability as “my constant evolution. … There’s so much opportunity now that that’s what I’m focused on.” —S.S.

Timothy Dempsey, 39
Executive Vice President, CB Richard Ellis Group Inc.

During his 16-year career, Timothy Dempsey has been involved in some of the largest New York City-area real estate office transactions. He has also transacted deals in San Jose, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Boston and Philadelphia, realizing early on that clients often prefer advisors that can work in multiple markets. Indeed, he not only leads the team for all client and broker services for Disney CORE Services in the Northeast, he is also the primary liaison for the account globally, according to Denise Eccleston, director of global account management for the Disney division.

Dempsey earned a degree in facilities management planning and design from the University of Buffalo’s school of architecture, but decided he could find more opportunities in real estate. He joined the asset and property management department at Edward S. Gordon Co. in late 1994, then moved into the consulting department, remaining there through the company’s evolution to CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. today.

Memorable Achievements: 2010: placed PricewaterhouseCoopers L.L.P. in 209,000 square feet in San Jose and 210,000 square feet in Atlanta; News Corp./Dow Jones in 117,000 square feet in Manhattan; and Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson in 103,000 square feet in Washington, D.C. 2009: worked on a 90,000-square-foot lease for Eli Lilly in the East River Science Park. Past New York work: involved with New York Times building, PricewaterhouseCoopers headquarters, consolidating Aon Corp.’s Midtown and Downtown offices in Lower Manhattan.

Goals: “I like my career; I love this platform. … (It) allows me to continually
expand my business.” —S.S.

Perry Freitas, 31
Vice President of Due Diligence, Hudson Realty Capital L.L.C.

Perry Freitas was studying computer science at Marist College when he discovered real estate. His senior year, he met Sanford Herrick, a founding principal of Hudson Realty Capital L.L.C., who recruited him as an intern at a Hudson predecessor company. He went to work at Hudson full time upon graduation.

“As the company has grown, so have I,” said Freitas, who was able to participate in all the different investment disciplines as Hudson grew, developing a natural inclination toward due diligence. He now has a meaningful involvement in determining viability and profitability of the firm’s more than $3 billion in equity and debt investments, is also involved in negotiating transactions and has been deeply involved in the firm’s industrial and multi-family property deals in the outer boroughs of New York City and the Southeast United States as well as multi-family deals in the Northeast and Midwest. Managing director of origination Spencer Garfield noted his uncommon combination of analytical skills and ability to understand real estate. “He’s doing the work of two people.”

Memorable Achievements: In late November 2010, closed a $33 million distressed debt acquisition of 109 partially completed age-restricted condominium units in Clifton, N.J. Last year marked a return to investment activity for Hudson Realty, and a number of other deals worked on last year have closed this year, including a first mortgage on entitled land with retail in Austin, the second phase of a mixed-use property and a first mortgage on an 861-unit multi-family property in Houston.

Goals: Continue to become more diversified and knowledgeable across all aspects of the business. —S.S.

Adelaide Grady, 32
Vice President of Development, Wood Partners

Adelaide Grady is equally comfortable in a planning board meeting and at a work site in boots and a hardhat. This LEED Accredited Professional took her first environmental science class as a senior at Brown University, where she received a dual degree in architecture and Russian language and literature. The coursework showed her that business can benefit from sustainability just as much as nature. She started out certifying Energy Star homes with Conservation Services Group, then became a “glorified administrative assistant” to enter the multi-family development market with Boston developer Leggat McCall Properties. “It was the only way to get your foot in the door.”

Grady quickly moved up the ladder to a development manager position, then in January 2009 joined the new Boston office of developer Wood Partners. As co-chair of Wood’s Green Team, she led the company’s transition toward more energy-efficient and environmentally responsible building practices. With Grady’s help, the Boston office had three deals under contract within a few months of opening.

Memorable Achievements: Alta at Indian Woods in Stoughton, Mass., closed in January 2010 and recently finished construction with 154 units, 25 percent of which are affordable. A 116-unit multi-family project at the former site of Brigham’s ice cream factory in Boston’s Arlington Center was submitted in March 2010 and involved an uphill battle until approval was granted in February 2011. Grady was able to ‘tip the scale’ of the fight by proving the benefits of sustainable building.

Goals: Keep proving that green is business smart. —M.R.

Constantine Kontokosta, 35
Director, Center for the Sustainable Built Environment at New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate and Principal & Founder, The KACE Group

Constantine Kontokosta has been making a name for himself as an industry innovator, educator and leader since graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s in civil engineering. He was a financial analyst at Capital Trust, then a project manager at Tishman Construction Corp. before starting his own development firm, The KACE Group, in 2000 with his corporate lawyer brother, Michael. Their first project was the Harborfront Inn at Greenpoint on Long Island’s North Fork. They also developed and now operate the 67 Steps vineyard on Long Island. Cultivating a passion for understanding the forces that shape development and urban planning, he earned a master’s in real estate from New York University and masters’ of science and of philosophy in urban planning from Columbia University, where he is currently completing his doctorate. He has taught courses on real estate development, urban planning and land use regulation as a clinical assistant professor at NYU.

Memorable Achievements: Launched the Center for the Sustainable Built Environment at the NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate in February 2010, with the goal of working to improve decision-making and sustainable practices in the real estate and construction industries.

Goals: Continue to expand The KACE Group, and promote the creation and implementation of sustainability measures. —M.R.

Steve Orchard, 34
Senior Vice President, George Smith Partners

Steve Orchard always had an interest in real estate, but his future took an ironic turn when some alumni contacts from the University of Southern California decided to start a technology firm in 1998 and wanted to bring him on as an assistant to the CEO. It was entrepreneurial, exciting—and introduced him to the financial world in ways he never expected.

After four years building the firm’s sales team, Orchard, a fine arts and international relations major who had hoped to work in real estate development, got a crash course in finance when the company was sold to venture capitalists. He became the face of the company in the negotiations, interfacing with the CFO, and “I resolved I would be in the finance world in order to do what I wanted in real estate,” he said.

In 2003, while earning his MBA, he sought an internship at financial brokerage firm George Smith Partners. Sixteen phone calls later, principal Gary Mozer took his call and then agreed to take him under his wing. The internship evolved into a spot on Mozer’s six-person team; eight years later, he is Mozer’s righthand man. He has personally arranged more than $2.2 billion in senior and mezzanine debt and joint venture equity, and is “already sitting in on partner meetings” because of his ideas for company improvement, Mozer noted.

Memorable Achievements: In 2010, closed $28.7 million in construction financing for Nautilus Group, which is developing a 50,000-square-foot medical facility for the University of California at Los Angeles’ Santa Monica campus, a deal he started working on in the first quarter of 2009. Among other major deals in recent years: a $26.3 million bridge loan for the acquisition and repositioning of a 65,000-square-foot office building in Del Mar Heights, Calif.; $28.4 million in a senior loan and preferred equity for the repositioning of a Southern California multi-family portfolio and a $28 million permanent loan for a medical office building in West Los Angeles. Also was instrumental in winning and placing a $70 million CMBS structured financing for a mixed-use center in Scottsdale, Ariz., and a $120 million office deal, among others.

Goals: Become a field expert and earn a reputation for honesty. —S.S.

Glen Kunofsky, 39
Senior Vice President of Investments & Senior Director of the Net Leased
Properties Group, Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services

Glen Kunofsky began investing in real estate as a freshman at Arizona State University in the early 1990s, purchasing a house and collecting rent from his roommates. While studying hospitality, tourism and hotel and restaurant management, he ultimately bought about 40 assets, including some small apartment properties.He sold them when he moved back to New York in 2000 but continued his investment efforts and ran his own construction company, then joined Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services. He started as a hospitality specialist but evolved his focus to less management-intensive single-tenant net-leased and sale-leaseback properties, eventually creating a formal company division. The now eight-person group last year sold 189 properties, with a goal of selling more than 300 this year. Kunofsky ranked as the No. 2 investment specialist in the company last year and the top single-tenant retail agent.

Memorable Achievements: Has run the sale-leaseback program for Carrols Corp. for the past few years; sold 29-property portfolio for Cole Real Estate Investments, a large portfolio for Ruth’s Hospitality Group and some larger industrial space for Spirit Finance Corp., among other big clients.

Goals: Expand the business, especially efforts to tap into the private capital markets in New York. —S.S.

Andy Poppink, 37
Managing Director & Brokerage Lead for the Silicon Valley, Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.

On the court or in the office, Andy Poppink knows how to lead a team. He will, however, credit all success to the talented and caring people who surround him. “It is always a team success; there is nothing within the four walls of our office that is considered an individual accomplishment,” he affirmed.

The former captain of Stanford University’s basketball team got involved in commercial real estate when his body decided it was time to retire from playing in professional leagues overseas. Poppink was recruited to The Staubach Co. by Stanford teammate Bart Lammersen, now a Jones Lang LaSalle managing director with the office next to Poppink’s. When Jones Lang LaSalle acquired Staubach in 2008, he smoothed out the marriage of the two firms in the Silicon Valley. He has since led the office to become one of Jones Lang LaSalle’s fastest-growing locations, with a reported 40 percent year-over-year growth in 2010.

Memorable Achievements: Last year, completed more than 2 million square feet of transactions, with an estimated gross lease value of more than $322 million, for clients like Apple Inc., Yahoo! Inc. and Twitter Inc. With team, represented chipmaker Broadcom in restructuring and expanding its Silicon Valley portfolio by nearly a third, to more than 700,000 square feet.

Goals: Create sustainable success for the office and for clients. —M.R.

Elysia Tse, 34
Vice President, BlackRock Inc.

In her spare time, Elysia Tse likes to come up with projects she can research and figure out “just for fun.” She calls it her “geeky side,” but it has paid off for the real estate industry. Take the application of the Value at Risk method to real estate. Realizing the method of measuring leverage risk had never been applied to real estate because the assets presented challenges, she developed a technique that tested its use on real estate and presented it to her then boss, LaSalle Investment Management global investment strategist Jacques Gordon. It is now used regularly. She was also involved in revamping the Jones Lang LaSalle Transparency Index, helping to set up an objective scoring system to diminish local bias, according to Gordon. And at BlackRock, she helped develop a strategy for investment in Asia, making such a contribution that managing director Dale Gruen invited her to become head of research in Asia, a position she declined.

Such accomplishments arise out of Tse’s powerful combination of background, talent and skills. Schooled in China and Hong Kong, she then completed Cornell University’s real estate masters program. Tse has a passion for educating others, whether as a speaker at Cornell or New York University or working with professors and students at a number of major Chinese universities.

Memorable Achievements: The first to apply Value at Risk to measure leverage risk in real estate. Helped created the Jones Lang LaSalle Global Real Estate Transparency Index. Youngest member of the advisory board for the Program in Real Estate at Cornell University. 2010 CREW Network 20 Under 40 award winner.

Goals: Bridge investments between the U.S. and Asia-Pacific real estate and capital markets. —S.S.

Seth Weinstein, 39
Executive Managing Director & Principal, Global Corporate Services, Newmark Knight Frank

Growing up with a real estate attorney father, it is no wonder Seth Weinstein became interested in real estate, although he decided against law. After graduating from Southern Methodist University, he worked for U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, then landed a gig with Cawley International in 1993. A self-described entrepreneur, he joined with Mitchell Wolff to co-found corporate services firm Predium in 2002. They sold the firm to Newmark Knight Frank in 2008, and Weinstein became managing principal overseeing Dallas and Northern Texas operations.

Weinstein has continued to play an instrumental role in Newmark’s growth, helping the firm emerge as a leader in specialty areas such as global transaction management and data center consulting. He is known for streamlining real estate processes and reducing operating costs. Now head of the U.S. global corporate services division, he has played a key role in securing such Fortune 500 accounts as Morgan Stanley, URS Corp. and McAfee Inc. He was named one of real estate’s “Heavy Hitters” by the Dallas Business Journal in 2010.

Memorable Achievements: As head of the 2 million-square-foot McAfee Inc. account, completed its 242,012-square-foot global headquarters deal in Santa Clara, Calif., in 2010, earning him its Award of Excellence. Also secured a 60,000-square-foot lease in Richardson, Texas, for Id Software, a pioneer and leading innovator in the PC gaming industry, in 2010.

Goals: Continue to build Newmark Knight Frank into best-in-class provider in the marketplace. —M.R.