CREW Network Lauds 2014 Award Winners at Annual Convention

CREW Network announced the winners of its Impact Awards and the organization’s highest honor, the Circle of Excellence award, at its annual Convention & Marketplace, which took place Sept. 30 through Oct. 2 in Miami Beach. The top award went to global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright.
CPE logo for CREW Impact Awards

Several teams were among the winners of CREW Network’s Impact Awards this year. The awards, announced throughout the annual Convention & Marketplace this week in Miami Beach, were topped by the organization’s highest honor, the Circle of Excellence award, which itself went to a firm rather than an individual: global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright.

The Circle of Excellence award lauds excellence and integrity, leadership and vision, innovation and expertise. Real estate practice leader Jane Snoddy Smith, herself a past national president of CREW Network, accepted the award on behalf of the firm, which serves clients ranging from insurance companies to national and international institutional investors and funds, REITs, corporate landlords and tenants, developers, architects, financial institutions and others through a multitude of transaction- and operations-related legal work.

The Impact Awards recognized achievements in four areas: Member-to-Member Business, Economic and Community Improvement, Career Advancement for Women and Entrepreneurial Spirit. The 12 winners this year span a variety of business specialties.

The Career Advancement for Women honors were shared by two parties: Kim Ghez, director of marketing for Presidio Title L.L.C. in San Antonio, and the CREW Atlanta team of Mary Jim Evans, Sara Silvio, Kirsten Neff and Pamela Little. Ghez has worked since 1989 to encourage women’s achievements in commercial real estate, among her more recent accomplishments increasing membership in CREW San Antonio by 41 percent during her 2013 presidency and this year spearheading a program to help CREW members make business connections. The CREW Atlanta team created and built eMentoring, a five-year-old program within their chapter that provides one-on-one mentoring and group activities. Evans is president of MJ Evans and Associates L.L.C., Neff is branch chief for under-prospectus project management with the U.S. General Services Administration, Silvio is president of Constructive Ingenuity L.L.C. and Little is president & CEO of EcoWise Civil Design and Consulting Inc.

Another four-person team from CREW Atlanta won the award for Economic and Community Improvement: Althea Broughton, Lynne O’Brien, Mindy Planer and Cheryl Thomas Strickland were recognized for development of the Civil Rights Center, a 42,000-square-foot educational and cultural museum and special events center for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Entailing public-private partnerships and use of Tax Allocation District funds from Invest Atlanta and New Markets Tax Credits, among other financing sources, the $65 million project on land donated by The Coca-Cola Co. has taken five years to achieve (although O’Brien began assembling the land many years before then) and is expected to attract some 400,000 visitors in its first year. Two more phases are planned. Broughton and Planer are partners with Arnall Golden Gregory L.L.P., Thomas Strickland is director of public finance with Stifel Nicolaus & Co. and O’Brien is director of corporate real estate with The Coca-Cola Co.

The award for Entrepreneurial Spirit went to Tara Kramer, principal with Ri Ky Roofing & Sheet Metal L.L.C. in Portland, Ore. Kramer, owner of a construction company and a solar provider, has built her business to five offices, last year adding a commercial sheet metal shop, and plans further growth. The single mother of two is active in business organizations both locally and nationally, and as a member of the Associated Builders and Contractors Board for the Pacific Northwest strives to educate female students as they graduate from high school about opportunities to develop capabilities in the construction industry.

The Member-to-Member Business award winners, Barbara Champoux, Esq., and Beth Zafonte of NYCREW Network, were recognized for their efforts in the Gemological Institute of America Inc.’s $51 million purchase of an 80,000-square-foot space in the International Gem Tower in New York City. Champoux, a partner with Crowell & Moring L.L.P., worked to restructure a proposal by the tower’s developer so that it would better benefit her client, including converting the lease to a purchase with improved return on investment, assignment of certain leasing expenses to the developer and deferring the purchase until completion of build-out. The deal took four more years to complete as construction advanced, and Champoux involved a number of other NYCREW members that benefited the process.  Zafonte, director of economic development for Akerman L.L.P., joined the team to advise on the application for New York city and state not-for-profit  tax exemptions and recruited further NYCREW members to help make the deal a success.

Look for more extensive coverage of these deals and achievements in the November 2014 issue of Commercial Property Executive and next month on CPE TV.