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SCT

The human element: Meet the people who make the retail real estate industry run

Retail real estate is all about going somewhere to shop. So it makes sense that people associate it mainly with places and things — from the concrete, glass and steel of a food-hall-anchored shopping center to the Levi’s jeans and Apple computers on offer at the mall. But though material things are fundamental to the industry, they are only part of what drives it forward.

These profiles highlight the human side of the business: the backgrounds, talents and daily routines of 23 ICSC members. Some are high-profile CEOs or senior vice presidents. Others fill roles that are more modest, perhaps, but no less essential. Taken together, these profiles help illustrate the breadth of activities required to operate retail real estate in the 21st century. The positions represented here are hardly comprehensive. But the threads running through these short profiles — qualities such as passion, persistence and professionalism — are exactly why ICSC members tend to be so proud of the people who make the industry run.

RETAIL REAL ESTATE REPRESENTATIVE

Jordana Hennigan manages the Canadian and Alaskan real estate portfolio for Regis Corp., which operates some 9,000 salons globally under the banners Cool Cuts 4 Kids, Cost Cutters, First Choice Haircutters, Regis Salons, Roosters and Supercuts. The company’s Canadian portfolio comprises some 800 stores, a mix of corporate-owned and franchised. “In the United States the powerhouse is Supercuts, but here in Canada it’s our First Choice Haircutters,” Hennigan said.

Charged with sourcing and site selection for Regis’ new Canadian and Alaskan stores, Hennigan will negotiate about 100 lease renewals during any given year. Regis corporately signs the majority of leases for its Canadian portfolio, including franchisee-operated stores. As a result, when negotiating renewals there, Hennigan often deals with both landlords and franchisees, which is not always the case in the United States. “There are differences between real estate in Canada and the States, which is part of the reason Regis wanted a Toronto-based director for its portfolio here,” she said.

In the same way, government policies that affect retailers are different in Canada. Over the past few months, retailers across Ontario have struggled to adjust to a provincial decision to raise the minimum wage from C$11.60 per hour to C$14 per hour, says Hennigan. The change went into effect on Jan. 1. “We’re now having to reassess things,” she said. “Renewals have become that much more important in keeping our stores viable and profitable.”

Regis Corp.'s Jordana Hennigan

The Calgary native, who earned a bachelor’s from Royal Roads University, in Victoria, British Columbia, began her career in marketing and brand management. She took her first real estate job in 2006 at Northwest Atlantic (Canada), moving over to Regis in February of 2015. “Regis was one of my clients and asked me to come in-house and work for them,” Hennigan said. She began volunteering with the ICSC Next Generation program in 2013 and has served as its Canadian divisional chairwoman since 2015. Among her duties is being host to the 2018 Next Generation conference in Toronto, to be held July 25–27. “We’re excited, because it’s the first time the conference is going to be outside of the U.S.,” Hennigan said.

As those next generations work with tenants in the future, hair salons will undoubtedly be a part of the mix, Hennigan says. This is a service that is unavailable online, after all. “People will always need to go and get a haircut,” she said. “There’s a lot of value in what we bring, not only to customers, but also to landlords.”

CENTER MANAGER

Technically, Bill McFadden’s title at Louisiana Boardwalk Outlets, in Bossier City, La., is general manager. In practice, he is essentially mayor of a 550,000-square-foot mini-metropolis that draws millions of tourists and shoppers yearly. “Every day brings new challenges and opportunities, ranging from physical plant issues to security questions, tracking down leasing leads, interacting with ownership or even dealing with occasional wildlife ‘visitors’ from the Red River,” McFadden said. McFadden works for The Woodmont Co., which has the contract to manage and lease Louisiana Boardwalk Outlets.

Louisiana Boardwalk Outlets, which opened in May 2005, has about 70 tenants and a Margaritaville Resort Casino, a Bass Pro Shops, a Regal Louisiana Boardwalk Stadium 14 & Imax Movie Theater and a Courtyard by Marriott hotel. Early each morning McFadden inspects the property, either by car or on foot. He might huddle with the landscaping crew before delving into the security logs from the previous day. By 9 a.m. he could be on the phone with a city official to discuss a marketing collaboration, or else heading out to scout for new office, retail or specialty tenants. Nearly half of Louisiana Boardwalk Outlets’ visitors are tourists, so his job certainly includes answering questions about fun things to do in the area. “I try to tour the property on foot on a regular basis to visit with our tenants and customers alike,” McFadden said.

The Woodmont Co.'s Bill McFadden manages Louisiana Boardwalk Outlets, in Bossier City, La.

McFadden is a graduate of Louisiana State University Shreveport, and he was only 15 years old when he began work as a country disc jockey on KRMD, in Shreveport. He spent nearly a decade in broadcasting before joining what was then Melvin Simon & Associates (Simon today) as marketing director of South Park Mall, in Shreveport. He began his current job in 2013, after holding a variety of positions at Stirling Properties.

A committed advocate of sales-tax fairness, McFadden serves on several local boards. This 34-year veteran of retail real estate is sharply focused on adaptive strategies for brick-and-mortar properties. “Experiences are the answer,” McFadden said. “So in Boardwalk’s case, rather than being known as a shopping center with food and movies, we need to reposition ourselves as the entertainment venue, which also has great retail.”

SUSTAINABILITY SPECIALIST

Angelo A. Carusi became interested in sustainability about the time his first child was born, in 1993. “Since then, I’ve really tried to understand the impact of our profession on the environment,” said Carusi, an Atlanta-based principal in the retail studio at architecture firm Cooper Carry, which also maintains offices in New York City and Washington, D.C. “It ranges from as broad a subject as planning to the thousands of small decisions we make every day on things like the size of stairs or the shape of columns. All of it affects the environment in one way or another.”

Carusi, a LEED Accredited Professional since 2006, directs the design of shopping centers, department stores, restaurants and individual tenant spaces. Over the past decade or so, he has been increasingly focused on mixed-use centers with LEED-certified residential and office components and on helping REITs such as GGP to add hotels, office towers and other nonretail uses to their existing malls. The work gives Carusi the opportunity to save clients’ money and to benefit the planet as well, he says. The latest example is Capitol View Nashville, a 32-acre mixed-use district that Cooper Carry master-planned. The project included revitalization of a vacant brownfield that was dubbed “Hell’s Half Acre” in the 1870s.

“At Capitol View Nashville, one of the blocks has four stories of residential over three levels of parking, with office and retail uses facing the main streets,” Carusi said. “The structural engineer gave us the option of using either square or rectangular columns for the deck. We calculated the total area of both types of columns and chose the approach that would require less concrete, because concrete has such a big environmental cost. That’s the kind of decision that otherwise could have been made based purely on aesthetics.”

Angelo A. Carusi is principal in the retail studio at architecture firm Cooper Carry

Though Carusi frequently works with tenants and developers on such things as green walls, water-saving fixtures and natural lighting, he takes a broad view of what constitutes sustainability. “By far the most important thing we can do is create designs and developments that the public embraces and that remain relevant for a long time,” he said. “Even if a project receives, say, LEED Platinum certification, if it gets torn down in two years because the public doesn’t use it, that’s the least sustainable development imaginable. That’s why we place the utmost value on relevancy.”

Carusi, CRX, CDP, AIA, who holds a bachelor’s in architecture from the University of Tennessee, also stresses relevancy in his role as chairman of ICSC’s CenterBuild Committee. “In our committee meetings, we have retailers, department-store executives, developers, consultants and more,” he said. “At times there’s some anxiety about some of the changes afoot in our industry. But I know that solutions will emerge from conferences like ours, because that’s where the deep thinking happens.”

DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS

Part of Barry B. Wood’s job as a director of operations at JLL is to oversee emergency training for the firm’s operations teams around the country. Last summer, when Hurricane Harvey was bearing down on Houston, this training was put to the test, big-time. “As the storm stalled out between San Antonio and Houston, it caused flooding as never seen in the Port Arthur area,” recalled Wood, a senior vice president at the firm. “The effects of the hurricane had a major impact around [the JLL-managed] Central Mall Port Arthur and trapped several security officers at the property.”

Wood’s teams remained at the flooded mall and brought food to trapped personnel. JLL’s regional and on-site operations people worked with the property owners, the National Guard, the Coast Guard, the Red Cross, FEMA and local authorities to evacuate local residents.

Beyond such emergency matters, Wood’s job also involves supervision and training related to technology, security, safety, code compliance, energy, sustainability, vendors and “any other support as needed for the physical operations of the facilities we manage.”

“Operations is very much the quiet department in the shopping center industry”

Wood began his career in 1980, managing landscaping and grounds maintenance as a partner at Outdoor Maintenance, among other responsibilities. After overseeing construction and redevelopment on several projects, he took a job with JLL in 1999 that included support and training of on-site operations managers out West. That role became a regional position focused on developing and implementing policies and procedures. Wood became JLL’s national operations director in 2014.

When things go wrong, tenants and shoppers take notice, but when operations people do their jobs well — keeping centers safe, clean and comfortable and eliminating potential problems before they occur — the efforts can easily be overlooked, says Wood. “Operations is very much the quiet department in the shopping center industry,” he said. “The involvement of operations personnel in the ever-changing evolution of shopping centers is not always seen or known, but it is always relevant.”

DIRECTOR OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

Joe Ciconte lives at the intersection of technology and commercial real estate. As IT director for Mid-America Real Estate Group, Ciconte leverages 25 years of experience in technology to optimize the gamut of systems that Mid-America’s brokers, leasing agents, asset managers and other real estate professionals rely upon. “A key part of my job is understanding the commercial real estate business as well as the intricacies, nuances and technical support requirements of related business lines,” he said.   

Before joining Mid-America in 2016, Ciconte spent 18 years at Chicago-based development firm Urban Retail Properties, where he rose to become director of IT. There his focus included ramping up the efficiency of the company’s approach to property management by employing the tech tools then hitting the market. He also played a lead role in helping Urban Retail implement Office 365, SharePoint, Voice over Internet Protocol and various other applications related to security, backup and disaster recovery, as well as the firm’s custom iPad app.

“Moving data and services to the cloud can advance our business and make it more successful”

Ciconte oversees a five-person team at Mid-America’s headquarters in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. His direct reports support all the company’s offices and properties across the Midwest — doing everything from relatively straightforward help-desk issues to major launches of new systems and software. Ciconte’s role includes negotiating tech-maintenance agreements and monitoring licenses to ensure compliance. He oversees various Internet, security, network and web-hosting services, along with Mid-America’s core business applications and end-user computing systems. He is increasingly concentrated on the efficiencies associated with cloud computing, he says. “Moving data and services to the cloud can advance our business and make it more successful,” Ciconte said. “I also believe teamwork is a huge contributing factor to business success. I am working hard to create a dynamic team that works well with all the business lines at Mid-America.”

ACADEMIC

Margaret McFarland is a fixture at RECon, where she routinely meets with professionals from such firms as The Cordish Cos., CoStar Group, SiteWorks and Westfield. But though McFarland is thus immersed in the world of real estate executives, she is not a real estate executive herself — she is a professor at the University of Maryland, where her focus includes cultivating the next generation of talent in real estate development. McFarland founded the master’s program in real estate development at the university in 2006, and two years later, with the help of an industry gift, she also launched the school’s Colvin Institute of Real Estate Development.

At the urging of John Lin, president and CEO of Gaithersburg, Md.–based CapStar Commercial Realty, McFarland attended her first RECon meeting, in 2008, and she brought along one of her students. Students have been joining her at RECon every year since then. “We provide funding for them to attend,” McFarland said. “John educates them about leasing and how to capture the most from the RECon experience. The students go to sessions and write short memos about them for later review by faculty. They also spend about two hours each at our ICSC booth, where they tout the unique real estate education here at the University of Maryland.”

Margaret McFarland is a professor at the University of Maryland

McFarland earned a law degree at the University of Michigan and began a private practice in and around Washington, D.C. After working on such projects as the Georgetown Park mall, near the White House, she served as counsel for the housing agencies of Maryland and the District of Columbia, and for the National Association of Home Builders. With a bachelor’s degree in history from Andrews University, in Berrien Springs, Mich., and a master’s in urban studies from the University of Chicago, McFarland was no stranger to academics when she became a professor in 2006.

Besides attending to such professorial tasks as grading papers and mentoring and advising students regarding careers or final projects, McFarland meets regularly with real estate experts who are themselves working directly with her students. In 2015 McFarland established the University of Maryland’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Real Estate Awards, which recognize and celebrate individuals and companies for activity that inspires students.

“Our approach to real estate development is to focus on what we call the quadruple bottom line: projects that are not only financially feasible but that are also environmentally sustainable, socially responsible and sustainably designed for long-term value,” McFarland said. Toward that end, her students have the opportunity to take courses, enter competitions and attend ICSC events that contribute to their development, she says. “We’re helping them gain skills that will be essential as retail adapts to the demands of the next generation,” McFarland said. “It’s tremendously satisfying.”

TENANT BROKER

Maggie Cox stays busy as a tenant broker in the Atlanta office of SRS Real Estate Partners, a full-service real estate firm based in Dallas, with 20 offices across the U.S. as well as some international operations. She might spend one day in the office cold-calling prospects, meeting with existing clients or negotiating letters of intent on behalf of national chains, and another day driving around metro Atlanta checking out what is happening in the local markets she serves. “I love exploring new business opportunities,” she said. “You might find me touring sites or popping into interesting-looking retailers or restaurants to speak with the owners. Making strategic recommendations to my clients goes beyond the data we provide, and that time spent pays off in the end.”

“You might find me touring sites or popping into interesting-looking retailers or restaurants to speak with the owners”

Cox stays in touch with both landlords and retailer clients on such topics as sites, negotiations or retail trends. She is a graduate of the University of South Carolina, in Columbia, and started out in hotel investment sales, soon afterward joining a team that specialized in selling net-lease and multitenant properties. “I found a better fit when I began tenant representation,” Cox said. “It’s something I have a passion for, but my investment sales background has proved to be very valuable to my clients.” At SRS the 25-year-old Cox routinely works with tenant rep veterans Ray Uttenhove (an executive vice president) and Steve Gunning (a senior vice president), both of whom she considers mentors. “They’re two of the top 10 retail producers in Atlanta,” she said. “I learn something new about the industry from them almost daily.” Overall, the team focuses on providing solutions that help retailers adapt to contemporary marketplace challenges, she says. “Through those services, I’ve seen firsthand how we play an important role in driving the retail industry forward.”

PROPERTY MANAGER

Suzanne Bunn has earned plenty of professional certifications over the course of a 38-year real estate career: CSM, CRX, CPM, LEED Green Associate. But as senior property manager of Brand Real Estate Services, she also relies on training that may seem wholly unrelated to her job. Bunn earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Georgia and a master’s in counseling psychology from Georgia State University. And she asserts that the specialization is relevant. “It has helped me listen to customers and vendors and to develop the close relationships I have with my tenants, who are often mom-and-pops who put their last saved dollar into their businesses,” Bunn said.

At Duluth, Ga.–based Brand Real Estate Services, Bunn manages 11 shopping centers in metro Atlanta and one in Charleston, S.C., as well as some office properties. Bunn joined the firm in 2014 after stints at Edens, Faison–Trammell Crow and Watkins Real Estate Group. “I have the experience of working on a project from ground up through ground-breaking to grand opening, and then working with tenants three to five years later after lease renewals,” she said. “That is really how I started.”

Suzanne Bunn is senior property manager of Brand Real Estate Services

On a typical morning, Bunn may field questions from newly signed tenants in need of orientation, or help national chains or mom-and-pops coordinate with contractors on the final stages of a store build-out. “There is the occasional roof leak, too,” she said. “But fortunately, I have really good properties that are 100 percent leased. I really don’t have too many maintenance issues.”

These days Brand is working with foodie-friendly restaurants in the Atlanta suburbs. “They might be featured in, say, Atlanta magazine and have lots of customer traffic,” she said. “Given all of that traffic, you have to make sure those properties are maintained at the top of the line so that they present a nice experience for their customers.”

Bunn served for years on the planning committee of the ICSC Southeast Conference (she was chairwoman in 2013), and she also belongs to the Institute of Real Estate Management. She earned her LEED Green Associate certification from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2012. She often works with vendors to obtain the best LED lighting, water-saving landscape elements or recycled materials. “If you can cut down on something like water usage, you can reduce your common-area expenses too,” she said. “Increasing efficiency is a win for everybody, and it’s good for the planet.”

LEASING EXECUTIVE

Christopher Ressa, CLS, oversees a team of nearly 20 as senior vice president of leasing for DLC Management Corp., which owns and manages about 20 million square feet of open-air retail, primarily in the eastern U.S. Ressa maintains strong relationships with national retailers, acts as a mentor for leasing professionals in five regional offices, and makes strategic decisions geared toward ramping up the productivity of DLC assets. “Our goal is to unlock value throughout our portfolio by bringing in the best tenant mixes possible,” he said.

Because DLC continues to grow through strategic acquisitions, the 34-year-old has no shortage of assets to reposition. Late last year DLC acquired the 800,000-square-foot Village at Allen (Texas) retail center, whose tenants include such retailers as Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods and T.J.Maxx. Now Ressa is looking to hire new team members. “So far this year we’ve done deals with LA Fitness, Party City, HomeGoods, Harbor Freight Tools and a host of other national retailers,” he said. “We have signed many leases with all the local mom-and-pop users you can think of, from nail salons to Mexican restaurants.”

Chris Ressa is senior vice president of leasing for DLC Management Corp.

One of Ressa’s goals is to remove obstacles for his leasing team, he says, and this might involve weighing the viability of combining smaller spaces into a large box for a prospective user, or sitting at the negotiating table for some of DLC’s larger transactions. “I’ll do whatever I can do to help facilitate the deal,” he said. Ressa, who became a Certified Leasing Specialist in 2010 and joined ICSC’s CLS Committee in 2012, also brings new ideas to asset-level strategy sessions with his team. “When someone has been looking at the same thing in the same way for a while, it can help to bring in a different perspective,” he said. “It can open up some new possibilities.”

Ressa joined DLC in 2007 after overseeing leasing for some 3.5 million square feet of retail on behalf of New York City–based Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. He is a New Jersey native and attended Rutgers University on a wrestling scholarship. His first job in the industry was on the retail side, with the Sherwin-Williams Co. There, as real estate manager for the Eastern division, Ressa opened new stores, renewed leases and handled offices and warehouses. “That’s when I realized I had a passion for real estate.”

HUMAN RESOURCES OFFICER

Keith A. Rummer is senior vice president of HR and corporate compliance at Phillips Edison & Co., a Cincinnati-based REIT with a national portfolio of grocery-anchored shopping centers. The job covers a lot of ground: associate relations; compliance; benefits; corporate culture, learning and development; and more. But it is highly rewarding, Rummer says, because Phillips Edison puts such strong emphasis on its people. He points to the learning-and-development arm of his team: “We provide a variety of online, in-person and mixed-media opportunities for associate growth and development,” he said. “They’re designed to help our future leaders get the skills and experience they need to be successful.”

Rummer started out as a lawyer, having earned a law degree from The Ohio State University in 1994. After serving three and a half years in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps, he worked as a management-side attorney for a private law firm. He subsequently took legal jobs at AMN Healthcare and Fifth Third Bancorp. The latter offered Rummer his first HR position, as vice president of employee relations. He joined Phillips Edison in 2012 after overseeing HR, corporate compliance and associate relations at Luxottica. “Joining PECO [Phillips Edison] was an opportunity to expand my role and be part of the senior management team, and I haven’t looked back,” he said.

“People are our greatest resource, and we invest time and money accordingly”

Rummer has helped the company hone its approaches to ethics; compliance; corporate culture and values; leadership; and even marketing and IT. And he works with other executives to help direct the company’s corporate strategy. “One day I might be in board meetings or leading a session on strategy,” he said, “and the next I might be teaching a class with PECO University.”

Rummer and his team work with associate-led groups such as PECO NOW (Networking Opportunities for Women) and PECO Community Partnership. They also oversee programs related to benefits, wellness and even such specialized things as fresh-fruit deliveries, in-house gyms and tuition reimbursement. “Phillips Edison believes that people are our greatest resource, and we invest time and money accordingly,” Rummer said. “Our talented associates embrace these opportunities, making a difference in the company and the industry.”

CONSTRUCTION DIRECTOR

As director of construction for Donahue Schriber Realty Group’s Bay Area region, Cindy Johnson has a long list of responsibilities. Her territory comprises nine northern California properties the Costa Mesa, Calif.–based developer owns, and she also collaborates with a direct report who handles construction-related activities in Washington state and Oregon. “In a typical day, I could be working on entitlements, design or construction of any given project, working with our consultants to produce leasing or site plans for our leasing teams to use for potential tenant discussions, or traveling to the Pacific Northwest to oversee properties managed by my construction manager there,” Johnson said. “Sourcing the best external contractors and consultants and then forging good relationships with them to ensure their top performance for us is also usually a daily effort in some way.”

Regardless of the task at hand, though, Johnson sees her primary job as serving her customers. “This is more of an attitude than a strict description,” she said, “but it helps keep things in perspective.” Internally, Johnson’s customers are the leasing agents who rely on her support to get deals done, as well as Donahue Schriber’s in-house operations and property-management teams. “I work hand in hand with them to maintain our physical assets during any significant construction projects,” she said. Externally, she strives to bring top-notch service to the company’s tenants. “That could involve anything from building out space for tenants to holding their hands through the process, or simply monitoring, coordinating and helping answer questions as needed,” she said.

Cindy Johnson is director of construction for Donahue Schriber Realty Group’s Bay Area region

Johnson moved to California right after graduating from the University of Michigan in 1991. Her first construction-related job was as a coordinator for a real estate and construction manager at Taco Bell’s corporate offices. After working in real estate positions for a Boston Market franchisee, she took a job at the Chevys restaurant chain and spent the next eight years in a variety of construction, development and asset-management roles. When the latest recession hit the construction industry, Johnson was developing retail and light-industrial projects for Aliso Viejo, Calif.–based Shea Properties. In the aftermath of that crisis, national drugstore chains were among the few companies that kept the bulldozers rolling. Johnson went to work for CVS as a construction manager. “I was there for six years, and my territory included northern California, Utah, Nevada, Washington and Hawaii,” she said. “But I loved and missed the developer side. When I was recruited to work for Donahue Schriber, I jumped at it.”

ARCHITECT

Michael Lusk, who founded Columbus, Ohio–based Lusk Architecture in 1983, has spent decades designing shopping centers, banks, restaurants and stores in markets as wide-ranging as North Dakota and Puerto Rico. “We view architecture as a tool for helping clients achieve their business goals,” he said. “For example, one of our clients is out there buying distressed shopping centers and retenanting them prior to an eventual sale. We’ll come in and give those centers a face-lift to add value. We’re also working with developers to add density to sites with seas of parking that could be put to better use — things like podium-style buildings with apartments above and retail below.”

Lusk studied architecture at The Ohio State University and is licensed in 28 states. His handiwork is visible at such retail centers as Darby Town Center, in Columbus, and at mixed-use projects such as Worthington, in Charlotte, N.C., and Delco Lofts, in Dayton, Ohio. Lusk also has experience with public-sector projects, though he now avoids those, because of all the red tape. “Early in my career I spent four years working on a single hospital,” he said. “At Lusk we enjoy the fast-paced nature of retail design.”

Some people might assume that an architecture firm should be based in New York City or Los Angeles, but Lusk sees the Midwest as the perfect spot for his firm. “So many of the top retail developers are based in and around the Midwest,” he said. “My theory is that it had to do with the growth of the auto industry and suburbanization in the 1950s.”

Now, as retail undergoes perhaps its biggest evolution since that era, architecture continues to play a contributing role, Lusk says. “I go to ICSC’s CenterBuild Conference every year, and you can really see how architecture and design is becoming more sophisticated in response to these changes,” he said. “We’re looking at urbanization, mixed-use and other ways to respond. We’re gaining a better understanding of what it takes to make experiential retail work.”

DESIGN, WAY-FINDING GRAPHICS SPECIALIST

Spiny sea creatures and graphic design might seem at first to have little in common, but Sarah Huie Coleman finds connections in unexpected places. “I was just researching sea urchins as inspiration for a concept package,” she said. “They’re symbolic of the world and metamorphosis.”

Huie Coleman is the principal and creative director of Atlanta-based Huie Design, an experiential graphic design studio that specializes in branding, signage and way-finding. She founded the firm in 1996 after completing an internationally significant project: the design work that shaped the overall look of the 1996 Olympic Games, in Atlanta. Since then, Huie Coleman and her team have created branding, signage and way-finding systems for high-profile developments across the country. The list includes Avalon, a $600 million mixed-use development in Alpharetta, Ga.; Southdale Center, in Edina, Minn.; and Water Tower Place, along Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.

Sarah Huie Coleman is the principal and creative director of Atlanta-based Huie Design

Essential to this work, Huie Coleman says, is a collaborative process and company culture: Her designers routinely eat lunch together, sip tea or play with their canine mascots at the office. But as they relax and socialize, they also chat about inspirational resources and brainstorm concepts as a team. “Our goal is to use experiential graphic design to attract and connect people to the essence of a place or experience,” she said. “It’s about weaving diverse ideas and elements into a singularly compelling presence that says, ‘You are here.’ ” Collaboration with developers, architects, lighting experts and other specialists is also integral to the process, Huie Coleman says, as is attention to detail. “I’m a bit of a perfectionist,” she said. “I thrive on leading complex projects efficiently through every phase of design and installation.”

Huie Coleman earned two bachelor’s degrees, one in psychology from Sweet Briar (Va.) College, and the second in graphic design and packaging from the Art Center College of Design, in Pasadena, Calif. Earlier in her career, Huie Coleman founded the environmental graphics division at Copeland Hirthler Design & Communications, and she has held design positions at SullivanPerkins and at RTKL Associates. She served on the planning committee of ICSC’s CenterBuild Conference for four years. She derives great satisfaction from hiring and mentoring younger graphic designers. “It’s great to see them move on to start their own businesses or lead in-house design teams,” she said. “I consider this my contribution to the growth of the industry.”

INNOVATION DIRECTOR

The role Gregg Katz plays at The Shopping Center Group falls outside the traditional job classifications of retail real estate — so much so, in fact, that his bosses were unsure what to call the position they created for him in 2012.

“We didn’t even have a title,” Katz said. “One of our co-CEOs joked that they wanted me to be the ‘god of the future.’ ” That is decidedly not the title printed on his business card, of course; instead, Katz goes by the significantly less Olympian title of director of innovation and technology. Even so, he is neither an IT director nor a researcher according to the traditional definitions of those terms.

“At its core, my job is to keep TSCG [the Shopping Center Group] and its clients at the forefront of retail real estate innovation,” Katz said. This could involve studying white papers on the future effects of driverless cars on retail, heading out to Las Vegas for a retail technology trade show, or leveraging the Shopping Center Group’s proprietary data to help a chain find the best markets and sites for expansion. Among his areas of specialization are data, analytics, social platforms, geographic-information systems, and mobile and information technology.

The Shopping Center Group's Gregg Katz

“I love to challenge the norm and push the boundaries of how to use technology and information to provide our brokers and clients with the best tools possible,” Katz said. “I also love to educate; I’ve spent a good deal of time helping to pull the industry toward better analytical work flows and analysis. It’s great when what you’re teaching clicks with someone and you get to watch them be more productive, close more deals or take the next step in their evolution.”

An Atlanta native, he earned a bachelor’s in management from Boston University and an MBA from the University of Florida. He says he knows firsthand what life can be like on the retail side of the business. “My family started a retail catalog showroom company that eventually sold to Service Merchandise,” Katz said. “I spent my childhood in the retail aisles, literally.” After his graduation from Boston University, in fact, Katz owned a five-unit fast-casual burrito chain in Orlando, Fla., for six years. “TSCG in Florida actually helped me with site selection and market strategy as a restaurateur back then,” he said. “We were looking at AAA folding maps and putting dots on them. It’s amazing to see how much information and data are out there now to help with those kinds of decisions.”

SPECIALTY LEASING DIRECTOR

Starr Cumming helps keep Atlantic Station hopping. As director of specialty leasing for Hines, which manages that mixed-use complex in midtown Atlanta, Cumming drives revenue in many ways: She wins corporate sponsorships for events and the property’s ice-skating rink and sells directory, pole banner and billboard advertising; she negotiates with film crews seeking permission to shoot commercials, TV shows or movies on-site; she creates and markets events that draw thousands of visitors; and, of course, she leases temporary retail spaces — the official store of the Atlanta Falcons football and the Atlanta United FC soccer teams, to cite just one. “Half the storefront is Falcons, and the other half is Atlanta United,” said Cumming. “Their sales rival those of a Dick’s [Sporting Goods] store, at more than $600 a foot some months; I did the deal with them primarily on a percentage rent basis, so that little 1,500-square-foot temporary spot has been great for Atlantic Station.”

“Sometimes I feel like a circus performer who can keep 10 plates spinning on 10 different poles”

Cumming has held various posts at Bayer Properties, Cousins Properties, GGP and North American Properties, among others. When she took a job with The Rouse Co. back in 2002, specialty leasing was in its infancy. “The founder of the company, Jim Rouse, really started specialty leasing with the carts-and-kiosks program at Faneuil Hall, in Boston,” Cumming said. Specialty leasing has come a long way since then, to be sure. At Atlantic Station, Cumming frequently works with top brands, touring the country to bring elaborate experiences. “I just had Shaquille O’Neal, who is a spokesman for Oreo cookies, here for National Oreo Day, on March 6, which is also his birthday,” she said. “They built a really cool Shaq Snack Shack.” Likewise, when Hello Kitty’s pink van pulled up at Atlantic Station with branded macaroons, T-shirts, headbands and such, some 2,000 people flocked to the property. “They started lining up at 8 a.m.,” Cumming said.

Even as Cumming deals with Cirque du Soleil or the Atlanta Falcons, or as she secures such festivals at Atlantic Station as Beer, Bourbon & BBQ, she also consults on specialty leasing at other Hines retail properties. “Sometimes I feel like a circus performer who can keep 10 plates spinning on 10 different poles,” she said. “But I like it that way. I am passionate about specialty leasing and where it is going in our industry.”

INVESTMENT MANAGER

Managing a diverse portfolio of retail assets is like running a collection of small businesses all at once, says Lee Schaffler, CFA, executive director of the Americas real estate group at
J.P. Morgan Asset Management. “Each asset is unique and has certain challenges and opportunities that require a specialized strategy,” he said. “The common theme is the ability to add value to a property, whether that’s through densification, being creative to get a lease done, or making a strategic acquisition off-market.”

J.P. Morgan Asset Management invests in all types of commercial real estate on behalf of institutional clients. Schaffler focuses primarily on retail — everything from class-A malls and urban downtowns to opportunistic investments in well-located shopping centers ready for repositioning. The 6.4 million-square-foot portfolio Schaffler manages comprises 13 properties across the U.S. “I’m responsible for setting asset strategy and executing on that strategy, whether a lease-up, a repositioning or a ground-up development,” he said.

A typical day could see Schaffler negotiating a purchase-and-sale contract, reviewing a major lease deal, working on a refinancing, or evaluating a structured partnership. He also routinely leaves his office on New York City’s Park Avenue to tour retail markets and properties. Among his recent deals on behalf of J.P. Morgan Asset Management clients was the acquisition of a former Macy’s in Southern California. “The intention is to redevelop and repurpose it for a more productive use,” Schaffler said. He and his team also acquired a mixed-use property in the New York City borough of Manhattan last October. The team filled the remaining vacancies and is working on restructuring the debt.

Lee Schaffler, CFA, is executive director of the Americas real estate group at J.P. Morgan Asset Management

Schaffler launched his career at J.P. Morgan Asset Management in 2001, after studying economics, policy, management and financial analysis at Cornell University. “My first role was in the public markets, working on a global tactical-asset-allocation strategy,” he said. He later earned a CFA charter and in 2010 completed a master’s in real estate development from Columbia University. “Retail had always captivated me,” Schaffler said. “I enjoyed the creative aspects of curating the right merchandising mix for a shopping center and thinking strategically about consumer purchase behavior and the nuances of particular locations.”

Schaffler teaches a graduate-level real estate course at Columbia as an adjunct professor and also volunteers his time with ICSC. “I helped launch and co-chaired the ICSC Nexus Conference in 2016–2017, because I wanted to facilitate dialogue, idea exchange and retail thought leadership,” he said. “In today’s ecosystem, fulfillment for retailers and consumers takes place in multiple, overlapping channels. That means logistics, technology and old-fashioned customer service are crucial. The conversation needs to take place now to position retail for success in the future.”

MARKETING, PR, COMMUNICATIONS EXECUTIVE

The term omni-channel is typically applied to retail, but Jenn Weyand thinks 21st-century marketing and media strategies should also be channel-agnostic, as it were. “My job is to identify how to best deliver what our clients have to say to those who need to hear it, in the most effective manner possible so that their business goals are met,” she said.

Weyand operates BouncePath Marketing along with partner Gina Adkins. This Atlanta-based firm employs a raft of strategies on behalf of small and midsize developers, brokers, service providers and other commercial real estate clients. On any given day, Weyand could be staging a grand opening or a ground-breaking; finalizing a blog, a column, a press release or an Instagram post for a client; setting up an interview with a reporter from Real Estate Forum or The Wall Street Journal; or sitting down with a developer to hone a compelling story for a mixed-use project intended for some urban downtown. “We call it integrated marketing: implementing tactics that drive our clients’ success,” said Weyand. “We’ve been in commercial real estate for a combined four-plus decades. We know what works.”

After graduating from Texas Christian University in 1992, Weyand took a job with Fleet Finance, in Atlanta. Unbeknownst to her, however, the company’s principals were engaged in lending practices that sparked a devastating 60 Minutes exposé. “Despite Fleet’s demise, its misfortune provided me with the opportunity to learn crisis communications on the front lines and in the national spotlight,” Weyand said. Her next job was with Ketchum, a global media agency, where her clients included MCI Communications Corp. and credit-card services company TSYS.

Jenn Weyand cofounded BouncePath Marketing

Weyand launched BouncePath in January 2001, and Adkins joined in 2006. The firm’s real estate focus started with Cincinnati-based North American Properties and grew as the partners expanded their network of colleagues and clients in the industry. “I enjoy connecting with emerging as well as established players in all sectors of commercial real estate,” Weyand said. “Through these connections, opportunities leap to those who are ready to take them on.”

If today’s marketing and media strategies hinge on mastery of new methodologies and tech tools, success still depends on old-school qualities like persistence and drive, says Weyand. “Our team is absolutely dedicated and determined to pursue our clients’ successes,” she said. “We cultivate a strategic mind-set that keeps goals in focus and energy at the ready.”

CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICER

When Tim Perry started in the Atlanta office of North American Properties in 2009 as a partner and vice president of acquisitions, the firm had five employees locally and about 100 nationwide. Since then, the Cincinnati-based company has nearly tripled in size, to 270 employees, of which roughly 75 are based in Atlanta. Perry’s role has expanded as well: He was tapped in 2011 to head the privately operated development firm’s capital-raising and finance efforts as director of investments. Then, in 2015, he became chief investment officer. In this role, the 43-year-old oversees capital investments, asset management, property management, and acquisitions and dispositions. “In one sense I have also come full circle,” he said, “because I’m now also charged with leading a new value-add acquisition platform we launched at the end of 2017.”

North American Properties is known for developing mixed-use projects such as Avalon, in Alpharetta, Ga., and Grand National, in Fort Myers, Fla., along with traditional retail centers such as Sky Walk, a 75,000-square-foot, Publix-anchored center that opened in Fort Myers last year. As Perry capitalizes, manages, or disposes of various real estate assets for North American Properties, working closely with the managing partners in each office as well as debt-and-equity investors, he spends plenty of time on the road. “My days often involve an airplane,” he said. “The day could start with a development review and pro forma for a project we are pursuing, followed by interviewing advisors in another city across the country for a disposition, capped off with dinner with one of our equity investors or lenders.”

North American Properties' Tim Perry

Perry earned a business degree from Rhodes College in 1997. He rose to become a senior vice president during an 11-year career at CBRE Capital Markets before joining North American Properties. The real estate industry is at an interesting moment, he says, due to the unprecedented level of capital held by precisely the types of large investors North American Properties frequently serves. Increasingly, he adds, the focus is also on adding value to assets by investing in their improvement. Perry also sees progress in real estate’s openness to technology: He points to newer and more-efficient approaches to construction and modeling, systems that incorporate RFID to enhance the guest experience on the property, and the emergence of buildings with artificial-intelligence-driven operating systems that can help cut expenses by half. “All of this is banging on the door, so [North American Properties] is placing itself at the forefront, convening with internal and external participants to assess, innovate and incorporate these changes,” Perry said. “We want to ensure that we remain industry leaders rather than followers or late-adopters.”

SECURITY CHIEF

When decision makers at Macerich needed to hire an executive-level security chief back in 2012, they naturally sought a candidate with broad experience. To say they found their man could be a bit of an understatement:
J.Christopher Woiwode, the firm’s chief security officer and vice president of security, was an FBI special agent for nearly 25 years. He busted white-collar criminals, went after criminal gangs and drug dealers, joined forces with the CIA and served as a supervisor in the FBI’s transnational organized crime program. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Woiwode began fighting terrorism overseas as well. “I served as the legal attaché in Copenhagen, covering the bureau’s interests in all five Nordic countries,” he said. “Almost all these cases were counterterrorism matters. Later I spent time in Saudi Arabia, also working on counterterrorism issues.” Woiwode’s roles at the FBI included spearheading the agency’s first high-tech squad, in the 1990s, and then, toward the end of his career, running a section of the counterintelligence division. “At one time or another,” he said, “I was involved with virtually every major program the FBI had — tactically; from an investigative standpoint; and in management.”

J.Christopher Woiwode is Macerich's chief security officer and vice president of security

At Macerich, Woiwode oversees security for both corporate operations and the company’s nationwide portfolio of about 50 malls. He handles the REIT’s relationship with Allied Universal, a nationwide security firm, and focuses on ensuring a high standard of security at all properties.

He graduated from Cornell University in 1982 with a bachelor’s in developmental psychology. When he joined the FBI in 1987, he was following in the footsteps of his father, who had been a special agent in the 1940s and ’50s. Woiwode met Elizabeth Lopez, his wife of 29 years, when they were both agents-in-training.

In continually seeking to maximize security at Macerich, Woiwode relies on an approach that was fundamental to his job at the FBI: working with others. His teams communicate closely with such stakeholders as retailers and local police chiefs, and they routinely run emergency-preparedness drills with them as well. “These relationships are critical for Macerich to get timely and relevant intelligence and response,” he said. “Though I believe we have the best security program in the industry here at Macerich, I have a clear vision of where it can improve and how to oversee and guide strategic thinking and planning. I will continue to push our capabilities and performance in the future.”

LAND USE, ENTITLEMENTS LAWYER

Donna J. Pugh represents developers and retailers on the many legal matters related to land use and entitlements. “It could be someone buying, selling or leasing a property; developing a new site; repurposing an existing property; or just trying to figure out if their planned use is permissible,” said Pugh, a partner at the Chicago-based law firm of Foley & Lardner. The work includes handling approvals for large regional shopping centers and smaller strip centers as well as freestanding fast-food restaurants, banks and grocery stores. “It’s different every day, which makes it so interesting,” she said. In recent years, Pugh has increasingly worked on projects at the forefront of retail. “These are projects that are about creating an experience, with cutting-edge cinemas or other entertainment options,” she said. “I’m fascinated by these trends.”

Her legal work has benefited such high-profile projects as the 960,000-square-foot United Center (home to the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks sports teams) and Water Tower Place. Other projects, such as Old Orchard Shopping Center (today Westfield Old Orchard), in Skokie, Ill., have relied on her expertise over the long term. “I obtained all zoning approvals for the original redevelopment of Old Orchard in 1994 and numerous subsequent redevelopments as well,” Pugh said.

She studied political science and government at the University of Florida and then completed her law degree at Loyola University, in 1983. Pugh was a youngster taking an eighth-grade civics class when the redevelopment of the Boca Raton Inlet made big news, as she recalls. Her parents, keenly interested in that high-profile land-use case, shared articles on the subject with their daughter. “I was fascinated by the issues that came up and how the interests of the community, developers and municipality were addressed,” Pugh said. “I thought I might grow up to be an urban planner or an architect, but eventually I learned about land-use law, and I was hooked.”

Pugh has focused on bolstering relationships between governments and private-sector developers in several leadership roles she has held within ICSC. She is zealously committed to supporting diversity of all types, in part by contributing to various Foley & Lardner–affiliated groups that focus on such goals. “I value connecting with people,” Pugh said, “both at the firm and in the outside world.”

DEVELOPMENT EXECUTIVE

George B. Tomlin has a simple, straightforward answer for how his Brentwood, Tenn.–based company has succeeded in developing some $6 billion in retail and other projects over the past 31 years: hard work, and lots of it. “I like to come to the office every day as if someone is chasing me,” said Tomlin, the founder, president and CEO of GBT Realty Corp. “I’m always looking for opportunistic, smart real estate deals that make sense for our portfolio. I’ve surrounded myself with industry experts who are overqualified for the job. This puts responsibility into the hands of my people — like-minded self-starters who believe that ‘speed wins.’ ”

GBT Realty develops neighborhood, community and regional shopping centers, single-tenant and strip centers, and urban mixed-use projects. It also acquires existing value-add centers across the country. Tomlin sets the tone at the company, often starting early in the morning. “I wake up at 5 a.m., have my coffee while I walk the dogs and start sending out emails, the first of which is always a companywide motivational quote of the day from myself or another GBT team member,” the developer said. “I try to instill my passion for our industry into all 72 employees every day.”

“I like to come to the office every day as if somebody is chasing me”

Tomlin was only 12 when his parents gave him permission to work his first job, as a stock boy for the local pharmacy. Through his teen years he worked at restaurants and retailers. “A few weeks of college followed, but I decided I wanted to work,” he said. After learning the commercial real estate business at acquisition and management companies in the Southeast and the Southwest, Tomlin launched GBT Realty, in 1987. “By 1990 we shifted our real estate focus to retail-only and pursued shopping centers anchored by some of the largest retailers: Walmart, Target and prominent grocery stores,” he said. “Since that time, we added a retail net-lease division, a diversified development division for mixed-use and a capital-holdings division pursuing value-add opportunities.”

The GBT Realty portfolio can be measured in total dollar values or in square feet (upwards of 35 million square feet to date), but a less tangible metric — the company’s strong reputation in the shopping center industry — is just as important, Tomlin says. “I pride myself in knowing that the team we have built and continue to build at GBT is made up of individuals who want to achieve success as much as I do.”

RESEARCH SPECIALIST

Given the complexities of today’s marketplace, Melina Cordero’s job description sounds challenging, and then some. “Very simply, my role and responsibility is to understand everything that is driving and shaping retail and retail real estate, from every angle,” she said. But Cordero, who joined CBRE in 2016 as head of retail research for the Americas, is no stranger to challenges, particularly on the academic front. She earned a bachelor’s degree in French studies from Yale University and is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese as well. She went on to earn dual master’s degrees, in urban planning and international development, from the London School of Economics. While earning those graduate degrees, in 2011, Cordero hopped a plane to Brazil and spent six weeks studying shopping center development and malls there.

“Brazil was one of the fastest-growing countries in terms of shopping center development,” she said. “I had gone there to understand the role of the shopping center in that society, with its rapidly growing middle class. It was fascinating — malls in Brazil are community spaces; people go there not only to shop, but also to just be, as a social excursion.”

CBRE's Melina Cordero

Of course, that type of experiential retail is precisely what North American retailers and landlords are aiming for today. As Cordero tracks this trend and others, a big part of her job involves communicating research findings to both internal and external audiences. Her reports may focus on anything from comparative data between major U.S. cities to global retail trends. “My goal is to relay that information in a way that makes it useful and actionable,” she said. The sheer pace of change in retail adds to the challenge, she notes. “Even just in the two years since I joined CBRE, so many things about retail — the perception, the outlook, you name it — have changed dramatically,” she said. “But that also means that what we do is more important than ever before.”

Cordero came to CBRE from U.K.-based Path Intelligence, a data and customer-analytics firm, where she oversaw the analytics division for North America and worked with a large portfolio of retail clients. Before that, she worked as a retail and consumer-goods industries analyst at Euromonitor International, in London, and researched urban planning and business policy for the British Parliament. At CBRE Cordero collaborates with roughly 250 colleagues who are involved in one way or another in the research. “It’s great — we all work together in a kind of matrix, with dotted lines going everywhere,” she said. “It’s a very collaborative environment.”

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR

Economic activity is picking up in Michigan City, Ind., and Clarence L. Hulse has got a lot to do with it. This city nestled near Lake Michigan has suffered multiple blows to its industrial base since the Pullman-Standard freight car factory closed in 1970. But as executive director of the Economic Development Corporation Michigan City, Hulse has worked with city officials to attract nearly $1 billion in development since 2013. “It has been primarily retail leading the charge,” he said. “We’ve had 18 restaurants, independents with a local flavor, flock to downtown. But if you go south of downtown, we have all kinds of national chains.” That list includes Chipotle Mexican Grill, IHOP, Panera Bread and Starbucks.

Hulse grew up on his family’s farm in the country of Belize and moved here at age 21. After graduating from Harding University with a degree in public administration, he earned a master’s in economic development from The University of Southern Mississippi. Hulse also holds certificates in both operations management and economic development. He got his first job on an economic development council in 1994, in Pinellas County, Fla. For the next 16 years, he helped create thousands of jobs and drove hundreds of millions of dollars in development across central Florida as a member of various economic development councils, he says. Attending RECon and other ICSC events was always part of his strategy, Hulse says. “I’ve always enjoyed working in the retail sector,” he said. “Retail projects are not only exciting but they also move very quickly from start to finish. The community sees the capital investment and jobs immediately.”

Clarence L. Hulse is executive director of the Economic Development Corporation Michigan City, Ind.

After leaving Florida in 2010, Hulse worked on economic development councils in Jeffersonville, Ind., and New Bern, N.C. On a typical workday in Michigan City, he may tour the town with retail reps or investors, meet with the mayor or other public officials, or do some brainstorming with local educators on employment training programs. His job entails telling parts of the city story that are hardly told through statistics about rooftops or local incomes, he says. Millions of tourists visit northwest Indiana each year, thanks to its waterfront views and sand dunes and to such attractions as the Blue Chip Casino, Hotel & Spa.

A $240 million hospital is slated to open in Michigan City later this year, and plans are in the works as well for a new central plaza downtown and for a $40 million mixed-use project. Moreover, sometime over the next few months, Michigan City will learn the outcome of a rail improvement proposal that would place the city neatly within an hour’s commute of Chicago.

“It will cost you a lot more to come here in three to five years,” Hulse said. “For retailers that want to make a move, now is the time to start looking at our community.”

By Joel Groover

Contributor, Shopping Centers Today

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