If you can dream it, VR can make it

Technology is a huge part of everyday life for each of us.  Businesses that embrace the newest forms of technology give themselves an edge over competitors and provide services to their clients that revolutionize the way business is done.  The commercial real estate market is no exception.

While the internet and social media have presented numerous opportunities for businesses to grow without ever having face-to-face contact with a client, a newer form of technology known as virtual reality has the potential to make an even bigger impact on marketing and sales within the industry. 

Virtual reality is a three-dimensional environment generated by a computer which can be viewed and interacted with by a person with special equipment, such as a headset and speakers. The computer generated environment replicates a real environment, generates realistic images and sounds and allows the user to look and move around within the artificially created world.

This technology presents a wide array of advantages within the commercial real estate industry, as it can be shared through web applications, email and mobile devices.  It reduces time required to design a project because all important team members can access the technology from their own location on their own schedule.  Plans come together quickly and changes to existing designs and plans can be viewed, analyzed, and made at a quicker pace. Clients can tour a property virtually and see and experience a space without ever leaving their office.  It can often be difficult for a client to step into an undeveloped space and envision the final layout.  However, with virtual reality, clients can instantly have an accurate depiction of the space and depth of an area, including the space’s dimensions, flow and possibilities.  This is something that doesn’t convey as well with a drawing or a video.  Virtual reality can also provide a useful tool in the decision-making process, as potential clients can show the space to others who may not otherwise be able to physically visit the property.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but a three-dimensional first-hand virtual tour is something no amount of words can convey as well. 

It appears this technology is growing rapidly and will be used on a widespread basis in the future despite several disadvantages. The most important of these may be cost, as companies are required to purchase software and equipment that is powerful enough to capture a three-dimensional video and is compatible with the required accessories, such as a headset and speakers.  Some companies may choose instead to work with a virtual realty production company, which could be costly. In addition, some people who use the systems have reported motion sickness or a dizzying experience after several minutes of using the technology.  Despite these factors, the industry is moving in this direction.

Numerous commercial real estate companies across the country are already taking advantage of this technology by offering virtual tours of properties under construction.  With drone technology and digital video becoming more widespread, the possibilities for sales and marketing within the commercial real estate industry of the future appear to be endless.  Business owners would be wise to embrace this technology so they are not left behind.

Member Spotlight: Laurie Marino

Laurie Marino

Group Manager, Jones Lang LaSalle
I manage a portfolio/team for a large industrial client in the MD-DC-VA areas.

How long have you been a CREW Member?
4 years

What was the experience or motivating factor that compelled you to join CREWBaltimore? 
The experience that motivated me was the members of CREW and the ability to relate both personally and professionally. There was no one in particular that motivated me as it was the membership as a whole. I joined CREW Philadelphia many years ago for the networking and learning, and when I relocated back to Baltimore for work, I decided to join CREW Baltimore.

List any CREWBaltimore positions held or committees you have been a part of.

In your experience, what makes CREW unique from other organizations?
The membership roster

How does CREWBaltimore support your career or leadership skills?
The ability to network with the membership who share the same work experiences including both our challenges and successes.

Have you done business with another CREW member, locally or nationally?
Yes, locally

What advice do you have for women pursuing careers in CRE?
I went to the CREW Winter Summit and was enlightened by the guest speakers topic “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It.” This is a syndrome that is shared by many women pursuing a career in CRE and I would recommend this training as part of their development.

What do you think makes a good mentor and have you established any mentoring relationships through CREW? 
A good mentor is someone who believes they are making a difference in their career as well as the person they are mentoring.

How does CREW prepare you for success in commercial real estate?
I have been in the commercial real estate business for many years prior to joining CREW.  Since my membership in CREW it has made me realize how many amazing women are in commercial real estate which is inspiring to me.

What 3 business tips can you share with others?
Network, Network, Network

What is one trait you wish all female leaders could cultivate?
How to gain respect in the workplace

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in business and how did you overcome it?
Not gaining the respect in the workplace because I am a woman.

What is your favorite app or social media outlet and why?  
I don’t really use apps much. I am old school and prefer to talk to people and I even still read magazines!

What is your dream vacation spot and why?
Turks & Caicos – was married there

What is your most significant accomplishment?  
Competing my horse at a level that I never thought I would ever achieve especially at my age

What do you do in your spare time?
I have a horse (Eddie) and ride/compete competitively in the sport of Eventing.

If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the Title should be? Why did you select this title?
“I Wished I Had Known Then What I Know Now”.  I passed up some great opportunities early in my personal life and career that I wished I had taken.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Riding my horse and jumping 3’ obstacles at a gallop in a wide open field

What would be the first thing you would do if you won the lottery? The second? 
Pay all my bills and then take a much-needed vacation!

Who is your real life or fictional character role model?
My horse trainer, Sally Cousins, as our sport is difficult: physically, emotionally, and monetarily but she never gives up even when things don’t go as planned.

Senior Living Event Recap

On June 15, 2017, CREWBaltimore hosted 70 members and guests at the Center Club in Baltimore, MD for “The New Senior Housing” luncheon and panel discussion. The room was filled with architects, title processors, bankers and various other commercial real estate professionals and business owners. Moderated by Faith Nevins Hawks, Principal, Marks, Thomas Architects, our elite panel consisted of Chuck Harry, Chief of Research & Analytics, National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, Andrea Ownesby, Senior Director of Design, Sunrise Senior Living and Nancy Tegethoff Baker, Vice President of Marketing Intelligence, Erickson Living. Panelists provided a basic understanding of the senior housing industry, changes in trends, evolving structural requirements, and desired locations of the properties, as well as how Maryland in particular is working to keep residents local rather than losing them to more “flashy” parts of the country for retirement.


A quick breakdown of the levels of care for Senior Housing:

  • Independent– full-size apartments, meal programs, activities, some residents still work and volunteer
  • Assisted Living– mostly independent who need help with driving, medication admin, and bathing
  • Memory care– Dementia & Alzheimer’s residents who require space changes and a sensory experience
  • Skilled Nursing– full care with most tasks, schedule, feeding, and medication

Many communities are being designed so that residents can move through the levels of care and stay on the same campus, which is particularly helpful for couples who are in different stages.
The energy was high as the audience was intrigued to hear how technology has affected the industry with vendors like BathFitter and Uber making it easier for seniors to adapt and live in their homes longer. Many communities are Wi-Fi equipped and have an increase in BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), though it has been difficult for some older properties to retrofit. Virtual Concierge, VR for memory care patients, electronic door locks and even robot deliveries of household items (ex. toiletries) have been popping up at some senior living communities across the country.

Prospective residents, competitors in the immediate market, land use, and functionality of the land are the main factors which developers look for in planning a build of a new senior housing facility. Many have been looking into locations directly off highway exits, rather than the typical suburban/rural areas we have historically seen, as a convenience factor for the families who visit.

It’s no secret that senior housing is a major expense with costs projected to increase as facilities need to expand, remodel and include more technology and amenities to stay relevant for the next generation of residents. Panelists advised saving early for this imminent expense as long-term care insurance covers less these days. Additionally, the real estate downturn affected affordability as many were unable to sell their homes that they relied upon to pay for the new housing.

Investors are now paying attention to space in preparation for a construction wave in 2020 to be ready for the baby boomers expected to enter the space in about 8 years – the average age of residents has increased to the high 80’s for assisted/skilled nursing.

To learn more about the senior housing industry, visit any of the websites for our panelists’ companies by hovering over the name for a direct link to their sites. As always, our Programs Committee put on another impressive event that all in attendance were able to benefit from.

CREWBaltimore will take a break for the summer with our next major luncheon event two months away on September 5th covering Ports and Industrial properties. For other Chapter events in the meantime, like our Anthem House Construction Tour or annual Golf Tournament, check out our Events page here.

Little Patuxent Square Construction Tour & Happy Hour

“This Building is about friendships and passion.”
~ David Costello, President of Costello Construction

On May 4th, CREWBaltimore and CREW MarylandSuburban teamed up for a tour and happy hour in the shell space of Columbia’s newest office and apartment building, Little Patuxent Square. 

Though not quite complete, the nine-story LEED Gold mixed-use development will include 160,000 sf of Class A office space, 5 stories of underground parking and 160 luxury apartments on top of that branded “Lakehouse.” Every apartment will come with a balcony and views of the woods or lake. Move-ins are expected as early as this summer.

Mr. Costello spoke about his personal journey with the property, easement issues and finally a rendering that he simply did not like. It was at that point that he changed courses, and architects, to create the building he envisioned.

With the help of his team, and business partner, they set off to develop the building they wanted. The building features an all glass office façade, the first of its kind in Columbia. 

A Day of Service at My Sister’s Place

  Volunteer Week 2017—how did our Chapter celebrate?

The CREWBaltimore Outreach committee has identified My Sisters Place Women’s Center as our local philanthropy partner for 2017. My Sisters Place Women’s Center (MSPWC) provides three meals a day and access to services such as case management, education and job training for women in Baltimore City. They are a sponsored by Catholic Charities of Baltimore.

On April 27, 2017, twenty-one (21) members of CREWBaltimore volunteered their time, knowledge and experience to host a workshop for nine (9) ladies in the internship program at My Sisters Place Women’s Center, advising the interns how to market themselves to the workforce. The workshop started with a detailed discussion surrounding resume building, the importance of proper use of cover letters, along with what employers look for in candidates. Next, was an interactive session encompassing the topic of “Professionalism in the Workplace”.

At noon, a group of our volunteers stepped away from the workshops for a bit to help serve lunch to MySisters Place clients and got to see firsthand our travel size toiletry donations being put to use as staff handed out to those in need. The Outreach committee has called to action an ongoing collection of travel-sized toiletries at each of our events throughout the year, so please consider donating.

After lunch our ladies took the room again with a presentation about interviewing skills, proper follow-up time and methods of contact, inclusive of an impressive list of Do’s and Dont’s that we could all benefit from reviewing.

The final workshop of the day allowed our mentor volunteers to work one on one with the interns helping them tweak their resumes, perform mock interviews and create appropriate social media presence to connect with potential employers.

 Many of the ladies are looking for reception or data entry positions in an office setting. If you know of any prospective openings, please contact Outreach Chair, Polly Houck at phouck@asicare.net or Case Worker at MSPWC, Liz Kraus at ekraus@cc-md.org .

To see our full gallery of photos from our Day of Service, click here.

A huge thank you to all of the members listed below who participated in the success of this event! Feedback received from the organization was filled with gratitude and appreciation for how enthusiastic the mentors were. Lisa Kraus, Case Worker at MSPWC stated, “You really inspired them and showed them that they have the power to accomplish their goals and dreams.”

Member Spotlight: Kristen B. Pleasants

Kristen B. Pleasants
Principal and Owner, Basis Point Advisors 

Basis Point Advisors is a commercial real estate financial advisory firm providing commercial real estate consulting solutions and due diligence services to financial institutions, asset management firms, institutional investors, private owners, and developers. Since its inception in 2013, Basis Point has provided risk management and due diligence services for over $7.0 billion in assets located throughout the United States.

How long have you been a CREW Member?
19 years

What was the experience or motivating factor that compelled you to join CREWBaltimore? 
As a former CREW Network (national) board member and CREW Charlotte past president, it was a top priority to connect with CREW members upon our relocation to the area in 2012. I found the chapter and all of its members to be very welcoming and incredibly helpful in my transition.

List any CREWBaltimore positions held or committees you have been a part of.
I have been CREW Baltimore Board Secretary for the last 18 months.

In your experience, what makes CREW unique from other organizations?
Hands down, I would say the collaborative nature of the organization and its members. I have always found our members to be genuinely concerned, not only about their personal success, but in the success of each other.

How does CREWBaltimore support your career or leadership skills?
CREW has provided me many things over the years. Initially, the organization taught me practical skills, like networking, public speaking, and team leadership/management. Today, I work with clients and properties located throughout the United States. I frequently rely on the local expertise of our members in other markets. So, I may be a small independently-owned consulting firm, but when my clients hire me, they have a team of experts located throughout the country at their fingertips…pretty powerful!

What do you think makes a good mentor and have you established any mentoring relationships through CREW?
Selfless commitment to the success of others and willingness to provide honest guidance and feedback are critical in mentoring. I have had many mentors in CREW Network over the years, but, I am very fortunate that Joan Renner, CFO of the Brick Companies, has served that role for me over the past several years. She has provided invaluable guidance throughout several major changes in my personal and professional life. And, if it were not for CREW, I would have never met her!

What 3 business tips can you share with others? 
Networking, Networking, and Networking. All kidding aside, I am a tremendous proponent of building relationships in business. And, networking (in its sincerest form) does just that. At the end of the day, people do business with people. Having a product or service that is superior to your competition is important, but you often will not get your “foot in the door” without having a relationship established first. Networking/relationship building also enables you to naturally cultivate sponsor/mentor relationships that are a critical success factor in our industry.

What is your favorite app and why? 
I have a few that I can not live without. My most practical and frequently used app is WAZE. In this market, particularly in our industry, I could not live without it. I use it daily to navigate traffic and locate the most time efficient way to travel between two destinations.

What is your dream vacation spot and why? 
Any destination that includes sand and water. There is something about a beach that calms the spirit and invigorates the soul. It is one of the few places where I can go for self-reflection and refocus.  

What is your guilty pleasure? 
Wine….but for those of you that know me, you know that I hardly feel guilty about it!

Women of Influence Luncheon

On April 20th, CREWBaltimore hosted the “Women of Influence” Luncheon at the Center Club.

The event featured panel members Chickie Grayson, President and CEO of Enterprise Homes, Marjorie Rodgers Cheshire, President and COO of A&R Development, and Jennifer Perkins, VP of Asset Management of Bentall Kennedy, moderated by Christine Espenshade, a Managing Director of JLL.

The panel discussed topics ranging from management philosophies to how to stay inspired in the face of adversity and outside obligations. When asked how she was able to gain credibility after taking over the family business, Marjorie Rodgers Cheshire responded that she established credibility by working harder than everyone else, managing up aggressively, and knowing when to back off or shift strategies. Chickie Grayson knew that she had found her place at Enterprise Homes years ago because it aligned with her passion for outreach. That said, Grayson warns, non-profit does not mean “do not make money.” The business has to be sustainable and cannot run on passion alone. As for how to get noticed in a large company, Jennifer Perkins relied on internal networking, getting exposure to key senior management and having a mentor that helped her through the beginnings of her career.

As leaders, the topic of how to manage was an intriguing one. Perkins believes in giving her team the opportunity to give a project a shot, even if they fail. Grayson always hires people smarter than she is that exercise good judgment, including a great assistant that she says makes her look good to clients. She also touted Enterprise’s new open workplace strategy as mixing things up and creating more energy in the team. Rodgers managing technique is to back off of her intensity by 20% during stressful times, and also works with a corporate coach to learn management strategies.

When asked how they manage adversity, Perkins says it is alright to say “this sucks” but then get up and move forward, hopefully with the help of a strong network. Similarly, Rodgers Cheshire relies on her coach and network during difficult times. Grayson had a more philosophical response by contemplating on what she would have been worried about a year ago, recognizing that she usually does not remember and that bad things have a way of working out. She said “change your attitude when you can’t change the situation.”

As business women, good and bad deals can make or break their day. For Grayson, she believes the best deals were the ones they didn’t invest in that would have turned out badly. For Rodgers Cheshire, the worst deals came when her company chose a bad partner. Perkins shared a story of her 11-month battle of buying out a JV partner that continuously overlapped with family vacations and holidays.

The crowd was eager for final words of wisdom from the panel. Perkins encouraged women to ask for what they want and be confident enough to hear “no.” Rodgers Cheshire wants women to be comfortable breaking glass earlier in their careers, stating that most women believe they need to be 100% prepared for a job, even though most of the world will accept 70%. Grayson told the crowd that her mother always told her to act like she belonged even when she didn’t feel like it, but also stay humble. In addition, final words from moderator Christine Espenshade reminded the crowd that these women all worked really hard to get where they were, no one handed success to them.

For more photos from the event, click here.

CREWBaltimore attends JHU Carey School of Business Career Fair

Members of CREWBaltimore had the tremendous opportunity to sponsor the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School career fair on February 17th at Four Seasons Hotel in Harbor East. CREW members were able to speak at length with new graduates about networking opportunities, give tips on how to navigate the CREW website to locate job openings, and provide guidance on how to approach those companies. Both our CREW members and attendees enjoyed the opportunity to discuss the state of the jobs market within commercial real estate and get a sense of what industries are most highly sought after by eligible job hunters.

CREWBaltimore looks forward to the opportunity to continue attending this event in years to come, next time armed with a library of jobs and internships available within the chapter organization. Members are encouraged to submit job opportunities and internship information to crewbaltimorepr@gmail.com to be circulated throughout the Chapter.

Member Spotlight: Carly Peters


Carly Peters
Audit and Tax Manager, L&H Business Consulting, LLC

As the Audit and Tax Manager, Carly provides audit, accounting, tax and financial services to clients across all industries.  Carly has experience with nonprofits, residential real estate, commercial real estate and HUD, VHDA and CDA reporting and compliance.

How long have you been a CREW member?
4 years

What was the experience or motivating factor that compelled you to join CREWBaltimore? 
I joined as a company liaison to provide our organization with more involvement within the commercial real estate industry.

List any CREWBaltimore positions held or committees you have been a part of.
I have been on the Membership and Finance committees and am now on the Board of Directors as the Treasurer.

How does CREWBaltimore support your career or leadership skills?
CREW Baltimore supports my career as an accountant in the commercial real estate industry by offering relevant programs that keep you informed of this ever evolving industry.  I am excited to be on the Board of Directors this year to enhance my leadership skills.

What do you think makes a good mentor and have you established any mentoring relationships through CREW?
Amy Lacock (current Board President) has been a great mentor for me and has helped me stay involved and interested in CREW.  She is a jack of all trades and does an amazing job managing an organization on top of her career and home life.   I can only hope I am half as organized as she seems to be.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in business and how did you overcome it?
I think the biggest challenge I face is the expectation of a vast knowledge across all of the industries that I work in. I help to overcome this expectation by staying informed on news and attending trainings across many industries.

What is your most significant accomplishment?
I would consider one of my most significant accomplishments as learning new industries.   When I came to L&H Business Consulting from my previous firm I was very specialized in a specific industry.  L&H is a public accounting firm and I am faced with new industries on a daily basis and keeping myself informed and knowledgeable is a key to my success.

What is your dream vacation spot and why?
Hawaii. I went for my honeymoon and cannot wait to go back one day. It was the most beautiful place I have ever seen.

If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the Title should be? 
Work Hard, Play Hard. I like to work hard and be successful at my job while having fun and making my career an enjoyable one.

CREWBaltimore plays part in the CREW Network White Paper release

It is no secret that our Chapter is abundant with wise, talented members who are engaged in the overall mission of this organization, so it was no surprise to see two of our local women step up and join the CREW Network Industry Research Committee. Michelle Cohen, principal at Miles & Stockbridge P.C., and Karen Pecoraro, ATC Group Services LLC, volunteered on the committee in 2016 and relayed back to us some inside info on what really went into this year-long project.

Here’s what they have to say about the experience:

What support went into making this happen? This full year project was based on work done by CREW Network in 2015 as part of its industry survey – we used the results from that survey to create the topics for the white paper and as part of the basis of our research.  Committees of 20 members each, including representation from the CREWNetwork board and staff, divided into smaller teams for research (gathering information to support the thesis from our survey findings), editorial (writing and editing the paper) and outreach (generating internal and external publicity once the paper was distributed).

How can members get involved in a project of this magnitude? The industry research committee is one of several CREWNetwork committees. Any CREW member can apply for a position on this or another committee by providing information regarding their expertise and skills and how their experience makes them a good fit for a particular committee. For example, referencing specific research and/or writing skills if you are applying to participate on the industry research committee. CREW Network also looks for  participation in internal/external organizations (other than CREWBaltimore) where you have worked on related issues.

Did you learn anything throughout the process? Some of the research was fascinating, particularly as it related to self-bias. Learning what internal factors cause women to stop reaching for the executive suite and how much of this is tied to our own perceptions and needs (rather than external factors).

Following the release of the 2015 Benchmark Study Report: Women in Commercial Real Estate, CREW Network focused on digging deeper into issues that persist and stymie women’s advancement in commercial real estate. Closing the Gap: Addressing Gender Bias and Other Barriers for Women in Commercial Real Estate, CREW Network’s 10th annual white paper, details both statistical data and personal accounts previously unmeasured and unrecorded in our industry – and largely unaddressed.

To gather more detailed and anecdotal data on the commercial real estate workplace in 2016, CREW Network conducted an industry research survey and several interviews. A total of 1,019 industry professionals – both men and women – participated in the survey, which included questions about gender bias, compensation practices, mentoring and sponsorship, ageism and the aspiration gap. 

Read the 2016 CREW Network White Paper “CLOSING THE GAP: Addressing Gender Bias and Other Barriers for Women in Commercial Real Estate” here.

Key Messages of the White Paper:

  • Nearly 2,200 comments and open-ended responses detailed both positive (mentor success stories, supportive environments and workplace practices) and negative (blatant gender bias, unequal benefits and exclusion) experiences in commercial real estate. 
  • While women are gaining ground in the male-dominated commercial real estate profession (as evidenced in the 2015 Benchmark Study Report), the majority are experiencing advancement barriers including gender bias.
  • Of 1,019 commercial real estate professionals surveyed, 65% have personally experienced or observed gender bias against women in their workplace in the last five years.
  • 55% have personally experienced or observed gender bias against women outside of the formal workplace in the last five years (i.e. women excluded from colleague sporting events, hunting or golf trips).
  • 91% of respondents said they have not displayed gender bias against a woman as a hirer or manager in commercial real estate.
  • 32% of respondents believe the lack of support for women in the C-Suite and/or at home is the #1 reason for the industry’s aspiration gap; the second most popular response (26%) was that women believe being in the C-Suite will adversely affect their commitments and responsibilities outside of work.

What We Need From Our Industry Leaders Going Forward

  • Be honest (with yourself) about bias in your hiring, promoting, assigning of challenging projects, compensation practices and inclusion in high-profile client relationship development. Utilize an assessment tool and engage a diversity consultant to recognize bias, take action to overcome it, and put accountability measures in place.
  • Support women in your workplace and speak up when you see biases or unfair treatment. Seemingly small and consistent actions can have a huge impact.
  • Make mentoring and sponsorship of women a priority. Encourage women to strengthen and expand both their internal and external networks, and ensure that mentoring and sponsorship activities include building relationships with high-profile/high-value clients. Mentors and sponsors should also help women become more comfortable with taking the risk of moving to new companies and accepting commission-based compensation in order to advance in their careers.

Donations made to the CREW Network Foundation make it possible to fund industry research and allow CREW Network to remain the leading publisher of research on women in commercial real estate- research that is helping to close the compensation and advancement gap for women. In non-benchmark years the organization budgets approximately $25,000 for industry research expenses and in benchmark years that figure is closer to $67,500. Join us in completing the Chapter Challenge by donating today through this link, CREWbiz or when you check out for your next event registration. For more information regarding the use of Foundation funds, you may contact CREWBaltimore Outreach Committee Liaison, Kim Hogan, Cushman & Wakefield.

1 2 3 9