Going into 2020, CREWBaltimore had a full program lineup that included Construction Tour Happy Hours, Beacon Awards, Luncheons, and various volunteer events. When the pandemic began to take effect, the chapter knew their previously full schedule was going to have some big changes.
When faced with the challenges of rescheduled and canceled events, CREWBaltimore found a way to take advantage of the new normal by pivoting their event structure from in person to virtual. Starting in March, CREWBaltimore has been conducting weekly “Conversations Over Coffee” for members to attend over Zoom, allowing different members and guest speakers to discuss a variety of topics, which allowed the chapter as a whole to stay connected.
Over the course of the past few months, members have been invited to join webinars that cover topics ranging from leasing trends, commercial cleaning, building operations, financial impact, interior design, and much more. Each panel, hosted by CREWBaltimore President, Kristen Schrader, included members that had the opportunity to discuss the different effects COVID-19 has had in their respective industries.
With these calls, members are able to attend more “events” in the past few months than they would throughout the entire year. It gives members the opportunity to meet other members they might not have had the chance to meet at the in-person events. Although CREWBaltimore has been greatly affected by COVID-19, the Conversations Over Coffee has been a silver lining and allows the chapter as a whole to still be together while apart.
On Wednesday, July 15, 2020, CREWBaltimore hosted a virtual panel discussion on Feds, Meds, and Eds. The panelists that were featured were Steve Ramaley of Miles & Stockbridge and a member of their Government Practice, Emily Perl, Associate Vice President of Goucher College, and Adam Kleeman a partner at Cohn Reznick currently focusing on the Cannabis Industry.
Steve Ramaley led the discussion specifically regarding how COVID has changed the trajectory of Congress and Government in general. As Congress is poised to introduce another stimulus package, other safeguards and changes were made to the FLEX and CARES Act including audits on those that took assistance. That said, Government Contractors in general have not been affected as much as other industries. Government spending is up, current funding is being repurposed, and contractors are typically not defaulting on leases. There are a number of programs designed to help government contractors, including section 3610 of the CARES Act that allows for the government to continue to pay contractors employees even if they aren’t doing anything to maintain a “ready to go” status. However, those funds do come with red tape that means many contractors will not qualify. Overall GSA commercial real estate is a bright spot for landlords as these types of offices likely will not convert to a work from home model.
As far as the state of Higher Education, Emily Perl described it in one word. Chaos. As the second main source of income for most institutions is room and board, there is a real concern on the loss of income due to campuses choosing to go virtual for the near future. Institutions are being forced to balance their financial health versus the physical health of their students and staff. For those considering a hybrid in-person/virtual model, many institutions are considering changing their academic calendar – removing previously scheduled breaks and holidays in order to end the semester at Thanksgiving. Doing this would eliminate the risk of students traveling around the country just to return a week later. While COVID-19 is having a huge financial impact on higher education, small, private institutions are at the most risk. The threat to enrollment is not totally to blame on COVID-19, as there has been a declining rate of (students?) 18 years going to college in the past few years. For the time being, most capital projects are on hold, but the long-term outlook for higher education is still positive.
As it relates to Meds, the Cannabis industry has gained enormous momentum over the past several years and entered many metropolitan markets. However, many Cannabis growers have run into road blocks as their business may be legal locally, but not federally thus creating challenges for leasing and banking. For example, Cannabis growers cannot enter into a lease with a landlord that has debt on their books. As a result, the industry has shifted towards Cannabis REITS of mostly larger growth facilities, resulting in sale/leasebacks becoming a popular way to acquire their needed space. Overall, COVID-19 has not slowed the momentum of the Cannabis business and in fact has bolstered it. Arguments are being made to ease restrictions on the industry by legalizing it federally and thereby giving the government the opportunity to tax it during these difficult economic times.
Overall, the Feds/Meds/Eds industry dynamics are shifting as a result of COVID-19 and an ever-changing cultural view of the world. While Eds appears to sustain the worst of effects of the pandemic overall, the outlook stays positive as the need for higher education will not disappear, just change. Feds has seen little impact to their industry to date, however as more measures and safeguards are put into place the resilience of some contractors could come into question. Cannabis shocked the Meds world a decade ago, but it is becoming more accepted the main stream medical community. If federal restrictions were eased, there could be an opportunity for both Feds and Meds to gain financially, but to date that remains to be seen.
On January 21st, CREWBaltimore hosted the Women of Influence luncheon featuring Shina Parker, CEO & Founder of Integrity Title & Escrow, Karen Singer, Esq., Principal at KMS Partners, Colleen Vacelet, President of Intreegue Design, and moderated by Theresa Tsamoutalis, President & Principal of Allsafe Elevator Inspections. Topics of discussion ranged from juggling the work/home balance to why these women decided to strike out on their own.
To understand why these women are so exceptional, it helps to understand the demographics of the workforce and CRE in particular. The numbers of women and men first starting out in the workforce at the beginning of their careers are fairly equal, 75% are men and 74% are women. By mid-career, men outpace women in managerial roles 47% to 40%. By late-career those numbers are even higher, with 57% of men occupying managerial jobs and only 41% of women in the same position. Women represent 35% of the workforce in the US and only occupy 9% of the C-Suite positions. In commercial real estate specifically, there is a 23.3% pay gap in starting salaries between men and women. So how did these women navigate the industry to become leaders?
Their reasons for striking out on their own came from very different places. As a landscape architect, Vacelet found that she had hit the pay ceiling but worked diligently to gain experience and knowledge. That hard work eventually paid off and enabled her to start her own company and acquire her previous employer. When Parker was told to “know her place” after she was responsible for bringing in more than half of her previous employer’s business, she knew she had no other option than to start her own company. Twenty-one years later, she now owns the number one women-owned minority title company in the State of Maryland. Singer found herself in a different situation when corporate restructuring resulted in her being laid off with no plan B. Over the next several months she continued to network before starting her own firm working with developers in the market.
So how did they succeed in an industry that is statistically challenging for women? For Singer, she believes luck doesn’t just happen. Her advice is to put yourself out in the universe and lay the foundation of who you want to associate with. Continue to ask for feedback and take the time to listen. Vacelet believes the most important part to success is having a clear vision. Success isn’t what you want to be, it’s who you want to be. For Parker, success is the result of how you use the opportunities you have.
Closing words of advice from the panel were: Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. Ask for feedback and listen; be teachable. Be a mentor, don’t overlook the associate or the assistant. After decades of progress, the demographics of the industry look the same. Push for diversity wherever possible.
CREWBaltimore hosted more than 85 attendees at the Bridging the Housing Gap Luncheon on September 10, 2019. Guest speakers included Kelly Cantley of Bozzuto Construction Company, Liz Henderson of Greystar, Christine Madigan of Enterprise Homes and Scott Zimmerly of Woods Partners. The panel was moderated by CREWBaltimore member, Christine Espenshade.
The Baltimore multifamily market has seen significant growth
in the past 6-7 years with nearly 2 million square feet of antiquated office
buildings converted to apartments during that time. There are currently 7,000
new units coming online in the next 35 months. Nearly 3,600 units have absorbed
in the past 12 months, and rents have grown 2.6% in the same time period.
Investors and developers believe strongly that supply will match demand in this
cycle, unlike how 2015 saw
negative absorption due to a large influx of units to the market.
Liberty in Harbor East is one of the newest developments by The
Bozzuto Group and H&S Properties which features 282 units for rent and 35
condominiums. Condominiums have traditionally not sold as quickly in Baltimore,
which is very much a “Rowhome” city, but investors believe that trend is
turning. Condo owners enjoy the same amenities as their renter neighbors, which
include shared office space, dog parks, Peloton bikes, fire pits, swimming
pools, and more. Other notable projects include the 267-unit Alta Federal Hill
project planned on S. Hanover Street by Woods Partners. The Wheelhouse project
developed by 28 Walker recently opened in Federal Hill and is Baltimore’s first
co-living apartment building consisting of 2 – 4 bedroom units that are
available for rent by the bedroom. The concept has been successful in other
markets like San Francisco and Philadelphia, with the hope that it is equally well
received in the Baltimore Market.
Affordable housing in Baltimore has traditionally been
viewed in a negative light due to often dilapidated conditions. However,
organizations like Enterprise Homes seeks to reinvent what affordable housing
looks like. Metro Heights at Mondawmin is a 70-unit building, 63 of which are
Affordable. The building boasts amenities such as a club room, business center,
fitness room, yoga studio, below-grade parking and is LEED Gold. With the
assistance of tax credits and City and State funding, the result is an
apartment building that has the same sleek design as other new apartment
developments, and is a place residents are proud to call home.
Over the past quarter, members of our Board had the
opportunity to attend the 2019 CREW Network Convention and CREW Network Leadership
Summit. Events provided a wealth of knowledge, incredible speakers and amazing
At the CREW Network Convention, Carey Lohrenz, the first female F-14 Tomcat Fighter Pilot in the U.S. Navy and author of “Fearless Leadership”, spoke about topics of preparation, teamwork, and opportunities. Fundamentally, relentless preparation will allow you and your team to face new challenges. Great teams are based on belief and trust. You may be nervous, but you will always default to your lowest denominator: your training. If you are too afraid of failure, you may pass up great opportunities. In the end, it is your ability to recover from failure that matters the most.
At the CREW Network Leadership Summit, Debra Fine, author of
“The Fine Art of Small Talk” discussed better ways to connect with people. She encouraged the audience to dig deeper, ask
more specific questions, and be good listeners.
Specific to CREW Network, she related this message to making our new
members feel welcome and included.
Other sessions focused further on successful networking. Changing up the format and location of our networking sessions to include lunch and learns, board-hosted calls, webinars, deliberate discussions about member-to-member business opportunities and getting people involved in even a single event could enhance our networking success.
Commercial real estate discussions highlighted emerging
trends. In leasing, tenants and
employees are looking for “the experience”.
The amenities that come along with the job, building, and location are
key. Natural light, personal climate
control, on-site coffee bars, and nearby shopping and food options all
contribute to a positive perception.
Considerations for E-commerce and deliveries, and mobility issues
including parking are also at the forefront of these conversations.
Our CREWBaltimore Board of Directors encourages each of you look
for opportunities to participate in local, regional, and national CREW events
to broaden your knowledge base, leadership skills and connections. While your business may be local, your
network can be global!
Sangley started off the conversation by talking about
how urban design and commercial real estate need retail. While offices energize
the city during the day and housing strengthens the city at night, retail helps
sustain both and activates the streetscape. While some retail is struggling,
there are brick and mortar retail locations that are thriving. These businesses
are keystones in our communities, creating a sense of place and generating
interest. So how are our panelist’s companies attracting consumers given the
competition from e-commerce? For all these companies, it’s about providing
something that customers can’t get online. For Neff, they must have events,
like live music, that draw people in. Being dog-friendly also helps draw a
crowd. Smith concurred, saying that “people are going out for more than just
food, they are going for an experience.” For Towles, the challenge came with
how her retail toy store could compete against the convenience of online
retailers for busy parents, as 39% of online shoppers say speed is the largest
factor for choosing to purchase online over at a brick and mortar location. She
said that since they have a lot of STEM toys, they have learning workshops for
either just the child or the parent and the child to learn together, something
not available online.
As far as development, Mirmiran has had success with
“taking stable areas and pushing their edges.” This helps stabilize the city
and promote future growth. There is a movement toward more urban development
with “many people [who] still prefer living in the urban environment,” he said.
In fact, Sangley mentioned that 56% of online shoppers still appreciate the
in-person experience over digital retailers. Which might be why e-commerce,
like Bonobos, Warby Parker, and Amazon have all opened brick and mortar
locations. To address security concerns with some of those “urban edge”
locations, Smith recommends hiring a private security company and having a
presence on the ground. Valet service is usually a good way to ensure your
customers feel safe and provides for a more leisurely experience.
How do each of these companies reduce their impact on
the environment and give back to the community? For the local brewery,
Checkerspot Brewing Company recycles containers and their spent grain goes to
local cattle farmers. Additionally, they also use local fruit in some of their
beer and host dog-focused events for BARCS. Smith said Atlas Restaurant Group also
works with local farmers, donates to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and takes
employees to do a yearly cleanup event.
Each of these companies also utilizes technology to
enhance the shopping experience. For aMuse Toys, they have a rewards program
that tracks purchases and gives recommendations to the consumer based on those
purchases. Similarly, Atlas Restaurant Group uses analytics that tracks guest
visits and orders. These analytics help the wait staff to give better recommendations
and adds a special experience for the guest that they might not have with a
food delivery service. Smith said they have also found that the personal
outreach, like a card or a call back, ensures that the guest has a positive interaction
with the restaurant. Neff agreed, saying that the staff at Checkerspot make
concerted efforts to interact with guests. And some of that interaction is
online, as they are very active on social media and use that as their
promotional platform. Studies show that 40% of business owners are using social
media to generate sales, and that 23% of consumers say that recommendations on
social media influence their buying decisions.
The brick and mortar retail experience is not disappearing. As long as companies are adaptable and willing to put in the extra effort and innovation to draw in customers, they will likely see a return on their investment.
First and foremost, our Chapter is strategically made up of
the cream of the crop women (and the men that support them) in the Baltimore
commercial real estate industry. We have proven over the years to have some
extremely generous donors within our network; not only financially but with
time, knowledge, intellectual capital and other resources. This is such a vital
aspect for the success of our organization.
The mission of
the CREWBaltimore Outreach
Committee is to make a lasting positive impact on the local community with an
emphasis on the commercial real estate industry AND professional women –we do
this through scholarship, mentoring workshops, career fairs, endowments and
tangible donations. Throughout the year, the Outreach committee engages
the membership for participation in a few initiatives. You may wonder, “What is
the difference between the donations being asked for?”.
Network Foundation & the Chapter
The CREW Network Foundation raises funds to support programs
that attract women and girls to the CRE industry, building a talent pipeline. It
is also the only Foundation solely dedicated towards advancing women in CRE
globally. Thousands of dollars are used each year towards scholarships,
industry research and career outreach efforts as outlined here.
This fund is held at the national level but each individual
Chapter within CREW Network is challenged annually with three goals to help
support the overall fund.
Get 100% of your chapter’s board to give an individual donation
Get 50% of your chapter’s membership to give an individual donation
Chapter gives an organizational donation of $1,000 or more
Our Chapter has achieved this Trifecta for the past four
consecutive years and been nationally recognized at the CREW Network Annual
Convention. In 2019, we have donated $5,281 towards making a difference for
generations to come of women in CRE!!
The Outreach committee works diligently each year to
identify 1) philanthropy efforts that support our mission and 2) partnerships
with local schools and organizations which allow us the opportunity to help
students become future leaders & raise awareness about careers in CRE.
The golf tournament is a fun filled day with raffles,
Chinese auction, contests and of course a round of golf followed by a catered
lunch. You do NOT need to be a CREW member to participate, so sign up your
whole office, your best friends, your vendors and guys in CRE who are shy about
attending other CREW events for a golf foursome (or multiple) at our October
The funds generated by this tournament are the sole
funding for our upcoming year Outreach budget and determines how much we
will be able to give back in 2020. So please, sign
up today, sponsor, donate quality items for the auction and help promote
the event to make it our most successful yet!! (René Carter is currently
collecting Chinese auction items and she will pick-up items you wish to donate.
You may reach her at email@example.com;
How your donations were deployed in
UCREW event w JHU Carey Business School-live panel discussion for graduate level students—most pursuing MBAs or Master’s degrees in real estate, finance, risk management, or marketing. The panel discussion gave the students a glimpse into four major sectors of the commercial real estate industry: finance, consulting, development, and property & asset management. Panelists (made up of CREW members) discussed their career paths and respective sectors, provided insight about their experiences as women in CRE, and discussed major trends and challenges in real estate today.
Sponsorship and Participation in Junior Achievement of Central MD: 1) Leading Ladies event connects businesswomen and outstanding female high school students in the Baltimore area to celebrate successes, develop talents, capture new opportunities and inspire the next generation of women leaders. The event celebrates the power of women at various ages and stages of life, and inspires participants with increased knowledge and confidence to further their career goals and network building. Through presentations, table discussions and interactive student/mentor activities, the event stays true to the hands-on JA philosophy of providing real-world experiences that help youth create an aspiration and plan for their futures., 2) Her Path to Promise event– summer program at Towson University that creates pathways for young women by providing exposure to female mentors, college campuses, career opportunities, hands-on activities, and other experiences to begin the process of preparing for a successful life after graduation from high school. Through networking, one-on-one mentoring, mock interviews, resume building, and personal branding guidance from female professionals, the young women apply these skills to secure a job or internship on the final day during the career fair expo, which features local employers from a variety of industries., and 3) BizTown- is a very unique experience that offers 4th – 6th grade students the experience of running BizTown, a simulated city of businesses. Volunteers assist in a coaching capacity to encourage students to collaborate and use critical thinking skills to run a business.
Sponsorship of University of Baltimore Real Estate & Economic Development “Lessons from Legends” event –Students of the UB Merrick School of Business, alumni and friends had an opportunity to learn from Baltimore’s most influential and successful business leaders about their experiences, career paths, successes and challenges.
My Sisters Place: a center that provides three meals a day and access to services such as case management, education and job training for women in Baltimore City. 1) Provided purses stuffed w/necessities to graduates of the “Learn to Earn” internship program, 2)Delivered 100+ bags filled w/toiletries and supplies for the women of the center 3) will participate in a “Day of Service” in October- a group will serve lunch at the facility
Student Membership Scholarship to Cheryl Williams, a grad student at JHU
Sponsored Camp NAWIC– a week long construction camp for girls grades 7-12 introducing to a variety of areas within the construction field
Endowment provided to JHU towards a student scholarship
Your participation is greatly appreciated to allow our Chapter to continue to make an impact in the areas we have deemed in line with our strategic mission. If you would like to learn more, suggest a cause, or are interested in joining the Outreach committee, please contact Co-Chairs Tammy Baczynskyj at TBaczynskyj@vscfire.com or Amanda Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org . There are many opportunities throughout the year for members to participate in single day events as well. Keep an eye out in the newsletters and the Outreach page of the blog. Thanks again for your continued support!
On April 30th, CREWBaltimore Outreach Committee members Polly Houck, Absolute Service Industries & Tammy Baczynskj, VSC Fire & Security Inc. coordinated and delivered purses filled with necessities to the seven women graduating from the 2018/2019 session of Learn to Earn at My Sisters’ Place.
Learn to Earn is a six-month internship program that prepares women for careers in various fields through direct training. Following completion of the curriculum, job placement assistance is provided for graduates.
“It was very inspiring to see these wonderful ladies graduate and go on with their new adventures in life,” said Tammy. “Family members being there to support the ladies in addition to the support that My Sisters’ Place has given them to achieve this, is extremely instrumental to them.”
My Sisters’ Place has been a philanthropic partner of CREWBaltimore since 2017. The Center, sponsored by Catholic Charities of Baltimore, provides three meals a day and access to services such as case management, education and job training for women in Baltimore City.
CREWBaltimore continues to support My Sisters’ Place through ongoing donations of travel-sized toiletries and personal care items. The Outreach committee plans to provide a “Christmas in July” next month for the organization, so please considering making a donation today. Donations are being collected at the registration table at all CREWBaltimore events throughout the year. Members can also participate in the drive by making a direct contribution of items through the Amazon Wishlist HERE.
Following a warm welcome by CREWBaltimore President Nikkia
Fitch, our annual sponsors were thanked, including the event sponsor Miles &
Stockbridge. Michele Cohen,
Principal at Miles & Stockbridge spoke on behalf of her firm.
To kick off the discussion Adrienne Jones, Speaker Pro
Tem/Delegate of the Maryland House of Delegates – 10th District,
provided highlights of the 2019 session.
She noted that the House and Senate have 61 new members this year and
several standing committees. The 2019 focus
has been on education through the Kirwan Commission, and on balancing the
budget. Speaker Pro Tem Jones encouraged
CREWBaltimore members to visit the House Floor and participate in dialog with
the policy committees. She stated that
“women play a critical role in this assembly this year” and noted that several
current committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs are women.
Spencer Levy, Chairman of Americas Research and Senior
Economic Advisor at CBRE
then led a lively discussion about the economic state of Maryland, and
specifically the Baltimore region. After
stating that he believes the three pillars of a region’s success are money,
talent, and infrastructure, the discussion focused on these areas.
Economically, Speaker Pro Tem Jones noted a vast divergence
in the Baltimore region with drastic highs and lows. The region boasts strengths in urbanization,
revitalization based on historical manufacturing origins, and added suburban
revitalization in areas such as Columbia, Annapolis and Towson. A discussion that began with the struggles
surrounding employment and hiring quickly turned the topic from economics to
Mary Ann Scully, CEO of Howard Bank, Speaker Pro Tem
Jones, and Levy all leaned toward support and services for families as having
the greatest impact on education reform.
While college is not for everyone, the Kirwan Commission aims for every
student to be college or career ready
by 10th grade, and not lacking in fundamental skills such as
literacy and math. Scully noted that
Howard Bank is currently putting funds into work-force development, and skills
that are not on a resume, such as curiosity, are also important. Levy suggested that economic integration
within our public-school systems is the answer, stating that “we should do
everything possible to give every kid a shot”.
This sentiment was backed by both the panelists and the audience.
While infrastructure was a lesser discussed topic,
transportation seemed to be the key. Neither
Scully or Speaker Pro Tem Jones backed the idea of a hyperloop between
Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Scully
stated that there are too many other mass transit issues that need to be
addressed first. Ultimately, the region
needs to prepare for behavioral changes in how and where people want to live
Levy, a consummate moderator, added light-hearted banter to
the discussion by encouraging Speaker Pro Tem Jones and Scully to share their
music and television preferences (Speaker Pro Tem Jones prefers R&B music
and T.V. mysteries, while Scully likes Aretha Franklin and the band Chicago and
watches Game of Thrones and Midsomer Murders with her family). With predictions from both panelists for a
recession and a woman in Presidential power in the near future, the discussion
came to a close and was opened for a series of questions and answers.
Over 85 CREW members and guests attended the 2019 Women of Influence Luncheon at the renovated Center Club on January 8th. Following a warm welcome and 2019 preview by CREWBaltimore President Nikkia Fitch of RS&F, moderator Karen Pecoraro (ATC Group Services) facilitated a panel-format discussion around pay inequality and other barriers to female advancement in the CRE industry. This central theme was inspired by the 2018 CREW Network White Paper titled Achieving Pay Parity in Commercial Real Estate (read here).
Panelists Christine Espenshade (JLL), Michele Cohen (Miles & Stockbridge), Laura Penza (Penza Bailey Architects) and Ruth Hoang (Howard Hughes Development) shared tips, challenges and anecdotes about their careers and successes in commercial real estate. Two points of advice repeatedly emerged throughout the discussion.
First, speak up for yourself. “No one will be a better advocate for you than you” said Ruth Hoang. Michele Cohen added that coworkers and supervisors are not “mind readers” and should not be expected to just make things happen on your behalf. Instead, women need to make their case when asking for a raise or promotion. “Track, catalogue, capture your accomplishments” Karen Pecoraro advised. That makes it much easier to recount your contributions when annual review time rolls around, since trying to recall a year’s worth of deals or sales can be difficult. The panel also recommended staying current on reports and publications that provide compensation data for your profession, noting that location can play a big role.
When asked how to avoid the pay gap over the course of a career, advice from the panel varied. “Stay flexible and leave yourself some latitude to do new things” offered Ruth Hoang, referring to the ways in which her willingness to work in new markets and with new clients spurred her progress at Howard Hughes. “Be willing to reinvent yourself” said Christine Espenshade, “especially if you’ve left the workforce for a period of time.” The panel agreed on the importance of staying relevant and connected through networking events and organizations such as CREW.
As a regular participant in annual compensation reviews at Miles and Stockbridge, Michele Cohen noted “our male counterparts self-advocate better more often.” Hoang then stressed the importance of asking for a raise each year and to not settle for a 2-3% cost of living increase, which accentuates the gap. “Be mindful of the math” she added.
The second word of advice from the panel: create your own work/life “harmony”. From choosing your life partner to third-party help, the group emphasized the importance of a support network and agreed that the term “work/life balance” can be misleading. “As women, we think we are the only ones who can handle the pediatrician appointment or stay home with a sick child” Christine Espenshade joked, then added “we are inclined to take on the lion’s share of the duties at home.” In reality, we can all use a little help from the outside to make our home life and career as fulfilling as possible. “Find your thing, find your power, and make it work,” said Laura Penza.