Category Archives: Events Recap

Event Recap – Virtual Tour of Baltimore

Tall Ships, Tall Order for Baltimore Commercial Real Estate

by Chrissy Hoffmaster, Copywriter/Project Manager at IMPACT Marketing & Public Relations

Chrissy Hoffmaster

Chrissy Hoffmaster, Copywriter/Project Manager, IMPACT Marketing & Public Relations

Virtual Tour of Baltimore

September 11 luncheon at the Hotel Monaco

While the Blue Angels roared through the sky above Baltimore’s Hotel Monaco, three commercial real estate experts treated CREWBaltimore members and guests to an electrifying virtual tour of the area’s most important upcoming projects.

With Central Maryland already home to numerous cutting-edge commercial properties, improving the local landscape is a tall order – even taller than the ships anchored for the Battle of Baltimore bicentennial. Must be why two of the featured projects will offer some of the best views of the Key Bridge and Inner Harbor!

All three projects are also raising the standards for efficiency, sustainability, and quality of life in commercial real estate. Let’s learn more…

The Rotunda in Hampden, Maryland

Presented by Chris Bell, Senior Vice President, Acquisitions and Development, Hekemian & Co.

A major renovation to the well-known local shopping center once managed by 2014 CREWBaltimore President Kim Hogan, The Rotunda project is designed to revitalize Hampden through a sustainable commercial property where people line up to live, dine, and shop. The design plans, which include hundreds of apartments, have taken every detail into consideration. Apartment residents will gain Harbor views, but The Rotunda itself will hardly tower over the area. Additional trees and convenient parking will make the renovated commercial property a welcome part of the tight-knit community.

Project Overview
  • 5-acre site originally developed in 1920
  • 379 apartment units accessible from central lobby
  • 155,000 s/f retail on ground floor
  • 140,000 s/f office space
  • 8-story parking structure
14 neighborhoods’ worth of input

The Rotunda has been a popular destination for Hampden, Roland Park, and Medfield residents for decades. Those loyal shoppers weren’t about to let their beloved mall morph into something that could upset their way of life. Hats off to Hekemian for satisfying all 14 of the 21 area neighborhoods that contributed input on the design. The amazing line-up of retailers probably didn’t hurt, either – mouths are already watering for MOM’s Organic Market and Starbucks.

Towson Row in Towson, Maryland

Presented by Arsh Mirmiran, Partner, Caves Valley Partners

Located at York Road and Towsontown Boulevard, Towson Row is a multi-million dollar vertical mixed-use development. Designed partly to ease the burden of Towson University’s growing population through the addition of hundreds of student beds, it’s likely to also lighten a few wallets with its amazing retail offerings, to include a high-end grocery concept.

Project Overview
  • 900 beds for TU students
  • residential tower with 375 units
  • ornamental railroad bridge spanning York Road
  • archway and grand stair leading to plaza
  • hotel and high-end restaurants
An elevated dining experience

Towson Row has ambitious aims to elevate the area’s dining options, already quite high thanks to The Melting Pot Restaurant. Though most of the new eateries will located at ground level, they’ll no doubt offer some of the best surf ‘n’ turf in the area. And for residents and students who prefer dinner and a movie, there will be no better place than the new Cobb Theatre in Towson– one of the world’s highest-end dine-in movie chains.

Downtown Columbia in Howard County, Maryland

Presented by Mark Thompson, Director, Downtown Redevelopment of Howard County

As Columbia approaches its 50th anniversary, residents should prepare for some major changes to the Mall Area, Lakefront, and Crescent Property. The Downtown Redevelopment Office is picking up where the Rouse Company left off – starting with the conversion of its world-renowned, Frank Gehry-designed headquarters into a long-awaited Whole Foods store. Look for the 30-year redevelopment plan to go hand-in-hand with HoCo’s motto, “Choose Civility,” and its focus on sustainability.

Project Overview
  • $100M, 6-story new apartment building, The Metropolitan
  • $8M renovation to Merrill Lynch building lobby
  • plans for 13,880 s/f of addition retail and 34,500 s/f of additional parks/playgrounds
  • $25M renovation to Rouse Company headquarters, now Columbia’s own Whole Foods
  • 27,000 s/f mind/body retreat center Haven on the Lake, with views of Lake Kittamaqundi
  • $5M expansion to Clyde’s of Columbia
  • $19M in renovations to Merriweather Post Pavilion, Symphony Woods
  • plans for 2,300 additional apartments, 1.4M s/f of additional office space, 313,000 s/f of additional retail space, and a 250-room hotel
HoCo Gets Around

“Our measure of success is when people pay to park in Columbia.”  A lofty goal indeed, but Mark and his team have their work cut out for them. Not only does Columbia plan to reduce residents’ dependence on personal vehicles, but it also aims to add public transportation, including a circulator that would unite the Crescent’s key institutions: Howard General Hospital and Howard Community College. Also in the works: 94 miles of additional bicycle and pedestrian pathways, along with a new recreational park.

Q & A Session

Moderated by Beth Hardsock, President, Omega Fire & Life Safety

After the presentations, Beth led the panelists through a series of hard-hitting questions from CREWBaltimore members, including Teresa Terry and Theresa Tsamoutalis.

“How will each project address resident safety?”
  • The Rotunda – Will prevent break-ins and muggings with 40 cameras located around the property. Nearly every square inch will be within camera view.
  • Towson Row – Will model Harbor East security, with strategic lighting and landscaping; also, police segways and sub-station.
  • Downtown Columbia – Will take a collaborative approach to security with help from local police department, including bike patrol of the new pathways.
“How is each project helping the area ‘go green’?”
  • The Rotunda – Additional trees and sensible parking will make area even more bike-friendly.
  • Towson Row – Towson City Center is already shockingly energy efficient, and Towson Row will be, too.
  • Downtown Columbia – Streams restoration, green areas, bio-retention ponds, and other site-specific projects to help HoCo go ever greener.
“What opportunities are there for local or small businesses to get involved with the projects?”
  • Towson Row – Hired a local architect design collective and general contractor  Whiting Turner
  • Downtown Columbia — HoCo goes local for most projects, although has hired some D.C.-based MEP specialists.
“What were the biggest challenges of each project?”
  • The Rotunda – Getting everyone in the neighborhood to buy in – it’s a 5-year process to get anything developed.
  • Towson Row – Complicated grocery store loading area – entire design built around that challenge
  • Downtown Columbia – Educating consumers that parking will have to change…
“What have you learned from your projects that you can summarize in one sentence?”
  • Chris Bell – “The best opportunities are those you can develop at the right time.”
  • Arsh Mirmiran – “It’ll take twice as long as you think.”
  • Mark Thompson – “Go slow to go fast.”
“When can I go shopping?”
  • The Rotunda – Retailers open next fall.
  • Towson Row – Starting demolition next spring.
  • Downtown Columbia – Whole Foods opened in August!

Join us at our next luncheon, Industrial “In the Know,” at the Hotel Monaco on October 9. Sign up here!

Event Recap – Commercial Real Estate Trailblazers in the Industry

Commercial Real Estate Trailblazers

l-r: Brandi Hanback, Executive Vice President, The Rockefeller Group; Peggy White, Principal, Axiom Engineering Design, LLC; Joan Renner, CFO, The Brick Companies; Krista Di Iaconi, Principal, JBGR Retail; Kim Hogan, Property Manager, Cushman & Wakefield and CREWBaltimore 2014 President

Forty-five CREW members and guests gathered at the Hotel Monaco in Baltimore on Thursday, April 10 for CREWBaltimore‘s “Trailblazers in the Industry” event.

Panelists included Brandi Hanback, Executive Vice President at The Rockefeller Group, Krista Di Iaconi, Principal at JBGR Retail, and Peggy White, Principal at Axiom Engineering Design LLC, with Joan Renner, Chief Financial Officer at The Brick Companies, as moderator of the discussion.

Joan Renner

CFO, The Brick Companies

Joan Renner, CFO of The Brick Companies, a privately held company which owns, develops, and manages commercial, residential, and recreational properties in and around the DC, MD, and VA, footprint, was the moderator of the event.

Joan’s Thought-Provoking Questions

Was the path you embarked to get where you are today more like climbing a ladder (straight and narrow) or climbing a jungle gym (winding and complex)?

What lessons have you learned throughout your career? Does Work – Life balance exist?

How important is the role of sponsorship/mentorship in developing your career?

How has CREW or another organization helped you?

Joan on CREW

Joan also provided great insight from her own experiences throughout the discussion, adding that CREW helped build her network in Baltimore and has given her a foundation, friendship, and confidence.

She reminded that audience that “we are 1 of 8,000 members — utilize it!”Joan’s lesson to everyone was to speak up for what you want and not be afraid to tell your peers or your superiors where you want your career to go.

Brandi Hanback

Executive Vice President, The Rockefeller Group

Brandi Hanback, a new CREW member, took the “jungle gym” approach in career advancement from working for the state department, to trade associations, to a public accounting firm and various other positions before settling into her current role as EVP of Industrial Development and Head of FTZ, Trade & Logistics for The Rockefeller Group.

Brandi’s Background

Brandi is responsible for The Rockefeller Group’s port strategy and works directly with tenants and clients on FTZ, customs, and supply chain requirements. She was interested in the concept of combining trade and business. Her hardest lessons learned in business surrounded patience and timing. She stressed that we are not always turned down due to being wrong, but that sometimes poor timing is the issue. She advised the crowd to keep challenging ourselves.

Brandi on Work-Life Balance

In response to the moderator’s question about successful ways to juggle tasks and maintain work/life balance, Brandi stressed the importance of being able to multitask and prioritize what is the most important at that particular time. She strongly advised everyone to utilize their allotted vacation time, stating no one will remember years from now if you were dedicated enough not to take it — but on the other hand, you will remember the vacation memories years down the road.

She did not feel that having mentors was as formal of a concept when she was coming up, but she “formed alliances” that proved valuable in bouncing ideas off of. Her advice of how to know when to move on to the next job was simply to avoid having tunnel vision and always being open to opportunities.

Krista Di Iaconi

Principal, JBGR Retail

Krista Di Iaconi of JBGR Retail is a friend and former colleague of Joan Renner.  She started as an accountant and worked her way up at Beers & Cutler. As an introvert, she planned to stay as an accountant.  JBG was a client of the firm and she ended up joining JBG in 1994.  Soon after, the firm merged with Rosenfeld Realty, thus creating JBGR Retail.

Krista’s Path to Success

In the early dot-com days, Krista worked at a real estate dot-com that failed after two years.  She rejoined JBGR and built on learning the development/investment business.  When the new retail group started, she offered to start back at the bottom as an analyst in order to learn the business. With a 50% pay cut and more admin role, she took the job.  She has since worked her way up in development/investment and is now a principal on the retail side.

Krista on Overcoming Challenges

Krista has had a number of informal mentors but no formal mentors. She has overcome her introverted tendencies to become a principal of her company. She claims that work-life balance does not really exist but in her new role she has more balance than ever before.  Her organizational method is to look at all the tasks she has to do and figure out what she can delegate to allow her to focus on the big picture. She has learned to take on new assignments without full knowledge and still master the process.

Krista was less than clear on her next step but is sure to keep busy in her jobs as principal, wife/mother, and chief procurement officer.

Peggy White

Principal, Axiom Engineering Design, LLC

Peggy White is the owner (Principal) of Axiom Engineering Design, LLC. She is a 9-year veteran on the Maryland National Capital Building Industry Association Board of Directors (MNCBIA) and has chartered the Professional Women in Building Council under MNCBIA in 2013, currently serving as president.

She is on the Board of Directors of Lambda Alpha International (real estate association), and has served an impressive number of years as a member of various CRE professional groups to include HBAM, CREW, ULI, NAIOP, SAME, CASHE, MSS, and ASCE.

Peggy graduated from the University of Maryland College Park with a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering. She is a Professional Engineer, licensed in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. She has been a design consultant for more than 29 years.

Peggy’s Unique Path to Success

Peggy got where she is today by originally following a boyfriend to college and choosing a major in Engineering. Along the way she claimed, “It wasn’t easy. I had to keep telling myself I’m not a quitter. I’m going to make it.” She is a professional engineer, but with owning her own company, she has become a salesperson as well.

Peggy’s Advice

Her best advice to the audience was to have partners as “It’s lonely at the top!” She encouraged that as a trailblazer you can’t share the blame or be someone’s best friend — you have to lead. Peggy stressed that it is okay to hear “no” and not to let that deter you from your final goal; simply allow yourself to find an alternate route.

Additionally, when asked about lessons learned Peggy shared, “I like to talk a lot, and something I’ve learned is that you have to listen. Know when to be quiet…I’ve been accused of being brutally honest, and I’ve learned to not [be so blunt].”

Peggy on CREW

Through her career, Peggy has had the opportunity to be on both the mentor and mentee side of the equation. Peggy encouraged everyone to use CREW to their advantage. She advised the audience to go to the convention and be active in the organization. She enjoys CREW because this is where her friends are but also recognizes that CREW members can relax, enjoy a safe harbor and still be working at the same time. Her opinion is that women need a place to network and be comfortable with one another.

Another CREWBaltimore Success!

This was another inspiring event with strong women in the commercial real estate industry reminding us that our success relies on our own efforts. If you are interested in the CREW mentorship program — either becoming a mentor or gaining a mentor — visit

March 11, 2014 Event Recap – Tech Toolbox

Commercial Real Estate Social Media


Commerical Real Estate Social Media Update

On March 11, CREWBaltimore members and guests attended another in the series of Tech Toolbox- Conversations over Coffee.

The event was held at the COPT building in Columbia, MD with breakfast provided by Charm City Concierge. Panelists were Kathleen Schindler, Vice President of My Cleaning Service, Inc and Gina Ramsey, Director of Adventure Web Productions, both known social media gurus in the real estate industry.

After breakfast and networking, attendees split off into two groups; one with the intent of focusing on the basics of the social media outlets and the other looking for a more advanced session geared towards making their social media efforts help them become more successful in the commercial real estate market. Each panelist conducted their presentation tailored to the experience level of their group.

Gina on LinkedIn Success

Gina worked with the first group and focused most of the discussion on building an effective LinkedIn profile and the importance of doing so to promote yourself and your business.

LinkedIn Recommendations

Gina stressed the need to have at least three recommendations and that “the best way to get recommendations is to give recommendations.” Always consider who is recommending you before you accept it.

Connection Requests

When asked about whether or not to accept connection requests from people you don’t have a relationship with, Gina responded, “The more people you know, the more people you can potentially know.” She further advised that we should look to turn cold leads into warm leads by using a shared connection to introduce you.

Becoming a Thought Leader

Gina advised to try to set aside 15 minutes per day to focus on social media and either post frequently or at the ideal times of day so your posts don’t get sent to the bottom of the feed. By posting statuses or even links to interesting articles, you become a “Thought Leader.” We were reminded that our employees are our best advocates and that we will reach more people if they are encouraged to expand our posts to their followers as well.

Responding to Negativity on Social Media

Gina also gave some recommendations on how to deal with negative press on the Internet or other social media channels. It was advised that anyone with a specialty product should be promoting through posting products/project pictures on a visual site such as Pinterest or Instagram. Gina’s closing comment was, “Social media doesn’t replace face-to-face networking. Get your feet on the street.”

Kathleen on Social Media Strategy

Kathleen took lead in the group looking to take their social media strategy to the next level. This group started the session by taking a tip from Ellen at the Oscars with a group “selfie” and encouraging followers on Twitter to retweet.

The Necessity of Social Media

Kathleen discussed how social media is evolving and won’t be going away any time soon. She compares social media to email in the 1990s; it may take a while for everyone to join, but in a few years it will be unthinkable to not have it. We were reminded that “social media is powerful and can be used to influence behavior” — like challenging people to care more about sustainability, recycle more, etc.

Becoming a Brand Ambassador

You should have a social media strategy for both your company and personal brand. Many people who are not posting from the company-branded pages and are using their personal pages for business are known as “brand ambassadors.”

Distinguishing Your Brand

Kathleen stressed that when using social media, you need to determine who your audience is and tailor your posts to achieve your overall goal of positioning yourself as the expert in your industry. Building memorable campaigns, hosting competitions, frequent polling, and localizing posts are all ways to gain a following and distinguish your brand.

Avoiding Common Social Media Mistakes

Kathleen also went over some common mistakes that are easily avoidable, such as taking the time to personally thank followers or mention colleagues in posts rather than sending a generic automatic reply. Also, “don’t forget to listen to your followers and retweet their content — remember, it’s a two way street.” These little things can make a big difference.

CREW’s Own Social Media Success

An amazing 37 tweets using the #TechToolbox or @CrewBaltimore circulated surrounding this event, making CREWBaltimore’s presence known to followers. Everyone was participating and receptive to the panelists’ suggestions and tips, which made this event a huge success!

Thanks to everyone who attended!