Top women leaders from Commercial Real Estate Industry Fireside Chat

Chicago Commercial Real Estate Chat Recap from Industry Leaders at ULI CHICAGO’s 5th Signature Event

April 6th was a highlight for the Chicago commercial real estate industry where we enjoyed a fireside chat with two of our industry leaders, Kim Adams and Mary Ludgin. They shared their career progression with key takeaways on rejection, perseverance and what to expect on performance in various asset classes. Not only was the featured speaker, Mary Ludgin, phenomenal but, wow, what amazing talent in moderating by Kim Adams! The mutual respect and genuine desire for each other to succeed from these two competitors was inspirational.

On rejection and perseverance, Mary shared that she was a political science major with no real job prospects. While she hoped to work in commercial real estate, she was met with rejection. From there Mary went to work for Harold Washington. Upon his death, she finished her dissertation and took a job she loved at Dominick’s ensuring that she remained near commercial real estate while continuing to strive for an industry position. A year into her job, JMB, surprisingly called her back with an offer for her dream job in research and investment. By embracing each of her bosses’ jobs as they left, Mary climbed the ranks of JMB which is now Heitman.

 A few valuable insights she shared on asset classes is to expect storage and apartments to perform well given the nature of their short-term leases which will outperform in an inflationary environment. Mary saw this trend in 1996 and now has 15% of their core fund invested in medical office and storage with an additional large percentage invested in multi-family real estate. Recognizing the opportunity in niche asset classes beyond the major categories earlier than most of the industry was a key “win” for Mary. However, Mary’s unique humility shined through as she also admitted to not anticipating the hot industrial asset class due to its historical poor ROI. She taught us that experience can be wisdom as well as create a blind spot.

So, who are the other winners? Surprising to many, physical retail is a winner due to the fulfillment trend to buy online and pickup in store. Last year showed more store openings than closings. Trophy office is a winner seeing low cap rates and strong leasing with great examples being 110 N Wacker and the Old Post Office building. The main loser “soul sucking 70’s and 80’s buildings”. These will no longer be office buildings going forward. On LaSalle Street, operating expenses are higher than the net operating income. The City of Chicago has been advised to use its TIF to support redevelopment as solutions are expensive and returns are minimal making underwriting of these projects nearly impossible.

Valuable Advice for Commercial Real Estate professionals

Mary’s practical advice… Be credible. Admit if you don’t know something and come back after you know. Be accountable. Have humility and own your “bad calls.” Each of us makes a mistake or two at points in a storied career. Listen to younger colleagues. Bring your whole self to work. Be authentic.

Kim ended us with Frank Lloyd Wright’s, “The good building is not one that hurts the landscape, but one which makes the landscape more beautiful than it was before the building was built.”  

http://ulichicago.org http://heitman.com

Pittsburgh’s Oakland Neighborhood: Education and Innovation

Mention “Oakland” in most parts of the U.S. and people will think of the large California port city. Not so in Western Pennsylvania. Here, people identify “Oakland” primarily as the neighborhood at the forefront of Pittsburgh’s academic and healthcare renaissance.
Home to three nationally-ranked universities, the University of Pittsburgh, Carlow University, and Carnegie Mellon University (technically part of neighboring Squirrel Hill, but just over the border), Oakland’s predominant landmark is the University of Pittsburgh’s 42-story Cathedral of Learning—the tallest educational building in the Western Hemisphere. Be sure to venture inside the Cathedral to view its enormous Commons Room (the four-story, nearly .5 acre room looks like something out of Harry Potter) and tour its 31 Nationality Rooms, all of which were “designed to represent the culture of various ethnic groups that settled in Allegheny County.” The rooms are particularly festive when decorated for the winter holidays, so stop in then if you can. Keep in mind, however, that the vast majority of the Nationality Rooms serve as functional classrooms, so touring is limited to weekends and other times when school is not in session.
While the Cathedral of Learning might be the easiest landmark to spot, it is only one of many architectural wonders in Oakland. Both the neo-Gothic Heinz Memorial Chapel (one of the most in-demand wedding venues in Pittsburgh) and Soldiers & Sailors Museum and Memorial Hall (paying tribute to American veterans from all branches of service) are also on the University of Pittsburgh’s campus, each less than a block away from the Cathedral.
Also nearby are the stunning Carnegie Museum Buildings, including the renowned Museum of Art (don’t miss the tremendous archive of Teenie Harris photographs) and the Museum of Natural History (the original skeleton of Dippy, one of the world’s most famous dinosaurs, has been on display there since the completion of the 1907 expansion required to house it!). A statue of Dippy stands outside the complex—sometimes sporting a scarf for winter, or dressed to support Pittsburgh sports teams—a sure sign that you’re in the right place. The historic 1,900 seat Carnegie Music Hall and the main branch of the Carnegie Library complete the Carnegie Museum complex, portions of which date back to 1895.
Across the street from both the Carnegie Library and the Cathedral of Learning is Schenley Plaza, which features gardens, the Victorian-style PNC Carousel (open mid-April through mid-October), and The Porch, a popular restaurant featuring seasonal, local food with a rooftop garden and beehives (be sure to try the wood-fired pizzas).
Continue along Schenley Drive into the 456-acre Schenley Park to Flagstaff Hill, known for its movies in the park (shown at dusk throughout the summer) as well as the Carnegie Mellon Buggy race (held each April—this year celebrates the race’s 100th anniversary). The park is also home to the Phipps Conservatory, one of the greenest buildings in the world, as well as one of the most lovely, with exhibits that change frequently (the winter flower show and light garden is a must-see). The adjoining Café Phipps is a good spot for a reasonably-priced light lunch, with numerous vegetarian options.
Other top restaurants in the area include Spice Island Tea House, a longtime favorite for Southeast Asian food, Mount Everest Sushi for fresh sushi and poke bowls, and Butterjoint for burgers and cocktails. For dessert, follow the scent of homemade waffle cones to Dave & Andy’s for unique and absolutely delicious ice cream. Check for festivals, too, such as St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral’s Greek Food Fest (the 2020 event will be held May 3-9), for excellent food and entertainment.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has numerous offices and hospitals in Oakland, including UPMC Presbyterian and UPMC Montefiore, both closely affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. In addition, UPMC has announced plans to build a new heart and transplant hospital on the UPMC Presbyterian campus. Magee-Womens Hospital (where approximately 45% of all births in Allegheny County take place) and Western Psychiatric Hospital are also in the neighborhood.
In an area known for education and innovation, it’s no surprise to find high-quality coworking spaces such as Avenu, “just a moment’s walk from the invaluable resources at Pitt, CMU and UPMC and geared toward university-affiliated innovators and entrepreneurs.” With flexible leasing options, and an outstanding reputation for hosting start-ups, Avenu provides a suitable work environment for everyone from students to established business owners.
With all that Pittsburgh’s Oakland has to offer, it’s only a matter of time before even those living outside of Western Pennsylvania recognize the name.
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Written by: Kim Pierson
for CoeoSpace

Whatever You Need, You Can Find It in the Strip

If you can’t find something in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, you really should question whether you need it at all. What was once largely a neighborhood of mills and factories, then wholesale warehouses (convenient to both the river and railroad), the Strip District has found new life in recent years, with former warehouses now serving as specialty boutiques, art studios, restaurants, and small grocers. Some of the best shopping, eating, and sightseeing in the Burgh can be found along this roughly half square mile neighborhood between the Allegheny River and Liberty Avenue.

Arrive early for the best parking options and start your visit with the most delicious breakfast in town. I’m partial to Pamela’s (try the chocolate chip banana hotcakes, you won’t be sorry) or Kelly O’s (offering a Pittsburgh version of eggs benedict—with pierogies and Kielbasa), but you can’t go wrong with Café Raymond or DeLuca’s, either. Only want coffee? Stop at Prestogeorge Coffee & Tea, La Prima Espresso Company, or Allegheny Coffee & Tea Exchange for a freshly brewed cup (and be sure to treat yourself to a biscotti or macaroon from Enrico Biscotti Co.).
If you’re coming for groceries (and really, you should be), bring your cooler bags, because you can’t beat the selection, or the quality. Fresh fish from Wholey’s, a Pittsburgh institution. Asian staples from Lotus Food Company (or, at the other end of the Strip, the also excellent WFH Oriental Food Market). Spices from Penzey’s. The tortillas at Reyna Foods are not to be missed—if you’re lucky, they may even still be warm. Sample imported cheeses from Pennsylvania Macaroni Company and take home your favorites. Grab some of the city’s best bread and pepperoni rolls from Mancini’s. Stop at Mon Aimee Chocolat for fabulous gourmet chocolates, and experience the same joy Charlie felt entering Wonka’s factory when you walk through the doors at Grandpa Joe’s.
And that’s only a small fraction of what’s available.
If you’re not too full from snacking on your purchases, stop for lunch at the Smallman Galley, a restaurant incubator featuring four up-and-coming restaurants that change periodically. Relative newcomer Gaucho Parrilla Argentina has proven a popular lunch spot as well, as has family-owned Italian restaurant DiAnoia’s Eatery .
After lunch, those who want to explore non-grocery options have many from which to chose. The Heinz History Center—“the Smithsonian’s home in Pittsburgh”—is a stellar museum in a city known for its exceptional ones—be sure to stop in to get your pickle pin. Or pick up a Steelers shirt from Yinzers, bourbon from Wigle Whiskey, a one-of-a-kind serving bowl from Penn Avenue Pottery, or a gorgeous wreath from Roxanne’s Dried Flowers.
Most of the shops listed above are located on either Smallman Street or Penn Avenue, between 16th and 25th Streets, but if you don’t mind a bit of a walk, favorites like Eide’s Entertainment for comic books and LPs (on Penn near 11th), Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor (on the other end of the Strip, on Penn near 28th), and Salonika Greek Imports (Smallman and 35th, near Lawrenceville) are not to be missed.
For dinner in the Strip, my personal favorites are Big Burrito’s acclaimed Caribbean-inspired Kaya (don’t miss their happy hour), and Penn Avenue Fish Company.
Be aware that many stores keep only daytime hours (most restaurants are open later), and often close early on Sundays. Saturdays can be particularly busy, making parking tough to find, so come early. Some restaurants are closed Mondays.
Expect some areas to be under construction—it’s necessary in what executive director of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Robert Rubinstein, calls the fastest growing neighborhood in the city. The Produce Terminal, a 1920s art deco building that runs along Smallman from 16th to 21st, is one area currently being renovated as part of the Strip District’s ever-evolving nature. When complete, the building will have restaurants and shops (including a market) on the first floor, offices on the upper floors, and will offer parking.
One highly-anticipated construction project is the 21-story glass office tower slated to replace the New Federal Cold Storage Building—the now-empty cement warehouse known for its prominent display of the smiling neon Wholey fish. CBRE, the brokerage firm that will lease the property, has recently begun promoting the project.

If you’re fortunate enough to work in downtown Pittsburgh, the Strip is only a short walk away, and businesses are increasingly recognizing the charms of the area. Both Oxford Realty Services, one of southwestern Pennsylvania’s leading commercial real estate providers, and Serendipity Labs, a nationwide coworking and office space, recently opened locations in the Strip, at 3 Crossings, a 16-acre mixed-use development overlooking the Allegheny River. The location provides easy access to all of the Strip’s excellent restaurants and shops, as well as convenient parking (for cars, bikes, and even kayaks) and access to the Three Rivers Heritage Trail.
If you’re planning a trip into Pittsburgh, you’ll be glad to know that the Strip is home to several hotels, including a Homewood Suites, a Hampton Inn & Suites, and an AC Hotel.
Whether you’re new to town or simply a Pittsburgher who hasn’t made a trip to the Strip in a while, it’s worth a stop on a sunny day—or even one of Pittsburgh’s more typically overcast ones. Between the energy and bustle surrounding the neighborhood and its gorgeous view of downtown, it’s a place to lift the hearts of even the most curmudgeonly.
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I know, I know—I missed your favorite place in the Strip! Please post and tell me (and everyone else!) about it. I can’t wait to try it!

Written by: Kim Pierson
for CoeoSpace