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Women Bisnow
January 8, 2008


This issue of Washington Women is presented by
The Reznick Group:
"Building Business Value"

By Karin Tanabe for Bisnow on Business

Move over Martha, there’s a new kind of homemaker in town. When Helen Haerle, VP at Quadrangle Development Corporation, is not busy creating buildings in DC, she’s in rural Pennsylvania building houses with her husband. “We do it all. I’m talking the plumbing, electricity, all the carpentry, framing, everything. We’ve built two houses and three additions. When I was growing up my mother did the carpentry. I joke that my husband married me because I was the only woman he ever met with her own electric saw.”

Helen met her husband on a bicycle trip in the south of France. They are currently gearing up for their 18th bike trip together.

Helen, who grew up on the ski slopes of Middelbury, Vermont where her father was a professor, went to business school at Michigan State in the hotel and restaurant program. "I thought it would be glamorous, but figured out pretty quickly that it was quite the opposite." Helen took a job with Laventhal & Horwath in 1980 doing hotel feasibility studies for their consulting department in Washington. "I had asked about a position in the northeast and they offered me the position in Washington. I had never considered Washington, DC the northeast, but I decided it was close enough. I never intended to stay very long, just a few years maybe.  Famous last words!"

From there she went to Prudential Real Estate. “I played squash on Monday nights with a group of men who were like my brothers. One of them said, ‘I have a friend at Prudential who is leaving her job and you should take it,’ so I did.” Helen began a program where she was to spend three months in each of the company’s four divisions. “I said this will be a great overview, but they stopped the program in the first quarter. I was in asset management, so that’s where I stayed.”

Helen in the lobby of the H Street Grand Hyatt. She did the original feasibility study for the hotel, which Quadrangle developed and still owns.

18 months after Haerle joined Prudential, they decided to close the Washington office and move everyone to Newark. It may have inspired Philip Roth but it didn’t work for the Washington team. They lost every employee but one.  “A colleague said, ‘my husband works at Quadrangle and he is leaving, you should take his job.’ So I did.” Hmm, we are starting to sense a pattern here. Helen began at Quadrangle as director of leasing in 1985, a position at which she remained 12 years: “There are not that many women in leasing and it is very easy to distinguish yourself.”

Haerle in front of digital renderings of Tysons Towers Crescent, currently under construction. “It’s really exciting. There hadn’t been a trophy building built in Tysons in 5 years. There is even a sky bridge to the mall,” she says.

“I believe the Gladstones are the smartest real estate people in Washington,” says Helen of the owners of Quadrangle. “We are known for ground-up development. Our street smart is to buy class B buildings in class A neighborhoods and bring them up to standard. Bob Knopf, who runs development, has probably built more buildings in Washington than anyone else.”

The Quadrangle team, in partnership with Sandy Wilkes of the Wilkes Company, is also currently working on Mount Vernon Place, a residential, retail and office complex that will ultimately contain over 1,000 residential units and one million square feet of office space near the Washington Convention Center. “The first two residential buildings are completed and there is one office building under construction.  The size and number of future buildings is flexible and market demand will dictate how long until completion,” says Haerle. “We’re creating a whole neighborhood from nothing.”

With Quadrangle she builds neighborhoods, and with her husband she builds houses.  Will Helen give her hammer a rest when she becomes President of CREW-DC (Commercial Real Estate Women) in 2008, a high-profile perch in the local industry that will require a great deal of volunteer time?  “Definitely not,” she smiles. 

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