Profile: CBRE's Chicago Valuation Chief Gary DeClark
If you look at the buildings on LaSalle Street, chances are CBRE valuation chief Gary DeClark has appraised it at least once. During his 36 years in the industry, Gary has become such an expert on the complexities of valuation he’s regarded in the industry as more of a problem solver than an appraiser.
In fact, Gary’s expertise as an appraiser is so well regarded that his testimony on complex legal matters surrounding real estate issues and ventures is in high demand. He's been called to testify in cases where eminent domain threatened to compromise a planned residential development; a big-box retail developer sought zoning and site plan approval for a project where nearby property owners alleged value damage to their properties; and in lease disputes over what constitutes returning a property to "broom clean condition" as when the lease began. CBRE senior managing director Linas Norusis calls Gary, who's been on the job with the brokerage for a year now, a tremendous addition to the staff.
Gary's first unique appraisal project involved the straightening of Lake Shore Drive near Grand Avenue from sharp right angles to its current S-shape. Gary says the project lasted several years from planning to construction. The valuations undertaken in the eminent domain process took into consideration such issues as ground elevation, marina slips, riparian rights and parkland, all of whose ownership varied from site to site. In order to establish the whole parcel to appraise, each parcel had to meet the tests of “common use, common ownership and contiguity” under eminent domain law. “The devil is in the details,” Gary tells us.
Another unique appraisal: the State's 2012 sale of Thomson Correctional Center to the federal government for $165M. Gary says he was doing work for the State when the RFP for the site was released. He got his hands on a copy and went to preliminary meetings to gain an understanding of the project regarding federal and state valuation requirements. Gary, by then the managing director of the Chicago Metro office of Integra Realty Resources, did his research and submitted his appraisal proposal, which was approved by the State. “At that level, who you know doesn’t help you one iota,” Gary says. “Your proposal must stand on its own merit.”
Regarding the current state of Chicago commercial real estate, Gary says we aren't in a bubble. "My understanding of a bubble is when the market is in a frenzied competitive state where the fundamentals of the market do not support market pricing. The real estate market is not there." But he fears he may be a dying breed as an appraiser. The average age these days of a practicing professional appraiser with an MAI designation is the late 50s or so, he says. There’s still a clear demand for valuation professionals, though fewer people are moving into the field because of the high bar, rigorous exams, and lengthy journeyman period required in order to receive professional certification. But Gary adds if folks go down that road, it’s worth it.