How Steve Groetsema Rose From Analyst To Principal At Bridge Development
Bridge Development Partners has brought 11M SF of industrial real estate to market, worth over $1.4B in transaction volume, since 2010. The firm's newest principal, Steve Groetsema, one of our featured panelists at Bisnow's 6th Annual Chicago Industrial Summit at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare, 7am Tuesday, April 19, has been there for every inch.
Steve (pictured with wife Suzi on an Arizona vacation last year) joined Bridge in 2007 as an analyst, one week after he graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University. He first caught the real estate bug as an intern at Marcus & Millichap and soon realized he wanted to work in a smaller, entrepreneurial environment and didn’t want to launch his real estate career as a broker. Through his brother’s college roommate, Steve learned Bridge was looking for support staff and was impressed by the commitment of co-founders Ron Frain and Steve Poulos to mentoring young talent. Steve says when Bridge hired him, he knew next to nothing.
When Steve started at Bridge, the core team responsible for the firm’s success was already in place. In addition to Ron and Steve, Tony Pricco came on board as principal in 2007, followed by principal Mark Christensen. Bridge’s game plan is the same now as it was then: focus on off-market deals, value-add acquisitions and development in land-constrained submarkets. But just as the team came together to take Bridge to the next level, the bottom collapsed out of the real estate market.
Steve says from 2008 through 2010, most of the equity Bridge had in its deals was washed. The firm was fighting for its life and it would have made sense to focus on new deals. Instead, Bridge worked to execute on its existing holdings because that’s what was right for its investor partners. Bridge kept the lights on by finding one-off deals to generate revenue until the market eventually bounced back. Steve says it was a good case study for the quality of product Bridge builds today in Chicago and the firm’s other target markets in Miami, LA and northern New Jersey—that well-located, infill developments tend to retain the most value by being the first to lease and the last to go dark.
Steve says he was a jack-of-all-trades during his early days at Bridge and didn’t truly move over to the leasing side until 2010. His first major deal: assisting in leasing up Bridge Point Woodridge (shown) to a point where Bridge saw a solid ROI when it sold the asset in 2011. Steve says Bridge Point Woodridge had advantages, like its location on the east side of I-55. His efforts showed the partners he could handle more responsibilities. Once Bridge sold its legacy portfolio, Steve was in position to run the leasing show and became Bridge’s director of leasing in 2012.
Steve says his rise up Bridge’s corporate ladder is recognition from the partners of his efforts, and a reflection of the firm’s growth. These days, Steve directs Bridge’s Chicago operations and is responsible for the firm’s 3M SF local portfolio. He’s completed over 4.5M SF in transactions valued at $450M, and is excited about two ongoing projects. First, Bridge wants to grow its cold storage business. The firm owns 1.1M SF in cold storage buildings, and Steve says there’s a lot of value in that sector. Bridge is raising capital to grow that portfolio nationally.
The second project is a 225-acre campus in Waukegan Bridge (pictured) acquired last year from Cardinal Health. Located immediately off the interchange of I-94 and Route 137, it was previously a self-sustaining business park, complete with generators to produce its own electricity. Steve says Bridge will develop a 2.8M SF state-of-the-art industrial project here. The first two spec buildings, totaling 1M SF, will be delivered this year. To learn more, please attend Bisnow's 6th Annual Chicago Industrial Summit at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare, 7am Tuesday, April 19. Register here.