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Chicago Power Women: 5 Questions With AMLI's Maria Banks

Want to get a jump-start on upcoming deals? Meet the major Chicago players at one of our upcoming events!

This limited series profiles Power Women who have helped shape cities, neighborhoods, businesses and lifestyles in the cities where they work. These women will be honored at Bisnow's Chicago Power Women event Dec. 4.

Maria Banks may have been destined for a career in property management. For her, preparing leases and keeping the books for her homebuilder father was just another part of growing up. As president and CEO of AMLI Property Management Co., she now plays a key role for one of the nation’s most prolific apartment developers.

Chicago-based AMLI has already created more than 26,000 apartments in nine markets, including Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas and Houston. It is also pushing forward with new ideas on the kind of dwellings needed in today’s market.

Maria Banks
Maria Banks at a topping off ceremony

AMLI recently submitted a proposal to the city of Chicago for a 17-story residential tower in the River North neighborhood where the average apartment size would be just 548 SF. Millennials working in the Central Business District increasingly show willingness to pay premium rents for ever-smaller spaces, and company officials say they may charge up to $1,800 for each apartment.  

Bisnow: What drew you to a career in real estate?  

Banks: My dad was a general contractor in the single-family home arena. After completing work on his day job, he spent time building or fixing up houses my parents rented out. I grew up helping turn the houses when tenants moved out, preparing lease documents for new tenants and keeping the ledgers on monthly payments.

Bisnow: How has the treatment of women in the industry changed since your career began? 

Banks: As a professional, I have been in the industry almost 15 years. All of this tenure has been with AMLI where I have felt respected and have not felt barriers to my ambitions. From my perspective, the most noticeable changes in the industry are more women in higher positions and the discussion around equality being more frequent and open. 

Bisnow: Who are your role models and why? 

Banks: My parents are my role models. They are both immigrants who fled their home country while they were in their 20s. They worked hard, gave of themselves to the community and church, and fought through a number of hardships. In dealing with those hardships, they ingrained in me the importance of character.

Bisnow: What was your greatest professional mistake, and what did you learn from it?  

Banks: I don’t know that any of my mistakes ranging from decisions made to organizational realignments is more pivotal than another. I’ve learned there will always be room to learn and improve myself, mistakes will happen — you need to know how to navigate through them, and that character and integrity are critical. 

Bisnow: What are the most important things women just starting careers need to know?  

Banks: Work ethic, integrity, empathy and being true to yourself matters. Don’t compromise your values along your journey and stay thirsty for knowledge and self-growth. Discern the feedback and messaging you should listen to from the noise you should ignore. Finally, don’t let others define what success means to you; define it for yourself.

See Maria Banks and other women shaping real estate at Chicago's Power Women event Dec. 4.