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Beyond The Bio: 16 Questions With Fore Property Managing Partner Jim Sullivan

This series profiles men and women in commercial real estate who have profoundly transformed our neighborhoods and reshaped our cities, businesses and lifestyles.

Fore Property's Jim Sullivan on vacation with his wife, Jessica.

Fore Property Managing Partner Jim Sullivan leads development, property management and construction for the company's eastern region. 

The real estate firm has built and managed over 23,000 apartments across 40 cities and 17 states. Sullivan oversees the Pennsylvania, Maryland, D.C., Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Texas regions for Fore Property. 

Among the firm's East Coast developments are a 351-unit apartment project in Hyattsville, Maryland, a 226-unit project in Owings Mill, Maryland, and a 228-unit development in Kissimmee, Florida. Fore Property broke ground in July on a 352-unit project near Disney World in Winter Garden, Florida. 

Prior to joining Fore Property in 2007, Sullivan spent seven years at consulting and investment services firm Boston Pacific. He received his bachelor's degree in economics from Princeton University in 1999 and later earned an MBA from Duke University

Bisnow: What is your favorite part of your job?

Sullivan: My job is problem-solving. Fore is in an active growth mode in various markets across the U.S., so every project is different and unique. This means every day you come to the office there is a new problem to be solved that can be on a wide range of issues, from finance, construction, design and leasing to a personnel issue. This means you have to have a wide skill set to efficiently juggle a variety of problems. Not only does this keep the job interesting and challenging, but it keeps you striving to make a better project and learn from the last one so that the next one is even better.

Bisnow: What is the worst job you ever had?

Sullivan: That is a tough question. I’ve had some random jobs to earn a few dollars to pay for college, from coaching 100 7- to 18-year-old swimmers, to selling Christmas trees, to bartending. Many of those jobs were rewarding, but the worst was probably landscaping (and I use that term very loosely). In elementary school, I convinced a few friends to start a company (that I would run) and we would rake leaves and mow our neighbors’ lawns. They quickly realized that it was no fun and too cold, so they quit, and I was stuck with all the work!

Bisnow: If you weren’t in commercial real estate, what would you do?

Sullivan: I love what I do, so I can’t see myself doing anything else, but it would have to be in the line of making an impact. All my projects have been designed to achieve some form of LEED certification, and they have been designed that way [since] before it was the trendy thing to do. I like the fact that we do something that, while it is profitable, is still making a difference.

Bisnow: What deal are you proudest of?

Sullivan: This is an easy question — it’s whatever deal I’m currently working on. We are always trying to improve and make the next deal better than the last deal. If you aren’t proud of the current deal, then you need to make a change and fix it. We owe that to our investors, residents and employees.

Fore Property's Jim Sullivan (center) accepting a LEED certification plaque.

Bisnow: What deal do you consider to be your biggest failure?

Sullivan: That isn’t a fair question. You work on deals for years, sweat every little detail, stay up late at night worrying about something. They become your baby. You would never say you have an ugly baby, or that your baby is a failure!

Bisnow: What is your biggest pet peeve?

Sullivan: People that are consistently late.

Bisnow: What is your greatest extravagance?

Sullivan: I’m not the type of person that is interested in watches, cars or anything luxury like that. Growing up, I watched my parents, aunts and uncles get into large — to the point of embarrassment — arguments at the end of every meal as to who would pay the check at dinner, despite the fact that none of them had two cents to put together to pay the bill, but they managed to do just that. If I’m indulgent, it may be doing something similar with my friends and family.

Bisnow: What motivates you?

Sullivan: In order to be successful in this business, you need to be passionate about what you are doing. For example, if you were to scroll through the photos on my phone, you’ll find a lot of images of exterior buildings, restaurants, etc., where there was some detail that I’d like to use on the next project.

Fore Property's Jim Sullivan skiing with his wife, Jessica.

Bisnow: What advice do you wish you got when you started in CRE?

Sullivan: In this industry there are all walks of life and each person must be managed differently. As a developer, you deal with landowners, architects, constructors, property managers, as well as equity and debt partners. What motivates one individual in one circumstance is very different and you need to successfully identify what motivates each individual in order to bring a cohesive team together.

Bisnow: What is the biggest risk you have ever taken?

Sullivan: Skydiving is probably up there.

Bisnow: What keeps you up at night?

Sullivan: Construction cost, labor supply and Netflix.

Bisnow: What is your favorite place to visit?

Sullivan: I love Ireland. My parents were born and raised there, and I’m a dual citizen. We used to visit every two years and the people are some of the friendliest you’ll come across.

Fore Property's Jim Sullivan on vacation with his wife, Jessica.

Bisnow: Outside of work, what are you most passionate about?

Sullivan: It is a toss-up between my dogs and swimming. My wife and I are huge animal lovers, but I grew up spending way too many hours in the pool.

Bisnow: What CRE trend do you think will have the most impact over the next few years?

Sullivan: For over a decade, we have been trending to a higher percentage of studios, one-bedroom units and even microunits. As affordability continues to be an issue, and with rents continuing to grow, millennials are not able to afford single-family housing. I see the need for larger units: one bedrooms with a den, two and three bedrooms to accommodate the couples with a newborn, or roommates that cannot afford to live on their own.

In addition, we are continuing to see the baby boomers, divorced or single parents, move into apartments which require more space and a second bedroom for when the kids or grandkids come to visit.

Bisnow: What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Sullivan: I love to cook, but I can’t eat spicy food. Seriously, pepper is about as spicy as I can take it.

Bisnow: What do you want your legacy to be?

Sullivan: Trying to do good.