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Bisnow Honors Bay Area Power Women: Part 2


Today we bring you the second installment in our 10-part series highlighting some of the top leaders in Bay Area commercial real estate. Bisnow's first Bay Area Power Women recognizes 50 influential players in the industry. We'll bring you profiles on each of these women and honor them this September at a special awards reception (details to follow).

Angel Brunner, Founder and President, EB5 Capital


Angel Brunner remembers her fight to fund two new Marriott hotels at the San Jose International Airport during the last downturn. Though fully entitled and flagged, the project failed to get financing because of the market’s paralysis at that time. Nevertheless, by working long and hard with the City of San Jose, the hotel industry association and the Department of Commerce, Angel was able to make a case that hotel projects create jobs, and successfully secured EB-5 financing to help develop the first new hotel in 20 years for that submarket of San Jose. Angel credits her ability to complete projects to her training in finance, economics and urban planning, as well as deep experience in effectively building an innovative capital stack. Even so, assuring her development partners that the regulatory framework surrounding foreign capital investment will remain predictable is an ongoing challenge. As an international adventurer, Angel takes an occasional hike of the Great Wall during her regular trips to China, or opts for visits to exciting places like the world’s tallest treehouses in Laos.  

Deborah Boyer, EVP and Director of Asset Management, The Swig Co


It’s not every day that answering that first job ad begins a long and rewarding career. But that’s precisely what happened to Deborah Boyer when she started out in the construction sector of the industry. In the years since, she has built and led creative teams that are laser-focused on reimagining and transforming spaces. Deborah acknowledges commercial real estate is fraught with its challenges—from the city planning process to the ever-increasing cost of construction. Yet, despite these challenges, she encourages women and others just getting started in the industry. “What an exciting time to get into the business!” she enthusiastically says. The rapid pace of change in the industry gives special opportunities to those that can lead innovation, she says.

Elizabeth Hearle, Market Director for the Northwest Region, JLL


Chance and circumstance sometimes have a way of steering lives to much better places than thought possible. JLL’s Elizabeth Hearle trained as a journalist but found work with a real estate investment fund in Palo Alto. Working closely with local tech executives trained her in everything from underwriting to leasing and managing assets. That initial exposure in the heart of Silicon Valley shaped how she thinks about real estate. “Technological advances occur today at lightning speed and keeping pace with those changes so we can continue to deliver efficiency and value to our clients is crucial,” Elizabeth tells us. The key to success is embracing new opportunities. “Don’t automatically reject opportunities simply because you feel they don’t fit into your area of specialization,” she cautions. If anything, a broad background makes one an agile thinker and is the best foundation for specializing in a field.

Kristina Lawson, Land Use Partner, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips


Kristina Lawson got started in real estate while she was attending law school, when she found a summer clerkship working on land use and environmental issues. The biggest challenge the industry is facing today, she says, is a gap in talent following the recession, when many otherwise qualified and talented people were unable to enter the field for a lack of job opportunities. To those getting started in a career in real estate, Kristina advises seeking out a mentor by joining a networking group such as CREW. She says her favorite part of her job is being able to help the region and state thrive. Kristina can be found on a hiking trail adventure during her free time with her husband, their three children and two dogs.

Holly Neber, President, AEI Consultants


Holly Neber’s most challenging and rewarding task is coming up with creative solutions that encourage investment and redevelopment in the face of environmental obstacles. Holly, who started with AEI Consultants in 1999, feels a swell of pride when she can make a deal happen in spite of these obstacles. She tells us the most crucial part of her job is forging relationships with staff and clients. Getting involved in an industry organization is key to establishing business connections, gaining industry intelligence and developing leadership skills, Holly says, referring to her experience as a member of East Bay CREW. Her undergraduate degree was in environmental studies, a reflection of her passion for the outdoors. Holly, pictured with her husband, Dan, spends her free time hiking and camping as well as paddleboarding, rock climbing and kiteboarding.