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Cushman & Wakefield’s New Northeast Regional President On Balancing ‘Art and Science’ Of CRE


When Barrie Scardina joined Cushman & Wakefield to head its retail business in November 2019, it was an especially fraught time for the sector. Major retailers were consolidating or closing, and the pandemic was only months away from delivering what some thought would be the death blow to brick-and-mortar retail.

“The industry was obviously going through a turbulent time,” Scardina said. “People were saying the world of brick-and-mortar retail was soon going to be over.”

Fortunately, that did not come to pass and store vacancies actually began to drop to pre-pandemic levels while rental rates steadily improved. 

Now, newly appointed as Cushman & Wakefield’s Northeast regional president, Scardina will oversee a team of 270 brokers managing millions of square feet of retail, industrial, life sciences and office space across multiple CRE sectors. 

She said she plans to use strategies she honed during her career, and particularly in the past two years, to lead a multistate division encompassing not only retail, but also the life sciences hub of Boston and the booming office markets around Washington, D.C. She also will continue to helm Cushman & Wakefield’s retail services.

Scardina has spent her first weeks in her new role on the road, getting to know the players in the region, which also encompasses Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. 

"I am looking forward to meeting with our brokerage professionals and spending time with our clients across the region," she said. "Now more than ever, it's critical to approach the business strategically, and I'm excited to partner with our local teams to drive value."

Whether the commercial real estate in question is a bioscience research lab or a pop-up retail store, Scardina said all CRE sectors share characteristics that allow her to apply the knowledge and skills she gained in three decades of working in retail to her new leadership role.

“I’m really excited to be working in these markets because there's great opportunity to expand value to our clients, to continue to advance our data and analytical capabilities, and to really deliver a competitive advantage by investing in our existing teams and hiring new and diverse talent,” she said.

As someone who began her career as a teen by wrapping gifts at the local Macy’s and then eventually led retail initiatives for Polo Ralph Lauren, Liz Claiborne and Calvin Klein before joining Cushman & Wakefield, Scardina said people and company culture are high priorities for her.

“Across all my leadership roles, I've had the opportunity to focus on strategy development, talent and recruitment, and building culture, which is what I really love to do,” she said. “I'm looking forward to leveraging all of Cushman & Wakefield’s services and our global connectivity to take my past experience and really enhance our client relationships. We put our clients at the center of everything we do.”

Scardina said that she has followed four leadership pillars through much of her career that she will also apply to her newest role.

Barrie Scardina

The first pillar prioritizes client relationships. Scardina said this requires determining how Cushman & Wakefield’s breadth of services can help clients — whether office, industrial or retail — build out, manage and profit from their CRE assets throughout the entire real estate life cycle.

"When we start any project, our No. 1 priority is adding the most value for our clients," Scardina said. "Our purpose is to make an impact, and we do this by putting our clients at the forefront of what's next in the commercial real estate world. When navigating a volatile environment, maximizing value and mitigating risk are imperative."

The second pillar is talent development, whether in brokerage, support functions, research, finance or other positions. To Scardina, every employee has an important role to play.

“This involves recruiting and retaining great people, understanding where the opportunities are and where there may be gaps in talent, developing the existing talent, creating succession plans and really building out our expertise,” she said. “Our clients know that Cushman & Wakefield is a one-stop shop for all CRE needs — something that wouldn't be possible if we didn't have the right talent on our team.”

Scardina’s third pillar concerns technology and operational excellence. To her, this is about leveraging new technology and using the many new e-tools available today while not forgetting that CRE remains a people-driven business.

“It was crazy how fast technology changed during the pandemic, and we need to make sure we utilize the right technology to deliver value,” she said. “But real estate is the culmination of great art and great science. The art is our talented teams and brokerage professionals and their qualitative experience, and the science is where we quantitatively apply the data analytics to make the best decisions by market.”

The final principle concerns how CRE properties impact local communities. Assets ranging from warehouses to medical facilities continue to have long-term impacts by providing jobs and adding to the local tax base. 

“I think people really think about real estate as a transaction,” Scardina said. “But the reality is that we're shaping communities and we're driving tax dollars for community services like police and fire. When you position things in a little more of an aspirational way, I think it makes you really strive to be better.”

Scardina said that listening, learning and familiarizing herself with the range of CRE markets serviced by Cushman & Wakefield remain her main short-term priorities. Beyond that, it is a matter of making sure the Northeast region stays focused and strategic.

“We're definitely in a period of uncertainty, and when you go through something like this, I’ve learned it's very important to be strategic and to look at where you have risk and where you have opportunity and how you’re going to maximize it,” Scardina said. “It's about keeping your long-term strategies in front of you because this is just a moment in time and there is so much opportunity ahead of us in the future.”

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and Cushman & Wakefield. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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