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Weekend Interview: Fisher Brothers Commercial Portfolio Director Crystal Fisher

This series gets into the heads of the decision-makers of CRE, the people shaping the industry by setting investment strategy, workplace design, diversity initiatives and more.

Crystal Fisher is already on her second career. She began her working life as a journalist, earning several Emmy nominations and a win while working for PBS before going on to work for China Central Television and Investigation Discovery.

Fisher moved into the world of real estate in the early 2010s, starting out as a salesperson for Manhattan brokerage Town Residential. In the years since, Fisher has tried her hand at various areas within the industry, from home-flipping in Fort Lauderdale to becoming director of sales and marketing at Fisher Brothers, where she is part of the fourth generation of the Fisher family to work at the company.

Now, as the firm's commercial portfolio director, Fisher handles approximately $65M of capital improvements for Fisher Brothers' assets. During the pandemic, Fisher also set her sights on other opportunities in New York City's market — and is betting on Manhattan's Midtown office sector. She recently founded Ease Hospitality, a tech-centered coworking company that opened a second location at 605 Third Ave. last month.

The following has been lightly edited for clarity and style.

Crystal Fisher and her daughter, Rose.

Bisnow: Baron Rothschild once said the “time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets.” Where is the blood today?

Fisher: The pandemic we are coming through has changed the way we think, behave, adapt, survive and live. Every time there is a major shock to our way of life it has a ripple effect. We will rebound, and I will always believe real estate is a strong place to invest: People will always need a place to live, a place to gather, and a place to work. There is an enhanced flight to quality — Ease Hospitality evolved from this very idea. This is a different kind of market, and rising interest rates will have an impact on valuation. At Fisher Brothers, we are coming through a year of incredibly successful leasing in our commercial portfolio, which is more than 800K SF. The amount of new building is also something we haven’t seen since the Great Recession, so the pandemic moved us to reinvest in our portfolio in a way we never have before.

Bisnow: What is your most controversial CRE opinion and why are you right about it?

Fisher: There is a critical need for innovative office and workspace right now. People are craving experience post-pandemic. So many people spent the last two years isolated, home alone, juggling an unmanageable work-life balance. At Fisher Brothers, there was a hyper-focus on creating experience. My cousin Winston reinvented the retail experience with the inception of Area 15, and I focused on bringing people back to work. We created Ease Hospitality while reimagining how people could experience office space. We are providing an environment that speaks to our end user in a different way: We touch all the senses with a custom scent, ambient white noise, beacon sensors detecting flow, curated culinary that understands health concerns, sustainable practices, biophilic design standards, easy to use advanced technology, and, most critically, an inclusive workforce of diverse, seasoned staff that are eager to host guests. 

Bisnow: If you weren’t in real estate, what path would your career have taken?

Fisher: I began my professional life in broadcast journalism, with a passion for asking hard questions, love of learning and a desire to make change. After a decade, several Emmy nominations and a win, I felt it was time to come home and write my own story in NYC. What I love about real estate is that it offers something new every day, and everything we do impacts an historical skyline that will anchor future generations. With each new generation of guests and tenants, I continue to strive to evolve and adapt. I’ve transitioned through multiple horizontal operations: design; marketing; now hospitality, business development and leasing. I enjoy the versatility of my position and I want to follow a path of learning forever.

Bisnow: If you could make one change to the industry, what would it be?

Fisher: I want to see more female leaders in the industry, and more diversity overall. When I was a little girl, I didn’t believe real estate offered women a chance. I am grateful to see that isn’t the case today. But true equality takes time and our country needs to support the change in the way it treats women.

Bisnow: What is one thing you would do differently from early in your career?

Fisher: I don’t believe in regretting the past. I believe in learning, failing forward on occasion and using your knowledge as a tool to greater success. Everything I have experienced has shaped who I am today. I continue to grow personally and professionally.

Crystal Fisher with her daughter, Rose.

Bisnow: As a leader, how do you decide who is worth mentoring and who is simply not a good fit?

Fisher: My personal question is, “Do I have something to offer the team I am working with at the moment?” If not, I’m doing the wrong job. We’re all on a journey, and I continue to learn from my teams and I share as much as I can along the way. To me, there’s no such thing as a silly question, and no such thing as a person who cannot achieve. As long as a person possesses desire, good character, honesty, willingness, a little grit, and dedication, they will also possess ability.

Bisnow: What are your thoughts on the metaverse? Does it have any relevance for CRE?

Fisher: My 8-year-old daughter Rose is better suited to answer questions about the metaverse than I am. She’s currently spending the great majority of her leisure time, during summer, on “Bloxburg." While I take great pride in her interest in developing grand real estate, and enjoy battling to build with her on a countdown, I think there’s a little time before we see industry adoption. We can’t ignore the significant advancements in technology enhancing our ability to connect, and we definitely have to get there well before her generation is looking at office space. Experience and ease of connection is always relevant to me.

Bisnow: What do you see as the lasting impacts of the pandemic on CRE?

Fisher: People have adjusted their work-life balance — hopefully for a long time, if not forever. Friday is no longer a work-at-work day, if even a workday at all for most. Parents are spending time with their children, friends are having dinner regularly, inclusive environments matter, and finding a good healthy fit in the workplace matters. Culture matters. Our collective shift in awareness away from complacency and acceptance of ‘the norm’ as a result of the pandemic is helping us re-evaluate and solve for a new age of work and community.

Bisnow: As you know, there is a massive conversation underway regarding advancing more people of color and women into the C-suite. What are you doing to address those voices and that movement within your own organization?

Fisher: As a woman and the mother of a daughter in a position of leadership, I believe that more women and people of color in positions of leadership is long overdue. Ease Hospitality’s dedication to addressing these voices is reflected in our staff, our hiring practices and the partnerships and sponsorships we have a proud and dutiful commitment to maintain.

Bisnow: So, this is the weekend interview. What’s your typical weekend routine?

Fisher: I would love to have a glamorous answer, like jet-setting to some vineyard. Candidly, that isn’t me. I have the luxury of working in a luxurious setting all week long and I don’t shut down, I love my job. I really am honored to be in my position, both theoretically and literally. I love overlooking Park Avenue, like a living scene of Working Girl, but at the end of the workweek, I like to wear sweats and can’t stand makeup. l enjoy going to sporting events, painting or making slime with my little one while catching up on the latest Netflix series, attempting to bake a TikTok recipe, and I love pop-up art museums. As a single mommy I am never alone, and the very best part of my weekend is Saturday morning cartoons in my bed with my daughter, Rose.