Despite having no background or experience in real estate when she joined Gregory FCA, Ackrivo leads the publicity firm’s real estate practice and now can’t imagine doing anything else with her career. Throwing herself into the field with confidence and heading a team that works to promote the industry and its products are how Ackrivo sees herself as a woman leading real estate.
Among the projects Ackrivo’s team is in charge of promoting is the Bellwether District, Hilco Redevelopment Partners’ transformation of the former PES refinery. Just as HRP is working to build something new on a site with over a century’s worth of environmental damage, Gregory FCA is spearheading the project of reimagining the site and rehabilitating its image in the public eye.
In Philadelphia, there are few more obvious examples of women leading real estate than Rija Beares (on the right, in photo), who has led the region for CBRE, the largest commercial real estate services firm in the world, since last April. She also serves on the board of the local NAIOP chapter, further entrenching herself as an industry leader for the region.
Beares is aware of the spotlight that often comes with prominent positions, especially as the first woman to lead CBRE’s Philadelphia practice. But she is also quick to both trust in and highlight the contributions of her team, true to her belief in the management style she calls “service leadership.”
To be a Black woman in commercial real estate is to be faced with intersecting challenges and barriers to establishing oneself in the industry. Making a place for herself, and having that place be at the head of a CRE consulting and management firm that has worked with the Philadelphia School District and the 76ers, among others, is proof enough of Berhane’s power and endurance in the face of those barriers.
Berhane has done more to advance the cause of women of color in the industry than simply make a place for herself. For her very first development with AR Spruce, Berhane hired women-owned general contractor and architecture firms and used a majority local, ethnically diverse workforce.
It has been repeated ad nauseum that for better representation and equity in commercial real estate, both women and people of color are often forced to clear paths for themselves and others like them. By helping to found and leading the Black-owned, hybrid investment group and advocacy organization The Collective last year, Sandra Dungee Glenn set a new standard for advancing the cause of underrepresented groups.
The Collective has already raised millions upon millions of dollars to invest in projects led by people of color and recruited several developers for an accelerator program to build up their capacity to lead projects funded by that capital. The region now anxiously awaits Glenn’s next steps.
Having grown up in Michigan and living in six cities before coming to the Philadelphia area, Greenberg says her belief that Philadelphia can be the top market in the country for life sciences has nothing to do with a hometown bias.
As the co-founder and leader of the Center for Breakthrough Medicines within the Discovery Labs campus in King of Prussia, her hard-driving style has helped CBM to rapidly expand as a contract development and manufacturing organization for the cell and gene therapy industries.
“Power women are mentally strong — so much so that you can see it in their faces when they are faced with a challenge, hear it in their voices when they encourage others, and feel it in the energy they exert when you’re in their presence,” Greenberg said. “They don’t agonize over decisions through analysis paralysis and instead go with their gut.”
That Kieara Hill (center, in photo) enjoys writing and singing music in her spare time may come as a surprise to those who only know her work in commercial real estate. Then again, Hill is just as comfortable using her voice in professional settings. Hill was a member of the formation committee for the Philadelphia chapter of African American Real Estate Professionals, which formally launched in May, and sits on its 16-member board.
“In most rooms, I am the only person who looks like me, and the youngest, which can be isolating,” Hill said. “But I don’t let that impact my voice. I think my peers put me in this category because in each of the organizations I serve, I do my best to use my voice to say and do what’s right, while uplifting others.”
The pride Paige Jaffe takes in her job is likely familiar to many retail brokers: in seeing new businesses open up and knowing she played a role in getting them that storefront. Focusing on Center City, Jaffe’s successes play an outsized role in the image of Philadelphia’s downtown recovery from a raft of pandemic-induced departures.
Much like with those retail openings, Jaffe points to her visibility in an industry that still operates as a “boys’ club” as proof of her own success as a woman leading real estate — a message she believes is especially important to send to her children.
Maney’s status as a rising star came into crystal clear focus with the official launch of her own company, Made Business, in July. Her specialty of building relationships among B2B-focused companies in commercial real estate is crucial in an industry wherein someone’s influence can often be measured by the breadth and depth of the connections they make.
Relationships are the lifeblood of the real estate industry, but not just for the purpose of deal-making. Despite her relatively young age, Maney has already founded an industry group, Wellness for Women in Real Estate, to try to use her connections to improve the full lives of her peers in the industry.
Trish Michell’s professional specialty involves connecting people across different companies and specializations, a skill that is always in high demand when it comes to advocacy work and professional development. Michell also participates in the Architecture, Construction and Engineering Mentoring Program and the local chapters of NAIOP and CoreNet Global. Even in recognizing the importance of her expertise, Michell said she is “humbled and honored to be a part of this tapestry of an amazing, talented group of professional women in Philadelphia.”
Michell’s history as a woman leading real estate dates back before her time at LF Driscoll. From 1993 to 2005, she owned and managed what she called the largest union mechanical company to be certified as a Women-Owned Business Enterprise.
As a founder of multiple startups and winner of several awards for entrepreneurship, Moorman has established herself as a thought leader in smart apartment and Internet of Things technology. As a veteran of the speaker circuit, Moorman has made herself a visible representative of the potential for women to carve space for themselves in the commercial real estate industry.
Moorman does more than lead by example. She has given her time to a laundry list of local startup support organizations and events, and she has served as the chair of a registered community organization in her home neighborhood of East Falls in Philly.
Few can boast as literal a claim to the moniker of power woman than Morgan, who is part of the team at Lubert-Adler tasked with the redevelopment of the former PECO plant on the Delaware River in Fishtown, dubbed the Battery. The revival of a sleeping giant in one of the hottest neighborhoods in Philadelphia could precipitate a dramatic improvement in the city’s engagement with its oft-maligned riverfront.
A rising star, Morgan already has taken an active role in civic organizations related to the industry. As a member of the local Jewish Federation Real Estate Group’s executive committee, she launched a mentorship program and leads programming for JFRE members younger than 35.
Though PIDC, and by extension Nevins, often works in the background, it is directly involved in the reimagining of hundreds of acres’ worth of land in Philly, often in areas with fraught environmental history and local populations that carry the scars of that history. Nevins bears firsthand witness to the social impact that commercial development can have both before and after projects are actually completed.
Even outside of her position, Nevins is no stranger to social impact at the local level, and her Philadelphia roots run deep. A graduate of both the University of Pennsylvania undergraduate program and the MBA program at its Wharton School of Business, Nevins has served on several civic boards, including current seats on the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Sarina Rose finds herself drawn to times and places with the most challenging context, which may explain why leading Post Brothers developments through Philadelphia’s laborious and fickle entitlement process is one of her favorite parts of the job. The fact that Post Brothers’ projects have become larger in scale and grander in ambition since she joined the company means she is never lacking in challenges.
Rose’s leadership through challenges was never more evident than in her stewardship of construction projects deemed too essential to interrupt during early pandemic lockdowns. The practices she and her team workshopped and developed over that time became the framework for a how-to webinar distributed by the Building Industry Association, which also had the involvement of Philly’s Department of Licenses & Inspection.
As a veteran of Keystone for eight years, Rosenberg has been involved in some of the most significant development success stories for the Philadelphia area and its business retention and recruitment efforts. At SORA West in Conshohocken, Keystone built AmerisourceBergen’s new headquarters, adding to one of the region’s most rapidly densifying suburban nodes.
But the Keystone project Rosenberg holds in the highest regard is one the broader Philly business community has also celebrated as significant: the life sciences repositioning at the Curtis. The former publishing plant and headquarters was among the first properties to make space available for the city’s burgeoning crop of cell and gene therapy startups, and its earliest tenants have expanded in place.
In the three years since she joined JLL’s retail practice, Mallory Scaccetti has already seen a lifetime’s worth of upheaval for the asset class, especially for Philadelphia’s high street retail. But despite the seismic shifts that have occurred at both the macroeconomic and consumer behavior levels, Scaccetti holds on to what she feels is the defining element of a power woman: confidence.
Much like the character of Dee Reynolds in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, for which Scaccetti served as a body double for several episodes in its fifth season, Scaccetti has no problem “going head to head with her male counterparts,” as she put it, in order to close deals like the lease at 1716 Walnut St. she helped secure for direct-to-consumer cosmetics company Glossier, announced last week.
As a principal at Mosaic Development Partners, Smallwood-Lewis (speaking, in photo) holds a leadership role at one of the largest and most significant ongoing development sites in the region, the Philadelphia Navy Yard, not to mention a series of mixed-income, mixed-use multifamily developments in historically underserved neighborhoods.
Mosaic’s joint venture with Ensemble Real Estate Investments has already been held up as an exemplar by the city of Philadelphia for its pioneering commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion at the multibillion-dollar project. Through both the examples she sets with work and the comments she makes at public events, Smallwood-Lewis challenges the real estate industry to follow her lead.
Focused on sourcing, underwriting and performing due diligence on acquisitions for investors, Solomon has gained a reputation for being in high demand at Cushman & Wakefield, and at Pinnacle before it was acquired by C&W. That particular skill set has rarely been put to work in more challenging times than today, when valuations can feel uncomfortably like guesswork.
Establishing a personal brand as someone to rely on not just to fill out numbers, but to get deals done, is a goal of every woman or member of a marginalized group in commercial real estate. Solomon and her fellow women leading real estate see representation not as an ultimate goal, but a starting point.
Just as women leading real estate carve new paths for their peers when none previously existed, Shelah Wallace was a driving force in lobbying for a bill allowing multifamily properties in Pennsylvania to use Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy financing after they had been excluded from the first two years of C-PACE’s existence.
On July 11, Gov. Tom Wolf signed the bill allowing multifamily properties to use C-PACE, redeeming over a year’s worth of effort from Wallace and clearing the way for her team to include it in financing packages for a handful of projects, which it has already done in anticipation of the law taking effect in September.
Briana Wilkins (on right, in photo) is in a position as rare as a championship for one of her beloved Philadelphia sports teams: working as an executive for a Philadelphia developer that is actually developing a new office building, Parkway’s build-to-suit for law firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius at 2222 Market St., set to deliver by the end of 2023.
Though nearly all of her work experience to date has been in commercial real estate, Wilkins has a degree in public policy from Princeton University that she hopes to one day use to more directly address systemic challenges facing American life.
Wong is proud of the commercial developments she helped lead in Center City, the Navy Yard and on the Camden Waterfront, but it’s Iovance Biotherapeutics’ 137K SF office, lab and cGMP production facility at the Navy Yard that brings the biggest sense of accomplishment.
“Despite having to work through the uncertainties of the pandemic, we were able to agilely manage through it to deliver this building on schedule and under budget, said Wong, who works on ground-up commercial developments from concept and deal execution to construction completion.
Wong attributes her stature among peers to having a growth mindset, building capacity in others, being a good partner and doing business with integrity, while setting an example for her daughters.
Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband and daughters, going on long walks and exploring the great outdoors. She’s a world explorer as well, having taken what she called “a leap of faith” to live and work in Seoul, South Korea for two years.