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Author: Patty Drummond

CREW Charlotte Announces 2023 Impact Award Winners

On the evening of November 1st, CREW Charlotte celebrated their annual Impact Awards celebration at Myers Park Country Club.  The awards honor members and projects that have had a meaningful impact on the Charlotte area community and CREW Charlotte.


Nikki Thornton, Controller at MECA Commercial Real Estate, received the Emerging Leader Award.  The Emerging Leader Award honors those CREW Charlotte individuals that embody excellence, spirit and energy in the field of Commercial Real Estate and the CREW Charlotte Chapter.

Nikki has been extremely active during her time with CREW by serving in multiple capacities including as a Board Member, and has served on numerous committees. She is an outstanding CREW CLT emerging leader!

Elsa Simaan of Stewart Title National Commercial Services was awarded The Carrie Sharp Power Connector Award. This award honors a CREW Charlotte member that goes above and beyond networking to actively establish or strengthen relationships with fellow CREW members and sponsors by intentionally connecting members and sponsors to other members and sponsors through business and referral generation.

This individual also demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to marshal CREW talent, resulting in measurable business for other CREW members or sponsors. This individual exemplifies the power and spirit of CREW and their efforts result in measurable CREW business.

Elsa is the embodiment of this award as she is continually driven and genuinely motivated to invest in the successful networking of her fellow CREW members.

Tonya Brandon of Cushman & Wakefield was the 2023 recipient of The Career Advancement for Women Award. This award honors a CREW Charlotte member who consistently exemplifies CREW Charlotte’s commitment to elevating the status of women in commercial real estate by working to advance the careers of other women. This award is presented as a result of actions of this individual that had a significant impact on one or more women, giving them the skills or confidence to pursue and succeed in new opportunities.

Tonya is a passionate advocate for the advancement of women in commercial real estate.  For more than a decade, she has championed for elevated roles and compensation for women within her company.

Monika Nessbach, founder and Chief Interior Designer of DESIGNBAR is this year’s winner of The Entrepreneurial Spirit Award.  This award honors a CREW Charlotte member who achieved a unique career success or milestone as the result of an exceptional entrepreneurial spirit. This individual is often a risk taker and is willing to step outside the box to create something new or different – providing services, creating products or improving practices by innovatively organizing, developing or deploying resources either within their own company, as part of a larger organization their industry or community.

Fourteen years ago, she embarked on a journey to start DESIGNBAR. Four years later she left her successful corporate career to put her heart and soul behind her dream. Along the way, she didn’t just build a company; she built a workplace that encourages authenticity, and creativity, an environment that embodies EPIC fun and where collaboration thrives.


The recipient of this year’s DEI Impact Award was Diana Palecek of Fox Rothschild. This award honors a CREW Charlotte member who tirelessly helps to advance the organization’s goals to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in membership and leadership.

Diana was nominated because she is helping to change the culture of CREW Charlotte by expanding our community cohort program to include a cohort centered on professionals with disabilities.

Camp North End was the unanimous winner of The Community Project Impact Award -for Profit. This award honors a building or project that positively affects not only its inhabitants, but the surrounding community. The winner of this award exemplifies meaningful change in our city in the physical space, whether it is a development with great green space or a building that services those in need in our community.

CREW Charlotte Silver Sponsor, Trinity Partners, provides leasing and property management services for the site. Other CREW Charlotte members participating with goods and services at Camp North End include: Barringer, Choate, Swinerton, Scotties, and O’Leary Waste.


Amy’s House, the new shelter for Lincoln County Coalition Against Domestic Violence (LCCADV) that was designed by SGA|NW in partnership with IMEG is the 2023 CREW Charlotte Community Project Impact Award – non-profit.  This award honors a building or project that positively affects, not only its inhabitants, but the community surrounding it. The winner of this award exemplifies meaningful change in our community in the physical space on the non-profit side.

This project relied on multiple CREW Charlotte members who contributed to its success.  Architects Kelly Steele and Krista Karlson of SGA|NW a GF design company, led the design.  They partnered with Scott Campagna and Marissa Date of IMEG for the MEP and Structural Engineering.  Carrie Sharp with Indoff Commercial Interiors assisted with providing comfortable and long-lasting furniture, and Lacey Johnson provided artistic and interior design direction to help the space feel welcoming.


The Creative Design Award winner for 2023 is the Gresham Smith Building.  Creative design of a building comes in many forms, including exterior architecture, interior design, art, branding and furnishings. How a space is designed immediately impacts people and their experience. This award goes to the project that inspires the world around it and moves the needle in creativity.

Marie McLucas, CFO of Primax Properties is the winner of The Circle of Excellence Award. This award recognizes a CREW Charlotte member or sponsor who consistently delivers excellence and whose efforts advance the commercial real estate industry and support our mission. This individual sets and achieves the highest standards of performance, accomplishing superior execution and results. The award winner is trusted and respected by others, and is seen as a thought leader, change agent, and champion of diversity.

Marie has served in several leadership roles within CREW Charlotte and CREW Network which culminated in her serving as president in 2017 and on the 2024 Board of Directors for CREW Network. She helped to create the inaugural CREW Charlotte’s Authentic Leadership Program in partnership with CREW Charlotte and Athena International and is a 2023 recipient of the Athena Leadership – Corporate Award.

CREW’s October 2023 Luncheon: “Higher Ed Meets Healthcare”

Submitted by Beth Burleson, DOD Office Interiors

On Tuesday, October 10th, Hillary Crittendon, Dennis W. Miller, and Bennett Thompson introduced us to The Pearl – a mixed-use, innovation district combining office, retail, residential, a medical school and lab, and community gathering spaces.

Atrium Health, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and the North American home for IRCAD – an international experiential surgical training facility, will anchor this exciting innovative destination generating $81M to our local economy and over 11,000 job opportunities.



August 2023 Luncheon “The River District: Charlotte’s Newest Master-Planned Community”

submitted by Julie Pruett, Marlboro Development Team

The Crescent Communities River District team, consisting of Fran West, Jennifer Sharraba, Lisa Phocas, and partner Bart Landess of Catawba Lands Conservancy, captivated a full audience with an update on their ambitious project, The River District. Departing from the conventional suburban model, this visionary 1,400-acre sustainable community seamlessly blends urban elements like homes, retail, dining, offices, and educational facilities with the enchantment of parks, trails, woodlands, and the Catawba River.

The River District, “The Soul of a City in the Heart of Nature,” is set to encompass 2,300 homes, 2,350 multi-family units, 550 acres of open space, 1,000 hotel rooms, 500,000 square feet of retail space, and a vast 8 million square feet of commercial space. A pivotal feature, Project Breakpoint, a world-class tennis facility, will host an annual 2-week tennis tournament and 26 concerts, with the debut tournament scheduled for August 2026. Anchored by 30 parks, 30 miles of mountain biking trails, and a 2-acre working farm, this master planned development is conveniently situated within 5 miles of Charlotte Douglas International Airport, effortlessly connecting urban living to nature.

Environmental stewardship lies at the core of The River District, adhering to the One Planet Living principles through a comprehensive action plan addressing ten sustainability pillars. The collaboration with Catawba Lands Conservancy underscores the commitment to preservation, as evidenced by their in-depth nature study, fostering both existing and new wildlife habitats.

With its sprawling expanse, innovative components like Project Breakpoint, and unwavering dedication to sustainability, The River District stands poised to redefine community living while preserving and nurturing the environment.

CREW Charlotte Creates Fund to Honor Anne Vulcano’s Legacy through CREW Network Foundation Scholarships

Anne Vulcano, a past president of CREW Charlotte, passed away unexpectedly on July 23rd, 2023. CREW Charlotte has set up a memorial fund to honor Anne’s legacy through the CREW Network Foundation scholarship endowment. Contributions made in her honor will support future generations of female leaders and advance women in the industry.

Anne began working in the commercial real estate field in 1984. Anne spent just over a year working for The Bissell Companies where she was responsible for the development of the commercial brokerage unit.

She began working at CBRE in 1997, where she spent the majority of her career and was the top leasing broker for decades.  In 2020, Anne moved over to Cushman & Wakefield as a brokerage specialist. Cushman & Wakefield Managing Principal, Brett Gray, says Anne “is best remembered as a friend, mentor to many and one tough woman.”

Anne was considered a trailblazer in the office leasing space and the commercial real estate industry as a whole. She forged a path for other women to follow. She worked hard and had very high standards for herself and her team.

Anne served on the board of CREW Charlotte for several years and as President in 2000. During this time, CREW Charlotte became affiliated with CREW Network. She played a large role in making CREW Charlotte what it is today.

In 2021, she was awarded the CREW Charlotte award for Career Advancement for Women, which honors a member who consistently exemplifies CREW Charlotte’s commitment to elevating the status of women in commercial real estate by working to advance the careers of other women. Anne always wanted to have other smart, professional women on her team, so she made the decision to hire and mentor them.  As she said …. “I’d like to say that I went out of my way to find them, but there are so many awesome women out there that I didn’t have to look hard.”  

Personally, Anne loved to spend time traveling or with family. Anne’s LinkedIn tagline says, “My passion is foreign and active travel and I have made many real estate deals via cellphone from remote locations.”

Here are a few quotes from CREW Charlotte members who were deeply impacted by Anne both personally and professionally.

“When Anne came to one of her 1st CREW meetings, I was on the board. Her enthusiasm about the group was infectious. She was instrumental in taking CREW to the next level. What a remarkable woman!” –Carol Fortenberry

“I recall being so inspired by her tenacity and unwillingness to not be heard, to not have a seat at the table   – she gave me the confidence to push for the same.” – Mary Wilken, 2022 CREW Charlotte President

“Anne was one of my absolute favorite people in the world. I am so so sad, it’s truly a tragedy to lose her friendship and guidance.” – Stephanie Moore


Click here to donate in Anne’s memory.





June 2023 Luncheon – The State of CLT

Submitted by Meg Davis, Office Environments


Assistant City Manager Tracy Dodson spoke on “The State of CLT” at CREW’s luncheon on June 13,  giving attendees a comprehensive look at upcoming projects the city has invested in as well as diving into her strategy for recruiting companies to the area.

While sharing some of Charlotte’s recent accolades (CLT was recently ranked #8 Best City to Live by U.S. News & World Report), Tracy dove into how they align with Select CLT to entice companies to the area. She shared some recent announcements such as Albemarle Corp., ACC, alpitronic, The Bank of London, Rexroth, Solve, RXO, Columbus McKinnon, USAA and Ircad France. These announcements reflect a $300m capital investment, 1,500 new and retained jobs, and 1.5m square feet of office under construction.

Large economic development projects that the city has invested in include Project Break Point/River District, Charlotte Transportation Center, and Eastland Mall Redevelopment. Project Break Point, or more commonly referred to as the River District, is a 1,400-acre project near the airport that will include single-family, multifamily, along with retail, office, schools, and potentially a world-class tennis stadium. The Charlotte Transportation Center project boasts of bringing the bus station underground to allow for more street-level retail and office space. Eastland Mall Redevelopment project is currently looking for a project to develop the 30 acres that Tepper Sports & Entertainment originally planned to build a Charlotte FC practice facility on. Current options include an indoor sports complex and an events and esports center.

Corridors of Opportunity is another initiative the city has undertaken, outlining the often forgotten communities and ensuring they become safe and prosperous communities. The six key corridors are Graham Street/North Tryon, Sugar Creek Road, Albemarle Road, Beattie’s Ford/Rozelles Ferry Road, West Boulevard and Freedom Drive/Wilkinson Boulevard. The projects vary from each corridor and include affordable housing, community safety, infrastructure, transportation, workforce and business development, and urban design.

Signature Luncheon with Sarah Thomas “Breaking Through: My Journey to Becoming the First Female NFL Official”

Submitted by Stephanie Moore, Nine Dot Arts

CREW Charlotte’s Signature Luncheon featured Sarah Thomas who changed the game in the world’s most quintessential male-dominated sport—football—by becoming the first female NFL official. Today, Sarah Thomas’s hat, whistle, and flag are on display at the NFL Hall of Fame and serve as a testament to this historic achievement.

Sarah shared the story of her path to becoming an NFL official and how the values of self-knowledge, inner drive, hard work, and preparation led to her success. Sarah engaged the crowd with humorous tales about her journey, including wins and setbacks, as a female in a male-dominated industry.  Sarah also provided timely insights into finding and pursuing your passion while maintaining a work-life balance.


Sarah’s grit and determination were on display when she shared a video from a Christmas Eve game where she was tackled and injured on the sidelines but asked to be bandaged up and return to the game. Sarah motivated the attendees with tales of her accomplishments and that with the mindset of being the best you can be, no barrier or ceiling is impenetrable.

April 2023 Luncheon – Turning Greenways into Green $$ as an Amenity

Submitted by Julie Pruett, Marlboro Development Team

Bart Landess of the Catawba Lands Conservancy and Carolina Thread Trail shared with our membership their mission to save land and connect lives. He explained that the dynamic growth in the Charlotte region brings potential threats to our ability to continue to connect with nature. Our choices determine our ability to create the places we want to live and land conservancy provides a path to protecting wildlife habitats, connecting our population to nature, and preserving our clean water. There are over 1,400 acres of green space protected which has allowed the growth of the 1,600-mile Thread Trail which traverses 15 counties in a master trail plan. Landess imparted good news for us, as Mecklenburg County is “going big” on the trail system and linear parks. There are multiple economic benefits as well, especially if you own property near a trail.

In addition, we heard from Kim Kendall of Colliers, and Alice Benner and Todd Spitzer from Bamboo Equity Partners who sought to capitalize on the appeal of the Thread Trail with their new development Creekside @ The Greenway which is taking advantage of McAlpine Creek Greenway adjacency while prioritizing health and personal comfort, in a creative work-play community. Brenner and Spitzer with Bamboo Equity Partners take a unique approach to adaptive reuse and always look for collaborative spaces to give people a reason to return to work. Located off Independence near the McAlpine Creek Greenway trailhead, Creekside @ The Greenway provides a large office park on 20 acres with pickleball courts, food trucks, and outdoor event space. Spitzer explained that they saw an opportunity to bring new life to the area with the right vision and strategy. Colliers is the leasing partner for the project, as explained by Kendall. The project offers unique attributes with its South Charlotte location near Matthews, single-story buildings, and outdoor amenities, making it very attractive to tenants as they seek to bring workers back to the office.

March 2023 Luncheon Summary “ESG:  A Tool for Mitigating Risk and Increasing Value of your CRE Assets”

On Tuesday, April 14,  Allison Kirby, Associate Director of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) & Sustainability with Cushman & Wakefield’s Energy & Sustainability Asset Services presented to our membership on this city government-led development standard for commercial real estate funding. She spoke of the goals of the ESG standards, its evolving levels of compliance, and the challenges attached to each level. Also, the Inflation Reduction Act, recently passed by Congress, incentivizes developers to comply with ESG goals. Though different from LEED (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design), the ESG standards complement LEED design and intent. Allison stated the markets she sees evolving are Multifamily, Class A office, and development in cities where local government has passed ESG initiatives.

Click here to view her presentation.

CREW Charlotte’s January 2023 Luncheon: “Filling in the Gap: What’s Happening Between Uptown and South End”

Virginia Luther, Managing Director with Spectrum Companies invigorated CREW Charlotte on Tuesday. The crowd of over 225 attendees (2nd highest attendance ever) was wowed with renderings and a virtual fly-over video of what the landscape will look like between Southend and Uptown Charlotte once several new towers are built. Virginia and her team are laser-focused on “Resimercial” developments – combining high-end residential with trendy restaurants, retail and commercial Class-A office. This creates a destination for employees and tenants. Other focuses include 360 Wellness, Energy, Vibe, Color, and Destination. Ms. Luther is making her mark on Charlotte and CREW.

For her complete presentation, click here: The-Spectrum-Companies-CREW-Presentation-January-10.pdf.

CREW Charlotte December 2022 Impact Awards Luncheon

On December 13th, CREW Charlotte celebrated their annual Impact Awards celebration. The awards honor those have who had a meaningful impact on CREW Charlotte.

Sugar & Spice and all the Hype!

We also heard from Kristi Straw, Bank OZK, who energized CREW Charlotte with her ’10 Power Moves for 2023.’ Her open and honest view of leadership and failure inspired many in the room. Kristi’s recommendations include several authors, executive coaching, finding your tribe, and being unapologetic for our personalities. She motivated the group to look at our surroundings, our bosses, and culture and work toward finding kindness and respect in the workplace. Kristi’s presentation was filmed and is available on her YouTube channel. You can find a copy of her presentation here: Kristi Straw Power Moves Presentation.





Impact Award Winners

Laura Ward, principal at Bernard Robinson & Company, received the Groundbreaker Award This award honors a member who has joined the organization within the past 18 months and has actively become involved with a committee and the organization as a whole. Laura served as a member of the sponsorship committee for 2022 and will fill a co-chair role for the membership committee in 2023.





The Carrie Sharp Power Connector award was given to Peyton Maynard, Business Development Manager at Jenison Construction. This award is given to a member who intentionally builds and strengthens connections between CREW members and sponsors. Peyton can be seen at nearly every event and is constantly making introductions and connections among attendees.





Shawn McMillan, owner of diamond sponsor McMillan PLLC, was the winner of the Member-to-Member business award. This award is given to someone who consistently helps build business for other CREW members or sponsors. Shawn is firmly committed to the mission of CREW Charlotte and he looks for every opportunity to utilize a CREW connection on a business deal.





The next award is the Career Advancement of Women. This award goes to someone who is consistently helps to elevate and advance other women in commercial real estate. This year’s winner, Dawn Chanland, Professor of Management at Queens University, leads CREW Charlotte’s Authentic Leadership Program and through this program has helped several members become better leaders in the industry.





Liz Ward, founder of Give Impact Advisory Services, was awarded the Entrepreneurial Spirit award. Liz embodies an entrepreneurial spirit as someone who started her own company that specializes in affordable housing and upward mobility solutions.





The Men Empowering Women award is given to a male who make a conscious and intentional effort to support women within the commercial real estate industry. Dave Rushing, Vice President at All American Relocation, was selected as this year’s winner. Dave served on the membership recognition committee this year and went above and beyond in promoting women for award nominations throughout the year.





Jennifer Miles, Global Account Director at Cushman & Wakefield, was the winner of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion award. This award honors a member who tirelessly advances the DEI efforts of the organization. Jennifer was a founding member of the DEI task force in 2021 and co-led the task force for 2022. She is an advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the organization.





The winner of the 2022 Circle of Excellence award was CREW Charlotte’s Executive Director, Patty Trepp Drummond. The award is given to someone who delivers excellence and is performing to the highest standards for the organization. Patty has consistently helped elevate CREW Charlotte within the community, fostered relationships among members and found creative new ideas for the organization