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Luncheon Summary

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

CREW Charlotte November 2022 Luncheon: Economic Outlook for the US and Our Region: “Where are all the Workers?”

Submitted by Keiko Pace, Stephens Office Systems

CREW Charlotte gathered at Byron’s on November 8th for Laura Ulrich’s luncheon presentation on the Economic Outlook for our region and the US. It was a packed luncheon with the highest attended luncheon since covid.

Laura Ulrich is the Senior Regional Economist at the Charlotte Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. She spoke about our regional and national economic update stating that 2021 had good growth but that 2022 was a bit bumpy. She explained that even though we had 2 quarters of negative GDP growth in 2022, that does not necessarily mean we are heading into a recession. Even though everyone is talking of the looming recession, she reminded us that an official recession has not been declared and that things are constantly changing.

Employment is doing well both in Charlotte and around our region and the Carolinas are leading the employment recovery. Nationally, we have officially reached above pre-Covid levels of employment. She cited the lack of workers isn’t necessarily from people not working, but that people have chosen to work in other fields or industries since covid. Teachers, for example, were the highest profession that seemed to have lost the most amount of workers. Flexible work environments, women needing to provide for their families and work at the same time, etc has created a shift in the workforce. Covid also forced a lot of older workers into retirement. Surprisingly, she stated that the young male population ages 25-35 has seen the greatest decline in the workforce at this time.

Estimates for 4th quarter growth show that 2022 will remain flat. What does that mean for 2023? Analysts are unsure. There are several factors that could contribute to growth or speedbumps for the upcoming year. Some of the factors include: UK/ Russia situation, inflation, a covid variant, or anything that could make the supply chain worse.  In conclusion, Charlotte and the Carolinas are doing well with high employment rates, many people moving to the area daily, and a strong base of diversified companies and industries in our region.

For a copy of Laura’s presentation, please click here.

October 2022 CREW Luncheon: “Carbon Reduction: Just a “Buzz Word” or Can We Make a Difference?!”

Submitted by Kim Marks


Ashley Hess, a Workplace Strategy Program Manager at Duke Energy responsible for workplace standards across the company’s non-generation real estate portfolio, started the program off with an overview of Duke’s goals and steps we can each take to make a difference in our environment.


Duke Energy’s goals:

  • By 2030 cut CO2 emissions by at least 50%
  • By 2050 attain net-zero CO2 emissions
  • Duke is currently beating the US electric utility industry average by achieving more than 44% reductions since 2005.


Six steps each of us can make today to offset carbon emissions:

  1. Use Duke Energy’s Carbon Emissions calculator to calculate your company’s emissions. Go to
  2. Calculate your companies’ operational emissions & establish annual targets for reduction, monitor and track thru the year.
  3. Prioritize construction materials as an area for improvement to reduce embodied carbon by reusing materials & buildings, using less carbon intensive materials, and fewer finishings.
  4. Divert construction waste from the landfill by establishing a evaluating the current process and create an action plan which is monitored.
  5. Evaluate opportunities for onsite renewable energy generation at your facilities.
  6. Consider whether or not an electric vehicle fleet can lower your operating costs. Learn more here


Landon Williams, an energy efficiency and building science expert is currently the Program Manager for SmartPath program, followed Ashley focusing on several efficiency programs currently being offered by Duke Energy to help companies work towards achieving carbon reduction goals through design assistance for new construction and building retrofits.

Understanding that one size doesn’t fit all, they have multiple programs outlined on their energy efficiency website for everything from multi-family programs to energy assessments to Energy Advisors. All information can be found here The Smart Saver Rebate program is one that leverages low interest loans in order for you to upgrade equipment/technology. Duke Energy understands that it is cheaper to offer reduced kw’s than build new plants so they are very focused on being your partner thru this endeavor.


Click here for a copy of their presentation.

August 2022 CREW Luncheon: “Leadership Lessons from an Industry Trailblazer” with Lee Ann Nance, Stewart

Lee Anne Nance, President and COO of Stewart, shared with us her core values and strategic goals that are the foundation of her success. A devoted wife and mother, with a background as an Economist and Analyst in Economic Development, Lee Anne has used her leadership skills to help develop a unique culture at Stewart. She shared how she has developed the acronym T H R E A D which has become part of the everyday language and culture for Stewart.

Lee Anne leads by example with the Big Three in Leadership: Communication, Relationships and Perseverance. No matter what, be your authentic self – embrace who you are. Be strategic and tactful, while having the discipline to create white space to visual the future while balancing demands. Decisions have far reaching impacts. Surround yourself with a trusted team that you can challenge because of the trust you have in each other. Tough decisions balance empathy and courage. Put yourself in the position of the people are you are responsible for, yet set boundaries since you cannot lead with an empty cup.

Regarding teamwork, Lee Anne shared her philosophy to treat anyone and everyone with respect and insist it is reciprocated. It is important to create Your Legacy. People don’t remember details, they remember how you made them feel. Be sure to perform character checks daily as stress makes us remember that we are all human. Pay it forward and remember to celebrate the small wins along the way. Silence your inner critic and don’t let it spiral! Be and advocate for yourself and others and bottom line, Hard Work Gets Noticed!! Yet, don’t focus on getting the credit. Ego is the enemy…

Lee Ann also shared her favorite books, authors, and podcasts as she stated, “I totally believe in Life Long Learning”. Lee Anne’s presentation is available by clicking here.

June 2022 Luncheon: New Trends in Retail Development

Submitted by Ashleigh Mellon, Geo Hydro Engineers


Katie Grissom, Managing Director, Asana Partners delivered an informative and positive message about the Trends in Retail Development at our June 2022 luncheon. Generation Z, the largest generation, is coming into buying power and more broadly, consumer preferences are evolving as a result of the last two years. With convenience at the forefront – mixed use, neighborhood near urban and suburban neighborhoods are becoming more desirable for retailers. New categories focused on convenience are emerging, like Medtail (vets, dentists, primary care). We better understand the halo effect, the impact of opening a new store on the retailer’s sales, and digital marketing costs are pushing retailers to find new avenues to acquire customers. All of these factors point to continued growth in the brick-and-mortar retail space.

Signature Luncheon with Alison Levine: On the Edge: The Art of High-Impact Leadership  

Submitted by Danielle Kuhn and Keiko Pace 

CREW Charlotte hosted a very motivating speech given by Alison Levine at the Westin for their Signature Luncheon on May 4th.  Alison Levine is no stranger to punishing environments. She has survived sub-zero temperatures, hurricane-force winds, sudden avalanches…and a career on Wall Street. Alison has made a career out of breaking boundaries and inspiring others to achieve more than they ever thought possible.

Levine has climbed the highest peak on every continent, served as the team captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition, and skied across the Arctic Circle to the geographic North Pole. In January 2008 she made history as the first American to follow a remote route across west Antarctica for 600 miles to the South Pole. She completed this arduous journey on skis while hauling 150 lbs of her gear and supplies in a sled harnessed to her waist. Her success in extreme environments is noteworthy given she had three heart surgeries and also suffers from a neurological disease that causes the arteries that feed her fingers and toes to collapse in cold weather, leaving her at extreme risk for frostbite.

Levine spoke about how you must climb up a few thousand feet and then go back down to base to rest, hydrate, and then go back up a little higher each time. She related the ascending and descending climbs to work and life. Sometimes you must go backward in order to move forward. She continued to talk about how fear is normal. She had fears about the weather, the journey, and whether she would reach the top, etc. Fear, willpower, and commitment to success can also help propel you forward.  

Alison did not make it to the top of Mount Everest on her first expedition. She encountered a few severe storms along her journey, and they had to make the extremely hard decision to turn back and head down the mountain for her safety and her team’s wellbeing. It was heartbreaking not to make it to the top her first time, but the lessons she learned were invaluable.  

Alison did go back and reach the top after encouragement from her late, best friend who was also an amazing athlete.  On this expedition, she encountered another storm and saw other climbers heading back down the mountain. But Alison had more experience this time and wanted to check out the conditions for herself. After a grueling trek up the mountain, again with more severe weather conditions, she made it to the top of Mount Everest!  

She learned many lessons along the way but one of the best lessons was that failure prepares you for success. Without failure, you can’t experience the sweet feeling of success. Failure motivates you to keep moving forward. Willpower and the determination to succeed must come from your heart.  


Quotes from Alison Levine: 

  • “Backing up is not the same as backing down”
  • “Take action based on the situation not based on a plan “ 
  • “Fear is okay, it is just a normal human emotion. Complacency is what will kill you.” 
  • “The storms are always temporary” 
  • “No one gets to the top by themselves”

Key Takeaways: 

  • Climbing Everest is nothing at all like the movies! 
  • Just like in life, while you are climbing a mountain you must act and react quickly in environments that are constantly shifting and changing 
  • You don’t have to be the best or the fastest or strongest, you just have to be relentless and want to continue 
  • Leadership is about realizing that everyone has a responsibility to help a team move towards a goal, not just the leader themselves. 
  • Leadership is not about you; it is about everyone around you. You must think about every move you make because it is going to affect everyone else on the team and not just you.
  • We cannot control the environment, but we can only control the way we react. You may be put in scenarios where you have to act based on the situation and not the plan. 
  • If the conditions aren’t right, it is okay to cut your losses and walk away because one person’s poor judgment can bring down an entire team or organization 
  • When you are going to try hard things, you are going to have to give yourself and your team the freedom to fail and come back around to try it again. The hard work you put in will impact those who come behind you and do remarkable things because of your experience. 
  • Failure stifles people from taking a risk. However, because of the previous failures Alison had or people had before her, she was able to be where she is today. 
  • The lessons you learn along the way and what you are going to do with that knowledge going forward is what continues to change the world.  
  • You do not have to have complete clarity to move towards a goal. But if you do have the big picture in sight, sometimes it is necessary to break down the big picture into smaller more doable goals.