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Luncheon Summary

CREW Charlotte June 2021 Luncheon – The Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan with Taiwo Jaiyeoba

Taiwo Jaiyeoba, assistant city manager and director of planning, design and development, was the perfect speaker for CREW Charlotte’s first in-person luncheon since early 2020. Taiwo discussed the Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan, which is the first comprehensive plan in 45 years. This plan addresses equity, transportation, quality of life, economic development, jobs, upward mobility, affordable housing, health, safety and sustainability.

Taiwo is known for his ability to bring people together – he champions accessibility and connectivity for all Charlotte area residents. One area he finds particularly important is diversification of housing projects in neighborhoods. He believes that neighborhoods should not offer exclusively single-family homes, but should have options for duplexes, triplexes, and quadraplexes. Having a variety of housing options allows the area to attract a variety of people and meet them where they are. Taiwo mentioned that the variation in housing product has been met with some resistance from existing community members. The primary concern is that these products are often rentals and do not have the same level of upkeep as traditional single-family homes. His suggestion is that we need to hold the landlords accountable for the maintenance of their product.

He also mentioned the importance of connectivity through transit. A strong transit system helps create access for a diverse group of people. He specifically focused on the bus system because 80% of public transit users rely on the bus system. Of that 80%, people of color make up 79%. It is therefore extremely important that we find a way to improve this system. He was quick to acknowledge that our current system is not as quick or as frequent in service as he would like. This is a discouragement for a lot of people in using the public transit system.

Taiwo’s energy and excitement over the plan was encouraging. He left us with the idea of a community benefit agreement which is the idea that people shouldn’t feel that development is doing something to them but instead be involved in the process. The new plan looks for a way to create a community that connects and includes all residents.

The Office Called. It Wants Its Workers Back

Submitted by Kim Marks, ProgressiveAE

CREW Charlotte featured “The Office Called. It Wants Its Workers Back” for the May virtual lunch topic. The panel moderated by Scarlet Powell, Senior Account Manager at AVI-SPL, consisted of Molly Carroll, Partner, Marketing and Communications at Trinity Partners, Steve Hallmark, Director of Operations for North Carolina with Cousins Properties, and Virginia Luther, Managing Director Charlotte Commercial at The Spectrum Companies. Our esteemed panel of local industry experts discussed heading back into our workspaces from multiple perspectives, including operations, communications, and technology.

Steve spoke from a building owner perspective relaying the initiatives Cousins has taken on at One South (formerly Bank of America Plaza) including the FitWell designation. Covid was not the main driver for these initiatives, were they already a part of Cousins strategic approach for building operations and sustainability.

Technology is rising to the top of perhaps the most important change resulting out of this pandemic. From Building Owners and Tenants requesting building data and information to Employees wanting the flexibility to work from any location that best suits their needs for that task. Technology needs to be seamless, easy to use and fast.

A common question was whether building owners or organizations had expressed any plans or desire to require their occupants/employees to provide proof of vaccination in order to return to the office? Most panelists agreed that they have not experienced this yet but do know several companies incentivizing employees if they do show proof of vaccination.

There has been a lot of talk about what the office will look like or feel like once we return to the office. Most companies believe that they will adopt a hybrid solution which allows Employee’s flexibility in where they work while meeting the needs of the organization. “If this has taught us anything, it’s that creating a culture that people want to collaborate and engage in is what Trinity does well,” said Molly Carroll. “We’re trying to create an environment where people feel safe enough to engage in that way, so we can get back to the work we’re supposed to be doing.”

Industrial is Booming…and Why it Matters to Everyone

Submitted by Kim Marks, Progressive AE

During our CREW Charlotte April virtual lunch on April 20th, we heard from representatives focused on our local Industrial market that Charlotte’s secret was out. With our proximity to multiple expressways, healthy population growth, and workforce training initiatives, we are prime for manufacturing companies looking to relocate or expand. Our local representatives included Sloan Kormelink, Edifice; Anne Johnson, CBRE; Massie Flippin, Trinity; and Dianne Jones, Maxis Advisors.

The type of industrial building is changing particularly for large e-commerce companies that are focusing on our area. The wish list continues to evolve, from super flat floors and thicker floor slabs, 40’ or more clearance height to extra power requirements.  One of the more aggressive changes is the amount of square footage Clients are looking for which is now 600,000 square feet or more. This is hard to find in an existing building footprint. E-commerce has put as much importance on the exterior of a facility requiring parking for cars and vans, charging stations, as well as access to the highway, and proximity to the population.

They spoke briefly about incentives and how NC stacks up against our neighbors, specifically South Carolina. When you are in the heat of the competition it seems like a valley between the two offers but when you boil it down, they come in very close to each other. One of the biggest differences is that SC can provide cash on the front side and NC has a larger talent pool to draw from.

So, what’s next on the industrial horizon, you might be asking. Our panelists had a lot to say on this front! It was suggested that we should be on the lookout for 3rd party logistic companies, increased technology requirements, more employee amenities, higher rent rates, and new developments continuing to move up 1-85 North and 1-77 North.

Unlocking the Hidden Value of Art and Community Messaging in Commercial Real Estate

Submitted by Jaren Wells, Gensler

Our March luncheon took a deeper dive into Unlocking the Hidden Value of Art and Community Messaging in Commercial Real Estate. Kathleen Jordan, of Gensler, led a lively discussion with panelists Carla Hanzal (Arts & Science Council), Jenny Vallimont (Gokatta) and Carla Hickey (ArtPop Street Gallery). Our panelists discussed how Art not only is becoming increasingly valuable as an opportunity for community and corporate messaging, but can also provide unexpected Return on Investments in the process. Process and “how to” information was also shared, including what to include in your project budget.

Community Messaging & leadership: Not everyone can go to a Museum. Therefore, bringing art to the community, making it accessible to all, has been highly encouraged and supported by our City & County leadership. They are in support of the arts, innovation and risk taking. Corporations also see the advantage in expressing their values especially at a time when uplifting and encouraging messages are much needed.

ROI: Art can have an influence on property value. It is no longer an add but expected by tenants, therefore helping ROI by connecting with the community as an integral part of the developments. As sales increase, the value of the community that cherishes and supports the arts increase. What goes immeasurable is the PR publicity through social media.

Process: All of our consultants recommend early integration into the Design process, in Schematic Design phase. Integrating art into the design, such as an architectural screening mechanism, can save money. Timelines will vary depending upon development and art media used.

Future Trends:
Jenny Vallimont: During the Pandemic, people are looking to find effective means to Connect. Supporting local needs and activism through Art, utilizing a virtual means via technology, like AR (Augmented Reality).
Carla Hanzal: Activated art is a big trend, involving socially distanced interactive art, such as “Balancing Act”, located at First Ward Park across from Imaginon. The Social aspect of art is equally as important. Providing more resources integrated with art such as community gardens and recreation opportunities.
Wendy Hickey: How do we create great workplace environments? Art can have the power to heal. More people are aware of this. Expanding beyond murals, corporations are looking to integrate support of local artists in a unique way to represent their organization. Whether an event or gift.

Closing remarks were given by Board Liaison Molly Carroll: “Developers and owners need to think about art as part of the tenant experience, just like when they chose finishes and building features in order to attract tenants. Having gorgeous buzz worthy art, especially local, gives the impression to prospective tenants, that the Ownership thinks differently, appreciates and supports what art brings to the table. The impression that the prospective tenant sees is that the building has a cool, hip, creative vibe that they will be part of if they lease that building. It sets buildings and owners apart.”

Jenny Vallimont added: “How do we show Corporate values even in environments that haven’t spent money in public art? Tenants coming from other cities, and bigger markets, expect different things. We need to think about comparisons of what they are seeing.”

Contact Information:

ASC – @asccharlotte

Jenny/Gokotta – @wearegokotta

Wendy/ArtPop –  @artpopstreetgallery

Gensler –

CREW February 2021 Luncheon: The Color of Change

Submitted by Amy Massey, PE, Kimley-Horn


2020 may be remembered partly as a record year of civil unrest across the US, prompting a more deliberate focus on racial inequities. As a result, many industry sectors have increased efforts to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) – including the CRE field.

CREW Charlotte was fortunate to have a ‘conversation amongst friends’ at our February 9th virtual luncheon with our very own past president and current CREW Network Board member, Adrienne Bain, who serves as an executive at Citizens Bank. And it seems appropriate that this particular luncheon has taken place during National Black History month. Adrienne gave us some clues as to her upbringing and background, sharing some of the issues she has seen and changes that have taken place over time.

Adrienne also took polls and shared results of the participants’ demographics and current company activities in the DEI realm; and gave us a look into gender and racial disparities via CREW Network Benchmark studies,, Bisnow research, and Deloitte data. A couple of CRE-specific deductions, amongst other serious disparities:

  • Women are losing ground in both total compensation and C-suite positions.
  • Being both female and a person of color is a further disadvantage.

So what are the contributing factors and how can the situation really change? Some of the conversation focused on a lack of awareness and unconscious bias. Further discussion suggested that there is a lack of access to meaningful sponsorship and mentorship- which based on data comes ultimately from leaders who happen to be mostly white males. It seems then that progress moving forward will in large part be dependent on the willingness of those in power positions to help achieve more diversity and parity, which is surely supported by the business case. It is good to see that many companies are stepping up their efforts in DEI. But the conversation is just beginning; it will take much more attention and energy to really move the needle toward equality.

Soaring into 2021 with CLT

Submitted by Amy Massey, PE, Kimley-Horn

CREW Charlotte hosted Haley Gentry, Acting Aviation Director at CLT, for an informative discussion of CLT at our January 19th virtual luncheon. Haley, a Charlotte native who has served in various roles at the airport upon graduation from ASU, provided an overview of CLT’s past successes, recovery activities, and continued advancement of infrastructure development projects.

Haley touched on CLT’s sustained growth and success over the last several years up until March of last year as the region’s #1 driver of economic development, with a record-breaking 50.2M passengers and $24.6M annual economic impact in 2019.

Key priorities in response to COVID-19 have included sustaining airport operations especially in support of mission-critical traveling, protecting its 750 aviation employees, and helping its 200 tenants be successful in part via CARES ACT funding. Recovery activities moving forward focus on building traveler confidence with enhanced cleaning efforts, an experienced recovery response team, and traveler communications. Ongoing air quality improvements, touchless technology, alternative mobility considerations, and online parking solutions are also underway with current passenger traffic and revenues projected at approximately 50% of what was expected prior to COVID-19.

Even with all the recent challenges, CLT continues ahead with its various development initiatives, including ongoing terminal expansion toward I-85 and the future Silver Line light rail connection to Uptown; as well as development of CLT-owned properties outside the Airport campus that are slated for distribution, office, retail, hospitality, and industrial use based on the Destination District plan.

As Haley put it, great people and partners are behind CLT’s successes. This is evident in the past, is being seen in the present, and will surely help to (re)shape the future of this important regional economic engine.

CREW Charlotte 2020 Impact Award Winners

Ground Breaker – Liz Orlando, O’Leary Group Waste

The Groundbreaker Award honors a new CREW Charlotte member who has positively impacted CREW Charlotte through active committee service since joining (in July 2019 or later). This individual is considered an emerging leader who has made extraordinary contributions to CREW Charlotte.

Carrie Sharp Power Connector Award – Gretchen Saussy, Mid-Atlantic Associates

The Carrie Sharp Award (formerly Power Connector award) honors a CREW Charlotte member or sponsor who went beyond networking and actively established or strengthened relationships with fellow CREW members and sponsors over the last 12 months. This individual intentionally connects members and sponsors to other members and sponsors through business and referral generation.


Member-to-Member Business – Holly Alexander, New South Properties

The Member-to-Member Business Award honors a CREW Charlotte member or sponsor who consistently 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 recognizes the collective CREW business completed over the last 12 months as a result of this member’s or sponsor’s efforts.


Career Advancement for Women – Kimberly Mobley, Brownstone

The Career Advancement for Women Award honors a CREW Charlotte member or sponsor 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 member or sponsor during the last 12 months that had a significant impact on one or more women, giving them the skills or confidence to pursue and succeed in new opportunities.


Entrepreneurial Spirit – Jane Wu, Panorama Holdings

The Entrepreneurial Spirit Award honors a CREW Charlotte member or sponsor who achieved a unique career success or milestone in the past 12 months 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 or a larger organization.


Men Empowering Women – Rob Phillips, Bennett & Pless

The Men Empowering Women award honors those gentlemen who support the conscious and intentional support of women seeking to thereby transform the commercial real estate industry by accelerating the advancement of women.


Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – Adrienne Bain, Citizens Bank

The Diversity, Equity & Inclusion award honors a CREW Charlotte member who tirelessly helps to advance the organization’s goals to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in the membership and leadership.


Circle of Excellence – Kelly Steele, SGA | Narmour Wright

The Circle of Excellence Award is CREW Charlotte’s top honor, recognizing a CREW Charlotte member or sponsor who consistently delivers excellence and whose efforts advance the commercial real estate industry and support CREW Charlotte’s mission. This individual sets and achieves the highest standards of performance, accomplishing superior execution and results. Trusted and respected by others, she/he is seen as a thought leader, change agent and champion of diversity.

CREW Charlotte’s December Virtual Luncheon: The Queen City’s Evolution: The CREW Years 1990-2020 with Tom Hanchett

Thank you to historian Dr. Tom Hanchett for leading a fun and interactive presentation capturing the impact of women and CREW members over the last 30 years on Charlotte’s built environment to celebrate CREW Charlotte’s 30th anniversary!  Tom focused on four trends: Building Cultural Institutions, Leading in Education, Place-Making, and Housing Opportunity for All.  Thirty years ago, Charlotte was the 35th largest US city.  Today, we are the 15th largest city.  He highlighted Charlotte’s growth in the banking industry, entertainment and sports venues, new edge cities like Ballantyne, Blakeney, Ayrsley, etc.  He discussed our investment in infrastructure such as the airport and highways which led into growth in new museums and, educational and cultural institutions.  He took an in depth look at our efforts to help those in need and the force behind the new structures providing homes, support, and services.  We are grateful for the time and energy Tom put into showing us the massive influence women and CREW members have had on our Queen City and it’s continued ranking as the country’s most sought after home.

CREW Charlotte October Luncheon – Empty Spaces

Submitted by Holly Alexander, New South Properties

CREW Charlotte featured “Empty Spaces” as the topic for the October virtual luncheon.  The panel consisted of Cassie McCrain, Managing Director of Real Estate Asset Management at Barings; Paula Saunders, broker at New South Properties of the Carolinas; Jessica Brown, Executive Director at Cushman Wakefield; and moderator Holly Alexander, also a broker at New South Properties.  These local experts dove into how leasing office and retail space has been changing and will accelerate in a post-Covid world.  Many landlords are getting creative with repurposing traditional space and several tenants are looking at those empty spaces opportunistically.  Regardless, retail will likely not look the same and “real estate operators will have to sharpen their pencils and look for creative ways to add value,” McCrain said.  Our local office marking is faring well to date.  Unlike other major metropolitan cities who have seen a dramatic uptick in the subleasing of office space, Charlotte remains relatively unaffected.  Brown stated about 60% of the sublease opportunities in Charlotte measure less than 10,000 square feet, with about a quarter of all sublease space in uptown.  While the jury is still out on the what, we will see changes to how we approach space design, layout and features, including how to better integrate health and wellness into our everyday spaces.

CREW Charlotte November Luncheon: Economic Outlook: The New Crystal Ball

Submitted by Amy Massey, PE, Kimley-Horn

It was a pleasure for CREW Charlotte to have Laura Ullrich, PhD, speak at our November 10th virtual luncheon. Laura, who serves as regional economist at the Charlotte branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, provided an overview of past, current, and potential future economic conditions on both the national and regional levels. Much of Laura’s informative presentation focused on recovery trends in light of changing economic projections for 2020 and beyond compared with what had been expected in late 2019 and even early 2020 due to COVID-19.

With Laura’s primary research focus areas being in higher education, school finance reform, local and state-level tax and expenditure analyses, welfare policy, and the economic impact of local development– all of which are factors in this recovery effort– it is apparent that all sectors have been affected. However, the impacts are not being felt the same in every sector, geographic area, or population demographic. Examples of the hardest-hit and perhaps longer-lead recovery elements would be the hospitality sector, dense urban areas, and lower-income individuals.

Whereas SC is faring slightly better than NC in recovery progress, both Carolinas have more positive momentum than the US overall. Very large metro areas (i.e. NYC) are seeing trends of outflux to smaller metro areas (i.e. Charlotte); however, larger central business districts in the Carolinas (i.e. Charlotte, Raleigh) are seeing a bigger impact due to the lack of office workers, business travel, and the associated trickle effect into other associated sectors. In general, jobs are coming back; just at a slower pace as we continue forward.

Moving on, there are looming questions of how the colder weather will impact us and the economy especially looking at Europe and the unfortunate re-shut-downs happening there. But the recent bright spot with positive vaccine news brings fresh hope in terms of improving our health, happiness, and of course economic recovery in returning to ‘normal’ sooner rather than later.

Click here for Laura's presentation.