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Luncheon Summary

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.

The Culture of Equality in the Workplace

sumbitted by Colleen Brannan, Branstorm PR

Presented by Caroline Dudley, Managing Director of North American Recruiting for Accenture, our May virtual luncheon was based on recent Accenture research, The Hidden Value of Culture Makers. During this one-hour interactive Zoom session, Caroline kept a group of CREW Charlotte members engaged by making participants apply study findings to their own beliefs and company cultures.

According to the study, the majority of leaders surveyed (68%) believe an inclusive workplace environment/culture is vital to the success of their business but just 21% say it’s a priority (76% cited financial performance.) Interestingly, two thirds of leaders (68%) feel they create empowering environments in which employees can be themselves; raise concerns and innovate without fear of failure. However, just one third of employees agreed.

While it seems we have a long way to go on culture as a priority, Caroline said we can all do our part to create a culture of equality no matter what your role is in the organization. Some suggestions included:

  • incorporate culture into personal goal setting for yourself and those you manage
  • create employee incentives related to culture to celebrate culture makers in your company
  • remember cultures of equality extend outside the workplace to our roles in the nonprofit community and professional organizations like CREW.

When culture makers lead, organizations grow twice as fast. Here’s the Culture Makers video to get the conversation started at your company.

Other Accenture studies, such as Getting To Equal 2017: Closing The Gender Pay Gap and COVID-19 The Industry Impact of Coronavirus can be found at


Circular Charlotte

submitted by Sivilay Xayasaene with Gresham Smith

Our virtual June luncheon presented by Amy Aussieker, Envision Charlotte Executive Director, highlighted Charlotte as the first in the US to take on the challenge to become a circular city. Circular Charlotte’s model is designed to produce zero waste simply by adopting a comprehensive waste diversion strategy while also creating more than 2,000 jobs. Amy identified business cases of textiles and food waste that can be diverted from landfill and be reused or upcycling food waste into compost.

The Innovation Barn will be the hub for circular economy, housing many case studies. Within the barn is an incubator lab, plastics lab, 3D printer, chipper, extruder, aquaponic garden and hydroponic garden. The labs are open to the public and provide opportunity for entrepreneurs to develop their circular economy ideas. People will have the ability to bring in plastic and make a new phone case or rapidly prototype products straight from the lab. In addition, Electrolux will have a teaching kitchen that will also supply the Café and serve refreshments. Maintained by Envision Charlotte, the Barn is designed by Kim Marks’ team at Progressive AE, constructed by JEDunn at 932 Seigle Avenue and schedule to open late fall.

Members who attended the luncheon expressed excitement to tour the new facility as well as volunteer. More information on the Innovation Barn and what can be recycled can be found here.

To see Amy's complete presentation, please click here.

Mecklenburg County Manager Talks Next Phase Reopening Plans

Submitted by Sivilay Xayasaene

For our July Luncheon, Mecklenburg County Manager, Dena Diorio, provided an overview of how the county responded to covid-19 and details of reopening plans. The detailed timeline provided insight on why decisions were made and how they responded to things that came before we had our first case.

Planning efforts begin on February 28th with the modification of the Pandemic Influenza Response Plan to meet covid-19 and the activation of the Policy Group. The Policy Group includes public health staff, emergency management, CMPD, Atrium Health, Novant Health, medics, CMS, the Sheriffs Office, the Courts, City of Charlotte, the six towns and all our Public Information Team. This group is designed to make collective decisions about our community wide response to covid-19 and allowed tracking of the virus. On March 9th the EOC (Emergency Operation Center) was opened allowing the county to access federal and state dollars. Dena continued to address the challenges of acquiring PPE’s, prioritizing testing with limited test kits, and gaining understanding of what a medical surge would look like for the community.   

The beginning of the crisis started with Governor Cooper declaring a State of Emergency and the county’s first presumptive case of covid-19. CDC recommended guidance were followed. As crisis continued hotels were rented out for homeless residents to increase social distance or isolate those infected.  First responders who were exposed or tested positive and did not want to return home were also provided hotels. Park and rec facilities were open to provide child care for first responders. On March 17th, county services were closed and transitioned to a virtual platform. A shining star during this time was Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) who coordinated the efforts of 210 non-profit organizations that wanted to provide volunteer services and resources to people in the community.

On March 26th, a stay at home proclamation went into effect. By early April conversations started with hospitals on needs for field hospitals. County was asked to coordinate with the state of North Carolina to build a field hospital to manage a surge of 3,000 in hospitals. Projected peak was late April. Construction was ready to begin for the facility at UNCC until FEMA stated federal government would not be able help with any supplies needed or staff in order to make the hospital functional.  Another request was for a 600 bed facility at Charlotte Convention Center. After further evaluation request for field hospitals were withdrawn. On April 16th there were 1,098 cases of covid-19 and projected peak flattened and moved from early May to mid-July.

On April 29th Governor Cooper announced the three phase reopening plan.  On May 8th there were 2,007 cases of covid-19 and the county moved through Phase 1. On May 22nd Phase 2 went into effect with about 3,000 confirmed cases. By June 24th, Governor Cooper extended safer at home order to July 17th and required face coverings when social distancing is not possible. At present date, data continues to show an increase in positive cases. Check out the audio and presentation to hear more about the data collected including questions and answers from the group in attendance.

Future of CRE: Impacts of Augmented Reality on Real Estate

Submitted by Erica Buffington with Shield Engineering

Karen Whitt, with Colliers International, introduced the future of augmented reality (AR) and its impacts on the real estate industry.  AR is a technology that allows for digital information to be layered on top of real world objects without having to attach anything to buildings or other structures.  Using AR allows for advertising and signage to become completely digital.  The real estate industry will forever be transformed by AR because buildings can be canvased for content and information which will allow for immediate e-commerce and data analysis.  The smartphone is going to play a very large role in all things AR.  Even Tim Cook of Apple has stated that AR is, “the future of the smartphone”. 

Integrating artificial intelligence technology will further enhance the personalization of the experience by identifying who you are and define your preferences, ensuring marketing preferences are targeted.  AR rights can be retained in a property sale by either party and they can also raise the valuation of an asset.  Exclusive rights to a building to use for AR will be sold at a premium. 

Facebook’s Live Maps research aims to empower people to connect and share in deeper, more meaningful ways by improving how we access information and understanding the context of a situation to deliver a shared experience through AR.  It will change how we engage with the world making it feel more immediate, more intuitive, more nature, more human.  AR glasses are the next technology coming to market (expected in 2023) and they will likely replace smartphones.