Derek Trulson, newly-promoted vice chairman at JLL, plays a major role in filling some of the city’s most desirable commercial space.
But before he was placing clients like T-Mobile in multiple 100,000 s/f call center locations, or setting up HealthFirst in a 250,000 s/f home, Trulson was literally on the outside looking in.
“I grew up in the back of my dad’s truck going to jobs,” Trulson told Real Estate Weekly. “My dad was a builder and multi-family developer in the city of Seattle.
“I was the owner’s son, so I always had all the less desirable jobs,” Trulson said with a laugh before crediting the experience with setting him on his path for the future.
After years spent learning the construction side of real estate from his father, Trulson enrolled at the University of Washington.
There he would earn a Bachelor of Science degree in building construction. He also studied commercial real estate.
After graduating, Trulson began molding his career and helped found The Staubach’s Company’s Seattle office.
Around the turn of the millennium, The Washington native was sent out to New York to help grow Staubach’s empire before the company ultimately merged with JLL in 2008.
He arrived just in time to help arrange the much-anticipated arrival of Nordstrom’s to the Manhattan retail landscape.
The heralded retailer is currently about three years from officially opening it’s doors on Columbus Circle, but it’s arrival in New York’s main borough was once very much in doubt.
“You need certain things to line up for you,” said Trulson, who added that JLL’s expertise in placing clients in their ideal space was necessary to facilitate the deal, but sometimes in Manhattan the stars need to align regarless of who’s involved in the transaction.
“What they needed and how they would get there is a long journey. They needed something that they could underwrite economically, so it had to be affordable, but it had to be the right piece of real estate physically as well. Then it had to be in the right location,” Trulson said.
“Lining that up in the city of New York is really hard,” he added. “We were really lucky that everything lined up.”
While he admits that luck plays a role, Trulson stressed that expertise on the level of JLL’s for commercial real estate is key to sealing deals such as the Nordstrom lease.
Trulson said that Nordstrom’s “was ready to go” at a previously pinpointed location between Madison and Park on 57th Street — the same street that their upcoming location will be on.
When that fell through, JLL decided to “tear up the playbook and start over.” They took Nordstrom’s decision makers on a helicopter tour of Manhattan, giving the retailer a unique view of the city’s layout.
“You could see where they started to figure out, ‘Wow, we need to be West’.”
Nordstrom eventually decided on Columbus Circle, a location that they felt separated them from their competition, but also placed them within the reach of their core client base.
“They couldn’t be too close to their competition, but couldn’t be too far away so that customers couldn’t get to them,” said Trulson, who called the finding that perfect epicenter a “balancing act.”
While Nordstrom had originally wanted to be near the heart of Fifth Avenue’s legendary retail corridor, they decided to place themselves between the draws of Times Square and Central Park.
“Nordstrom is going to add to a market of consequence in Columbus circle that already exists, but they’re going to put an exclamation point on it,” said Trulson.
While they’re drawing in customers, Trulson and his team will be helping to put their own exclamation point on multiple other Nordstrom locations including a million square feet of space in Harrisburg, PA and another million square feet fulfillment center on the West Coast.
While he’s involved with deals across the nation, Trulson has kept a watchful eye on the changing realm of commercial real estate in Manhattan.
Pointing to the recent changes at Cushman & Wakefield, who closed out 2014 by acquiring Massey Knakal before being purchased itself by DTZ , Trulson is optimistic for what the coming years have in store.
“We’ll see some good things coming out of that merger,” Trulson said.
“In general, I’m a big fan of better competition because it raises the bar. Right now, if you look at the landscape, any good real estate executive will tell you there’s always two players, JLL and CBRE. Newmark Grubb Knight Frank is getting closer from the third position instead of being a distant third.
All of these companies are gearing up to be that strong number three,” he continued, saying that Cushman & Wakefield may very well come up to challenge NGKF in the near future.
“That’s good for our business,” Trulson said, pointing to how competition pushes companies to provide a better experience for clients. This in turn fosters higher likelihoods of sealed deals.
Announcing his promotion this week, JLL executive managing director Phil Palmer called Trulson a “talented, dynamic professionals with deep understanding of the nuances of real estate,” with knowledge that is “knowledge is crucial to the success of our firm and clients.”
Trulson wil continue to oversee New York-based and national client transaction management, business development, and identification of local and national strategic growth opportunities.
Going forward, Trulson is excited to continue to meet New York’s commercial challenges and thinks that the new wave of employees coming to the city will lead to some interesting trends for him to navigate.