By Al Barbarino
As a managing director of Cushman & Wakefield’s Strategic Agency Services (SAS) group, Ashlea Aaron likes seeing things through from start to finish.
It’s a premise that the SAS group was built on, within a specialized landlord rep. niche under which Aaron thrives. The SAS works with major owners and developers during each step of the agency process, providing leasing strategies, transaction management, lease negotiations, field modeling and property positioning.
“We conceive an active plan from the beginning to end stages — everything a landlord needs to properly position and lease a building,” Aaron told Real Estate Weekly. “It really gives us a competitive advantage and a specialized knowledge, which is great for our clients.”
The SAS group is made up of 12 professionals, with Aaron both training newer members of the team and managing her own portfolio, which has included properties owned by Cohen Brothers Realty, Beacon Capital Partners, SL Green Realty, the Sapir Organization, Equity Office Properties, MetLife and Metropole Realty Advisors.
Her group has overseen more than 30 million square feet of commercial space in 70-plus buildings throughout the tri-state area, and they were involved in the lease up of 30 percent of all New York City landlord representation transactions in 2011, according to numbers provided by Cushman & Wakefield.
“That (30 percent hallmark) was a huge success for us and something we are very proud of,” she said. “One of the things I love about this job is that every day is different and you’re teamed up with incredibly talented people.”
The group works in tandem with the brokerage and property management teams, part of a larger plan implemented by upper management to promote collaboration and the best use of internal resources, Aaron said.
Her successes include lease negotiations for more than 250,000 s/f at 1211 Avenue of the Americas; oversight of an extensive $7 million building renovation and capital improvement program at 114 West 41st Street; and her team has completed more than 700,000 s/f in leasing on behalf of Cohen Brothers Realty Corp. For her part, Aaron was recognized with a Cushman & Wakefield Rising Star award in May 2012.
“It’s always nice to be recognized by your colleagues,” she said, but stressed the credit that her group deserves for the successes. “I look at what I’m doing and I look at my group as a whole. We have a growing portfolio of business and we’re growing as a department,” she said.
During each of her ten years in real estate, Aaron has learned things about the business and about herself, recognizing that “you have to be adaptable to change” to be successful.
Prior to joining Cushman, she was at The Vortex Group, a New York-based firm focused exclusively on tenant representation, where she provided negotiation strategies, financial analysis and deal modeling for major financial institutions and law firms. She called it a “great experience” that “provided me with the fundamentals of brokerage,” commending Vortex president and founder Rick Marek for his approach to training.
During her first week, she recalled, the industry veteran Marek sent her into the Plaza District, asking that she memorize all the major owners, tenants and architectural features of class-A properties. He would later quiz her about what she had learned. “He made me very aware of what was going on in the market, current events, and inventory,” she said, while adding that Vortex was also the place where she came to realize that she wanted to represent landlords, not tenants.
“I felt that I was better suited for that side of the business,” she said. “You look at an asset as a whole, maximizing value and coming up with a creative approach.”
Aaron, a graduate of Colgate University, majored in economics and history and completed a number of real estate internships before CBRE recruited her to work in their legal department upon graduation. It was there that she realized that she wanted to focus on the transactional side of real estate, propelling her into a career that makes a lot of sense in retrospect.
“I’ve always been fascinated with real estate,” she said, recalling trips she made to the city as a kid growing up in Cold Spring Harbor, L.I. “Real estate always seemed to be a perfect option for me.“I feel if you’re going to work in real estate you might as well do it in one of the greatest places on earth.”