Q&A: Passing the Torch to the Next CRE Generation

March 25, 2014

MIAMI—The issues impacting the commercial real estate industry today are much different than 20 years ago in more ways than one. Beyond the economic trends, women are taking a leading role in an industry once dominated by men. At the same time, there’s a need to get younger professionals more engaged in the industry as veterans head toward retirement. Then there’s the whole issue of diversity.

We caught up with CREW-Miami’s 2014 president, Karyl Argamasilla, to discuss some of these issues. Argamasilla, a Miamian of Puerto Rican roots, is an attorney with law firm Bilzin Sumberg’s Real Estate Group, one of the largest and most active law firms in South Florida.

She’s also the youngest president in CREW-Miami’s 26-year history. We asked her about the biggest trends she’s seeing take shape in Miami’s commercial real estate market this year, what can be done to level the playing field for women, and more in part one of this exclusive interview.

GlobeSt.com: What are some of the biggest trends you see taking shape in Miami’s commercial real estate market this year?

Argamasilla: This is an exciting time for Miami’s commercial real estate market because we continue to experience stabilization and strengthening of the fundamentals in key submarkets. The urban core development boom is certainly one that is changing the local skyline, with more than 35 residential projects either under construction or planned. We are also seeing the live-work-play lifestyle become a reality in Miami’s urban core, which is drawing new restaurants, retail and a residential population of more than 70,000 people.

The hospitality industry is also sizzling in Miami. We are seeing boutique and luxury hotel brands looking to build a presence in markets like Brickell and Midtown and add to that, the investor appetite for well-positioned hotel properties in Miami Beach’s hotel market. We expect hotels to continue to trade at record-setting numbers, as both national and international buyers scout the market for new acquisitions to secure a presence in South Florida.

GlobeSt.com: Women continue to break through the glass ceiling, but there is still a lack of high-powered women in the CRE industry. What can be done to level more the playing field?

Argamasilla: I find that is critical for women to take the initiative and develop a game plan of where they are in their careers and where they strive to be next. Sponsorship is also a valuable tool, so I encourage women, particularly in the commercial real estate industry, to engage a person in a senior position within their organization who can advocate on their behalf. It could be a woman or a man.

Mentorship is also important and creating a sponsor relationship within your company can help you reach the level you aspire in your career. For example, Bilzin Sumberg partner Suzanne Amaducci has been a sponsor for me and now, I’m paying it forward.

GlobeSt.com: A big initiative CREW-Miami is driving this year is to engage younger professionals to get more involved in the industry. What is the driving force behind this effort?

Argamasilla: We are starting to see a shift in the workplace that will continue as more and more baby boomers retire and the next generations take on leadership positions. With this in mind, the Board of CREW-Miami voted to add two new membership levels for younger professionals.

One is for professionals with up to two years of experience and the second for college students pursuing careers in real estate. It offers these professionals an opportunity to get more engaged in industry matters and connect with more senior executives in the field.

For example, our organization just hosted a mentorship program at Florida International University that attracted more than 100 students pursuing real estate studies, who got one-on-one time with 16 of our industry leaders. Last year, we awarded four scholarships to local female college students. Recognizing that the educational component is critical to the future success of our industry, we focus on fostering relationships with these younger professionals.

This article is reprinted with permission from GlobeSt.com.

Karyl Argamasilla
Co-Head, CMBS and Real Estate Capital Markets, CMBS Transactional and Workouts Team
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