When Jodi Pulice, founder and president of New York-based JRT Realty Group, handled the $369 million sale of the iconic Seagram Building on Park Avenue in Manhattan, she literally moved her offices into the building to conduct due diligence.
The commercial real estate world took note when TIAA-CREF, a major teachers' pension fund, sold the 38-story landmark in 2000 to RFR Holding, a real estate partnership.
But few knew that Pulice's effort in marketing the roughly 1 million sq. ft. building went far beyond listing the structure for sale and awaiting a buyer. “I literally walked every square foot of the building,” she says. “I walked the halls, I saw the closets. When you live a building, you see the way the staff is reacting. When you ride the elevator, you see if it's run well. You see if the lights are on, if they're cleaning certain parts of the building. You have to see it; you have to change what you don't like.”
That approach has helped Pulice's company rack up $2 billion in sales and leasing deals since its founding in 1996. At start-up, JRT had a 1 million sq. ft. portfolio; now it has 16 million sq. ft. with commercial properties stretching from Long Island to San Francisco Bay.
As a minority/woman-owned business, JRT has obtained certifications that enable it to land lucrative corporate contracts under a number of diversity programs. JRT's services vary from sales, leasing and property management to structured finance programs.
The company has a strategic alliance with Cushman & Wakefield, the privately held real estate services firm, that allows both companies to benefit from contracts available to women- and minority-owned enterprises. JRT employs 10 people, with offices in New York and California, while Cushman & Wakefield has 221 offices worldwide and 15,000 employees.
Here's how the alliance works: JRT gets nationwide requests for real estate services and learns of available contracts or bidding. Many major corporations are required to spend part of their contract fees on minority- or women-owned service providers.
In many areas, Pulice subcontracts with Cushman & Wakefield and requires that qualified women or minorities are involved with the work.
Although JRT is owned by a woman, its portfolio is administered by male and female professionals. On the company's Web site, men outnumbered women in administering featured portfolio properties by three-to-one, with 13 men listed, and just three women.
JRT's client list includes Nespresso USA, part of Swiss-based Nestle Group, and the United Nations Federal Credit Union. JRT helped the credit union transform an old warehouse into a 275,000 sq. ft. AAA office building where it occupies about 150,000 sq. ft. The building is 100% leased, Pulice says.
The economic downturn has had little effect on JRT's mainly AAA properties, Pulice says. It provides top-of-the-line supplies and maintenance to the properties, and pursues green initiatives.
Suzy Reingold, executive managing director of Cushman & Wakefield's New York office, calls Pulice's work outstanding. “Jodi's been incredible at getting business as a women's business enterprise and is a wonderful resource for us,” Reingold says.
“She's a tough negotiator,” adds John Peters, a Cushman & Wakefield broker who sat across the table from Pulice 15 years ago as she represented a building owner and he represented a tenant. “She's a powerhouse in her field.”
These days, Pulice speaks to groups of young women, encouraging their participation in commercial real estate — motivated in part by her own early struggle.
“It was always difficult to be part of meetings without other people thinking I was there to be the secretary or the coffee-getter.”
Things have changed. “Now I'm empowered by major corporations giving us business and helping us along. They believe in me and my company; it's my opportunity now to get out and make life a little easier for those that follow me.”