For decades, the people who put together big real estate deals in this city have mostly been male and white.
But that is slowly starting to change. The move toward greater diversity gained a little momentum this week with the appointment of Jeanne Pinado as an executive vice president at Colliers, a prominent Boston real estate firm.
The longtime executive director of Madison Park Development Corp. — a Roxbury-based housing nonprofit — Pinado will be a rare Black woman to reach the senior ranks of the city’s major real estate companies. She’s joining Colliers’ Capital Markets Team — which puts together financing packages for large deals — at a time when city and state officials, and even private landowners, are placing a greater premium on attracting a more diverse array of investors for often-lucrative commercial sales and construction projects.
“It’s important now. It’s been important forever. It just hasn’t really been accomplished,” said David Goodhue, who runs Colliers’ Boston office. “Even in my first conversation with Jeanne, I saw somebody who not only could bring an element of diversity to the table but also help us build a platform we can all be proud of.”
For Pinado, it’s in some ways a move back toward her roots.
She has an MBA in finance from Columbia University in New York and worked on the financial side of the real estate business — including at the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corp — before joining Madison Park in 1998. While there, she led financing on a number of sizable projects — among them the redevelopment of Hibernian Hall, as well as several new apartment buildings. She grew Madison Park from a small nonprofit to a staff of 40 before stepping down in 2019. But she also built a contact list that stretches from community organizers and Roxbury small-business owners to downtown captains of finance.
Last year, Mayor Martin J. Walsh appointed her as an alternate member of the Boston Zoning Board of Appeal (a position Pinado said she plans to keep and will recuse herself from cases where Colliers might have an interest.)
That spectrum of relationships, she said, will help Colliers’ clients tap a wider range of potential investors and navigate sometimes-complex permitting in a wider range of neighborhoods.
“I’ve gotten to know a lot of people in Boston. That’s part of the job of running a nonprofit,” she said. “Now I hope to use my finance and real estate skills and connections to help our clients.”
She takes on her new job as large public landowners — such as the Massachusetts Port Authority and the Boston Planning & Development Agency — are starting to place a higher premium on diversity, both in development teams and their investors, when they award public sites for development. It’s something private-sector clients also are beginning to prioritize — particularly the region’s universities and hospitals.
“It permeates all of society now in terms of what institutions are looking for in terms of who they want as a development partner,” said Frank Petz, who heads Colliers’ capital markets team.
Then there’s the sense — increasingly acknowledged in Boston’s mostly-white development business — that an industry that does so much to shape the city should look more like the place it is transforming.
In recent years, real estate firms have launched internships and other programs aimed at building a pipeline of young talent from more diverse backgrounds. But it will also take experienced leaders such as Pinado.
After three decades working in real estate in the city, she’s well aware of the dynamics. Now she’s in a position to help change them.
Pinado acknowledged that she “may be the first” Black female executive at a real estate brokerage in Boston. But, she added, “I want my legacy to be that I’m not the last.”