In the male-dominated commercial real estate industry, Marci Loeber is the rare woman who has risen to the top of the field. She worked for 18 years selling commercial properties across the Boston area and is now managing principal for Griffith Properties LLC, a firm founded by her father, where she oversees property acquisitions in markets from Boston to Washington, D.C. Globe reporter Casey Ross recently spoke with Loeber in her Boston office. Here’s what he found out:
1Loeber got into real estate in 1989, when the industry was in one of the worst slumps of the last 100 years.
“I was lucky to find a job at all,” she said. “I found a job at CB Commercial [now CBRE] in their market research, which was their training program. You started as a data banker and then you progressed along the way if you chose to. I didn’t choose to.”
2 Loeber said commercial real estate firms were inhospitable to women, but noted the atmosphere has begun to change.
“I remember going to Monday morning sales meetings, and it was like a locker room. I might as well have been in a locker room. I don’t think you have that environment now. There are a lot more women. That is changing the culture of these companies.”
3Loeber proved herself to male colleagues, relishing the work and the challenge.
“I’m a workaholic by nature, so I always looked at working harder as a way to get somewhere in my ca reer. I was always the first one in, and the last one to leave. I didn’t view that as being necessary because I’m a woman. I just viewed it as doing what I needed to do to get where I wanted in my career.”
4 In the early 1990s, she began brokering the sales of the city’s major commercial buildings.Working with Robert Griffin and Edward Maher (now at Cushman & Wakefield) she sold over $25 billion in properties between 1992 and 2010.
“We started a team back when there was really no such thing as people doing investment sales, so we got in early. We did some pretty unique and large transactions such as the Traveler’s portfolio that even in today’s world you might not be able replicate. We dominated, more so than I think anyone will be able to in the future. Now, everyone has a team, so there’s a lot more competition.”
5 During her career, Loeber has seen a vast change in Greater Boston real estate, as companies move into parts of the city and surrounding suburbs that used to be seen as untouchable.
“Ten to 20 years ago, people would say you were crazy to invest in the Watertowns, Somervilles, Medfords of the world. I remember selling Arsenal on the Charles [in Watertown]. It was such a struggle getting people to see that it was just on the other side of the river from Cambridge and Harvard. You literally were a couple hundred yards from the Cambridge line and you might as well have been a thousand miles.”
6 Now she spends much of her time hunting for acquisitions and overseeing large construction and renovation projects aimed at transforming troubled properties. She said the work can be stressful, but demand from tenants has been strong lately.
“Projects can keep me up at night, especially some of the bigger ones when you’re trying to pin down a [new] tenant. The good news is the leasing markets are strong. They are not on fire, but they certainly haven’t shown signs of falling off.”
7 What advice does she give to younger women starting out in commercial real estate?
“Having a mentor in the business is more important for a woman than it is for a guy. I was fortunate to have Rob [Griffin]. He helped me work through issues. He was there to sort of protect me from partners that would have looked at me differently. I had someone battling for me, and that was extremely beneficial. I also had to work hard to earn that help.”
Casey Ross can be reached at email@example.com.