Audio: JLL’s Gilchrist, First Woman President of NAIOP Philadelphia, Sees Diversity and Inclusion as Key

Lauren Gilchrist, senior vice president and senior research director, JLL, who was elected first woman president of NAIOP Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA, PA (SBN)—As senior director of research at Jones Lang LaSalle in Philadelphia, it’s no surprise that Lauren Gilchrist likes to focus on having good data.

“I’m obviously not a professor, but our mission has always been to arm our clients and our stakeholders with the best information possible, to make sound real estate decisions,” she tells in an exclusive podcast audio interview. “We’re at an interesting moment in the market cycle with regard to the economy, and some of the cracks that are beginning to show, which means that it’s more critical than ever that our stakeholders and developers in particular have smart information and found information to make decisions.”

You can listen to an audio interview with Lauren Gilchrist in the player below. If you do not see a player below, you can click here to listen to the program.

Encouraging diversity among the members of professional real estate organizations will play a more important role in providing that value, says Gilchrist, a JLL senior vice president who takes office in January as the first woman to lead the NAIOP Greater Philadelphia Chapter as president. Joseph F. Ritchie, vice president of development for Brandywine Realty Trust, a person of color, is the president-elect who will follow Gilchrist at the top.

“We have really, in a lot of ways, put our money where our mouths are in terms of putting diverse people into leadership roles,” she says. “And I think by virtue of being the spokespeople for the organization, we kind of begin that education process, to say that the industry and the tent is bigger, and that we have elevated people to these leadership positions because they’re the right people, because they have technical expertise but then, also, to kind of challenge a little bit of the status quo.”

The NAIOP chapter has a robust membership comprised of developers, owners, investors, brokers and professional service firms. And, says Gilchrist, the group is working hard to encourage younger people, especially from diverse backgrounds, to consider careers in commercial real estate. The efforts have included a revamped mentorship program to introduce young people from developer organizations to career opportunities, projects, and to each other.

One program, NEXUS, brought 24 high-performing students of color to the Greater Philadelphia area for two weeks over the summer to expose them to commercial real estate for the first time. Additionally, the Developing Leaders Mentorship Program, a group selected through a competitive application process, participated in a 10-month program focused on their professional development, sessions with industry leaders, and tours of high-profile projects.

“We recognize that so many students have many conceptions of what their career should be prior to even entering college,” Gilchrist says, noting that NAIOP “really kind of increased our focus on diversity and inclusion, increased our focus on growing a young cohort of future leaders in the business.”

Lauren Gilchrist, senior vice president for research at Jones Lang LaSalle, at the Urban Land Institute's Real Estate Outlook, Nov. 29, in Philadelphia (Steve Lubetkin Photo/SBN)

Lauren Gilchrist, senior vice president for research at Jones Lang LaSalle, at the Urban Land Institute’s Real Estate Outlook, Nov. 29, in Philadelphia (Steve Lubetkin Photo/SBN)

The chapter is guided by a board of directors including executives from Liberty Property Trust, Brandywine Realty Trust, Keystone Property Group, PREIT, Linden Lane Capital Partners, JLL, Cushman & Wakefield, Newmark, and several other professional service firms.

More recently, Gilchrist has become involved with policy initiatives.

“Advocacy will be a big part of my focus over the course of the next year in particular, especially as the 10-year tax abatement in Philadelphia continues to be hotly debated in City Council,” she says. So that will be a big focus of our work in the winter and spring of 2019. The 10-year tax abatement is really the most important economic development policy in Philadelphia history, when it comes to our ability to not only build buildings, but also then to attract tenants at rates that make sense in the city of Philadelphia, vs. some of our outlying and competing suburbs. It often gets positioned as being something that only benefits Center City. But the fact of the matter is that the abatement corrects for a market failure to provide adequate housing office and retail space where demand already exists, and the demand exists in Center City.”

In the coming year, Gilchrist and the NAIOP board will prioritize building a local-level advocacy program.

“The Philadelphia chapter has been one of the fastest growing in the country and made great strides representing our industry on the issues affecting our business, while preparing our young leaders for success,” says Mark Seltzer, vice president at Liberty Property Trust and immediate past president of NAIOP Philadelphia, who will remain active on the board of directions and chair the executive committee. “The commercial real estate community is becoming increasingly diverse and progressive and we are excited to be leading this effort and shaping the future of our industry in the Greater Philadelphia region. The experience that new leadership, Lauren and Joe bring to NAIOP will carry the organization into a new, even more productive era.”