The leader of this Boston real estate firm talks about the COVID-19 pandemic and shares other perspectives on the industry.
Development: How is your company coping with the COVID-19 emergency?
Kimberly Sherman Stamler: First and foremost, we’ve prioritized the health, safety and well-being of our Related Beal team members, our tenants, residents and partners. And, like most companies, we have been managing through the past few months while staying in close touch with our tenants and with each other. We’ve been able to pull through this difficult period because of the strong team we’ve assembled and the fact that all of us have been in constant communication.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our office buildings continued to operate — with strictly enhanced safety protocols — so essential workers could continue to do their jobs. Our building teams have done an excellent job throughout. We also adjusted our residential programming to keep the residents engaged, entertained and informed.
Early on, we took the time to thoughtfully plan for a safe reopening for tenants, residents, employees and partners. As a result, we’ve implemented strict protocols across our buildings and on our construction sites to ensure that social distancing is observed, that cleaning is at the highest standard, and to make sure that we’re communicating all of this clearly.
Finally, we’ve used the past few months to look at how our industry may change and what we can do to anticipate what’s coming next. We are exploring new touchless and cleaning technologies for residents and tenants, as well as new communication strategies that will help keep us connected.
Development: How is the city of Boston coping with the many challenges of COVID-19?
Stamler: Boston is a collaborative city with great leadership. We have a strong foundation built on the fundamentals of community and collaboration. So, at challenging times like these, we are well positioned to rally together to keep moving forward.
Development: COVID-19 has impacted our industry, but it's unclear what the long-term effects will be. How does your firm plan for the inevitable downturns?
Stamler: As a company, we are always trying to be forward thinking. We build a plan for what’s in front of us, and also what may be ahead.
Development: What is your outlook for the commercial real estate industry in Boston and the region over the next three to five years?
Stamler: Boston is an extraordinary city. People want to live here, work here, attend school here and vacation here. The city has world-class medical facilities and educational institutions; it is rich in history; it is innovative; and it has a powerful sense of community that we all share. This all provides a unique foundation that has made Boston the remarkable city that it is. I am very excited about the growth of the city — and the region — in the near and long term.
Development: What attracted you to a career in commercial real estate?
Stamler: Even as a child I was drawn to the intricacies of how cities work, and although I didn’t realize it then, I was fascinated by the built environment — things like transportation networks, building design and construction, and public space and seeing how all the aspects of a city come together. I was an urban studies major in college, where I got to study a range of disciplines from urban economics to zoning and education, and my senior thesis was on public-private partnerships. I became focused on how cities grow and thrive, and, for me, that translated into real estate development. I love the diversity of the projects. Real estate development is about where people live, work and engage in their communities — dining, exploring parks and new neighborhoods, and always having the ability to do or see something new.
Development: Tell us about how you got started with The Related Companies, developer of Hudson Yards in New York City, the largest real estate project in U.S. history?
Stamler: I was an intern at Related in college, and then started my career at Related after graduation. One of the earliest developments I worked on was a residential rental project with an affordable-housing component that came out of the rezoning of the West Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan. I then worked on increasingly larger projects for the firm. One of my favorite developments was Riverwalk on Roosevelt Island, which is a 19-acre, nine-building mixed-income, mixed-use community. While in New York, I began working on my first Boston project (The Clarendon/One Back Bay, a mixed-use development with rentals and condominiums). I fell in love with Boston, eventually moved there as COO of Related Beal and was named president in 2016.
Development: What is your primary role as president of Related Beal?
Stamler: We have a talented team here, and my primary role is to support — with finance, construction, design, management — all of the different areas of our business.
Development: What qualities do you look for when hiring senior staff?
Stamler: Our team is filled with people who are intellectually curious, collaborative, innovative and nimble. We want to build on that culture, so I look for people who are enthusiastic about the work, excited to learn from others and willing to listen to different ideas.
Development: How do you resolve the inevitable conflicts that arise within the company?
Stamler: I address conflicts head on. With everything we do, we have constant opportunities to learn, and conflict is yet another of these opportunities. I always want to know and learn what got us here, how do we resolve it and how do we move forward.
Development: Although women are finally moving into senior positions in the commercial real estate industry, it is still a male-dominated sector. What advice do you have for women entering the business today?
Stamler: The advice I have for women is the same advice I have for anyone coming into commercial real estate today — work hard, pay attention, be willing to learn and realize that there is always something more to do, even if it is not specific to your job.
There are so many opportunities in this business — finance, marketing, design, construction and operations to name a few — that there is always someone in our industry who you can learn from. I encourage people at our company to make those connections. Maybe it is reaching out to a colleague, following up with a speaker on a panel, or connecting with someone in a different industry.
Development: What was the best advice you were given starting out in the business?
Stamler: Focus on the people in the company, what the company is doing and how it all gets done.
Development: What are the crucial lessons you have learned from your years in business?
Stamler: I’m going to twist the question in a bit of knot, because I think the larger point is more important than any single lesson. Every situation in business presents a unique learning opportunity. Every day is different, and though a challenge may seem similar to one that you’ve faced in the past, there’s always the opportunity to take something new and valuable away in each instance.
Development: How do you manage your time to successfully run a major development company and to give back to the community and industry?
Stamler: I have the support of a wonderful family, colleagues at Related Beal and the people on the boards on which I serve.
Development: How do you de-stress on your time off?
Stamler: By spending time with my family and embracing downtime. It could be sports-related, visiting a new neighborhood in Boston or a new city, experiencing the great outdoors in New England, or perhaps starting a new art project with my kids.