30 Under 30 of NYC’s Rising Real Estate Stars


Thirty years ago Google was spelled Googol (and it was a mathematical term, not a search engine), 15 Central Park West was the Mayflower Hotel, and nobody knew just how deeply weird young Mel Gibson was.

That, and none of the pros on Commercial Observer’s third annual 30 Under 30 list were born.

SEE ALSO: Sunday Summary: Elon Musk: Wagons East!

At CO, we expend a lot of column inches on the big, established machers of the real estate business—but we also make time to consider the up-and-comers. And that’s why our list of 30 pros under 30 years old is so important.

To a certain extent, for the people in the commercial real estate business who are younger than the movie Ghostbusters, it’s too early to know who’s a light of the universe, and who’s a flash in the pan. We asked for nominations from firms big and small and were left with an embarrassment of riches. Some of the names we chose are striking out with real estate firms of their own. Others nailed 5 million square feet worth of deals while at long-established companies. We tried to expand our reach to the young guns of construction. We threw in a few names of pros who in their spare time started real estate blogs or taquerias.

Our only rule was that we wanted people who had not yet reached 30 years old. (Although one of them turns 30 this month.) We tried to keep the list to no more than three names per firm. And we wanted names who had not appeared on CO’s 30 Under 30 list before. (With one exception. But it was a big move for that individual.)

Of course, nobody—save Marty McFly—has a time machine and we don’t know how our picks will fare, say, 30 years hence. But, honestly, we don’t need a DeLorean to know these ladies and gentlemen will do very well. (Nominees: You may be too young to remember Marty McFly and the DeLorean, but this is a reference to a movie called Back to the Future, which might have been before your time.)—Max Gross, Editor in Chief

With reporting by Tobias Salinger, Danielle Schlanger and Lauren Elkies Schram

Portraits by Russ Tudor

Daniel Lolai (26)

Principal, LSL NY

It takes guts to shoot for the moon and start your own company.

But Daniel Lolai knows plenty about taking a shot — before he was a real estate broker he was on the Yeshiva University basketball team.

Mr. Lolai started out at Adams & Company where clients included Lantern Organization, and where he negotiated subleases at 1 Penn Plaza, before going over to Murray Hill Properties (now called MHP Real Estate Services) for three years, where he got the company’s 2012 “Rising Star” award.

But sometimes you gotta go out on your own.

“I felt it was the right time for me personally to move on,” Mr. Lolai said. “I owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to MHP for believing in me.” 

Earlier this year he started LSL NY, which specializes in tenant and landlord lease representation. (If you were wondering what “LSL” stands for, it’s the initials of one of Mr. Lolai’s relatives.)

As it now stands, LSL NY is an intimate (read: small) staff, but that will change.

“I believe in quality over quantity,” Mr. Lolai said. “Presently we are three brokers specializing in tenant representation. There are plans to expand to 10 within 18 months. We currently represent two buildings in Midtown” 7 West 45th Street and 349 Fifth Avenue “and are about to announce a large assignment to exclusively represent a luxury commercial portfolio in Soho.” — M.G.

Josef Yadgarov (27)

Salesperson, Wexler Healthcare Properties Team, The Corcoran Group

Take two pens, and sign the leases in the morning.

That could be Joseph Yadgarov’s motto. He recently negotiated a lease for North Shore-LIJ Health System for a 6,000-square-foot medical condominium unit owned by the Simone Healthcare Development Group on the Upper East Side. He and Paul Wexler, who hired Mr. Yadgarov as an administrator when he was a college student, were the lone brokers in the 10-year deal.

Also, Mr. Yadgarov helped complete the medical repurposing and leasing of Extell Development Company’s 20 East 46th Street. He and Mr. Wexler leased more than 40,000 square feet within a two-year time frame at the building. The 94,433-square-foot building, which is 100 percent occupied, is primarily leased to medical tenants. As jewelers move out, they are replaced with medical tenants.

While Mr. Yadgarov wanted to become a real estate attorney, once he started working for Mr. Wexler, he caught the healthcare brokerage bug.

“Initially I was doing admin stuff in the office, slowly learning the business and [six years ago] I transitioned into the brokerage role,” Mr. Yadgarov said.

What Mr. Wexler had built “intrigued,” Mr. Yadgarov, and he “felt this could be it for the long run.”

Mr. Yadgarov likes having the healthcare specialty, rather than being more of a generalist. Since the beginning of the year, Mr. Yadgarov has completed 16 medical office purchases and leases, totaling approximately 60,000 square feet. He currently has more than 80,000 square feet of healthcare lease and sales deals under contract.— L.E.S.

Melissa Warren (29)

Partner and Senior VP, TerraCRG

The founding member of Brooklyn-only commercial transactions brokerage and advisory firm TerraCRG, Melissa Warren used to have “DiBella” in her name. But she’s now answering to “Mrs. Warren” after tying the knot with her new husband, footwear company president Joe Warren, this past June.

Ms. Warren, who is a partner and a senior vice president, manages five associates in the 17-member company. Her team has closed more than 32 transactions for $120 million so far this year, with $145 million in additional sales under contract, according to figures provided by the firm. And after starting TerraCRG in 2008 alongside her former Massey Knakal Realty Services colleague, TerraCRG founder and president Ofer Cohen, she’s no stranger to transitions.

“It was a totally different time,” she said. “The landscape was different, the skyline was different. The competition is a lot more fierce now than it was then.”

The native of Manalapan, N.J. and 2006 graduate of Staten Island’s Wagner College is working in a borough where 980 transactions netted more than $3 billion in the first half of 2014, which is 50 percent higher than the over $2 billion figure for the first six months of 2013, according to the latest Brooklyn market report released by TerraCRG. Ms. Warren’s team handles exclusive listings worth roughly $125 million at any given time, company figures say.

“We basically work two halves,” Mr. Cohen said of his longtime colleague. “One half is that Melissa is helping me run the company, and she’s been helping run the company since its inception. On the other half, we share every deal. We work on the deals together as a team.”—T.S.

JP Sutro (28)

Associate Director, Lee & Associates

After an internship at Cushman & Wakefield in San Diego, Calif., JP Sutro was brought on board as a broker for three years, where he focused on restaurant and retail transactions.

He realized he wanted to learn about  and do deals on a “more macro level,” and wanted to “surround [himself] with more diversity.” In addition, Mr. Sutro was interested in working with clients who were willing to “take more risks” by venturing into a new neighborhood or exploring a new concept. So he said goodbye to his home city of San Diego and headed to New York City, a place he had only visited one time before moving.

In San Diego, there were only a few “power brokers,” but in New York there are more opportunities for brokers to excel. Mr. Sutro started at Lee & Associates in 2012 on the retail side and is working on exclusive agencies for more than 160,000 square feet of retail in the city. He is currently marketing more than $275 million of retail space for landlords including the Durst Organization, Chetrit Group, Assa Properties and RedSky Capital.

The Lee & Associates retail pros have been tapped by Durst in the leasing of 45,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor at 625 West 57th Street and a 13,000-square-foot new restaurant space at 136 West 44th Street.

Lee &  Associates landed the Durst assignments after achieving success for the developer at 216 Front Street near the South Street Seaport. The team had to renegotiate leases with tenants after Superstorm Sandy impacted the building and find replacement for those who didn’t want to return to the building.

“We quickly leased up their stores down there,” Mr. Sutro said.—L.E.S.

Andrew Stern (27)

Senior Associate, RKF

When RKF broker Andrew Stern and his colleague Gary Alterman set out to arrange an Upper East Side lease for children’s gym Fastbreak Gym, the two didn’t have to negotiate with any unfamiliar faces on the other side of the table: the two brokers also represented the landlord the Kibel Cos. in the 10-year, 6,900-square-foot deal in October 2012.

Mr. Stern, a senior associate at RKF, started as a canvasser at the firm in 2010. He’s worked on teams representing landlords like Fortuna Realty, Stellar Management and Ashkenazy Acquisition and brokered deals for tenants like Michelin-rated Hanjan, the Boy Scouts of America Scout Shop and chocolatier Jacques Torres.

Mr. Stern studied real estate finance at Baruch College, but fell in love with a different side of the industry when his first gig had him cold-calling building owners and managers.

“I knew I wanted to get into real estate; I wasn’t sure what path I’d take,” Mr. Stern said. “But after six months as a canvasser, I knew I wanted to be a retail broker.”

The broker has arranged seven leases in Tribeca and 12 on the Upper East Side and he’s working on behalf of clients like Red Mango and Dunkin’ Donuts.

“Andrew is a diligent and hardworking professional that has quickly established himself as a top leasing broker in New York City,” RKF executive vice president Gary Alterman wrote in an email. “He is highly self-motivated, sometimes out canvassing seven days a week, representing many prominent landlords and tenants. He’s completed several transactions that have helped shape neighborhoods like Tribeca and NoMad as a new destination for shopping and dining.”—T.S.

Lucien Sproviero (26)

Senior Associate, Marcus & Millichap

Every year, the number of frontier neighborhoods in New York City seems to shrink, block-by-gentrified block.

But there are still a few spots left — even in coveted Brooklyn — for the shrewd operator looking to make a name for himself.

Enter Lucien Sproviero, a senior associate at Marcus & Millichap, who, at only 26, has invaded Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights, Lefferts Gardens and Prospect Heights, selling more than 40 buildings amounting to more than $100 million in business, since he joined the firm in 2011.

“Manhattan gave off that it was not an emerging market,” Mr. Sproviero said. “It was already established. Brooklyn, on the other hand, had room to grow.”

Mr. Sproviero, a Connecticut native, holds a bachelor of science degree in business administration and entrepreneurship from Rider University and has a client base that is a mix of private-equity investors, dipping their toes in multifamily, mixed-use and retail operations. Just this June, Mr. Sproviero sold a four-property, 124-unit portfolio in Crown Heights that closed for $25 million.

The only whiff of scandal around this young prince of Kings County (who in 2013 got his firm’s Brooklyn Shooting Star award) is that Mr. Sproviero doesn’t live in Brooklyn. He lives in Manhattan.

“This is an ongoing thing,” Mr. Sproviero admitted. “My girlfriend and I are about to move in together. She likes Manhattan. I like Brooklyn.” Some day, Lucien, some day. — M.G.

Jamie Slaper (29)

Project Manager, Levien & Company

Jamie Slaper decided she wanted to become a builder when she was a student commuting in from New Jersey to attend the School of Visual Arts in Chelsea.

“I began dealing a lot with the environment around me—my thesis was about how environment affects mood—and I figured if I can help build a better environment I can make people happier, she said.”

Right now, Ms. Slaper is trying to make the students at New York Law School happier (or, at least, give them a better environment, because, let’s face it, happy law students are few and far between) as the project manager on a 28,230-square-foot job, which is slated to finish in February.

She runs the construction show for the owners by overseeing budgets, picking out teams and managing every phase of finishing this massive project.

Of course, this is not Ms. Slaper’s first big project, nor is New York the only city where she practiced her trade.

Prior to Levien & Company she worked at the Silverstone Property Group and before that she was an architect in Switzerland. Her big project when she was living in Lausanne was a four-story office and residential tower in Minier. So you could say Ms. Slaper is not just a New York 30 Under 30, she’s  an international hit!—M.G.

Lee Silpe (27)

Berko & Associates, COO and Partner

At Berko and Associates, Lee Silpe wears many hats. As the chief operating officer, he oversees the operations for the whole office, consisting of 22 associates, analysts and support staff. He is also a director at the company, leading a team of the firm’s top agents. Recently, Mr. Silpe was named one of the firm’s partners. Yet only a few years ago, Mr. Silpe, a Long Island native, was working at Merrill Lynch and trying to figure out his next step.

At his job at Merrill Lynch, many of the high, net-worth clients that Mr. Silpe worked with had something in common: they owned real estate. It was this discovery that led Mr. Silpe to pursue a career in commercial real estate. Mr. Silpe’s prior work in finance has certainly helped him underwrite well into the billions of dollars worth of transactions.

Recently, Mr. Silpe helped get a buyer under contract a 170,000-square-foot industrial loft building in Bushwick, Brooklyn, the negotiations for which took almost a year. According to Mr. Silpe, the building is slated to become a creative loft office space that will aim to attract young companies to the neighborhood. Mr. Silpe also facilitated the transaction of the last industrial building in Greenwich Village. Mr. Silpe says his tenure in commercial real estate “really been pretty incredible.”

“Commercial real estate is extremely challenging and rewarding,” he said. “It’s the type of career that is constantly evolving, and every day seems to bring excitement.” —D.S.

Zachary Price (28)

Associate, CBRE

While an undergraduate at the University of Maryland, Zachary Price knew he wanted to pursue a career in real estate. The Melville, N.Y. native took courses in business management and land use development to prepare him for his future in the industry. After being introduced to Richard Levine and Michael Rizzo, whom he described as his mentors, Mr. Price started at CBRE in March 2011.

Now an associate at the firm, Mr. Price has focused on Lower Manhattan office brokerage. He works out of CBRE’s downtown office at 140 Broadway, and has worked with high-profile clients including Priceline.com, the Institute for Private Investors and WellCare Health Plans. Mr. Price was taken under the wing of CBRE’s Sheldon Cohen, who gave him “the full resources of the company to secure and transact new business.”

Mr. Price is also an active volunteer PENCIL, mentoring a group of students from Ebbets Field Middle School in Brooklyn.

Mr. Price sees himself having a long future at CBRE. “I am very happy [at CBRE],” said Mr. Price. “The culture of this company is getting better by the day and the resources keep growing. Even as an associate, I have full access to arguably the top professionals in the world.”—D.S.

Matthew Polhemus (29)

Vice President, JLL

Matthew Polhemus, a vice president in JLL’s New York City office, has scored 1.5 million square feet in transactions since  joining the company in 2009. But, then, he’s used to a big score. He’s a former Yale University quarterback (and current member of the Ivy League Football Association).

“I’ve learned a lot in football, and I’ve learned a lot from working with this team,” Mr. Polhemus said. “It’s zeroing in on the fine details. Like anything, it’s working harder than your opponent. The chase for the deal—that definitely speaks to my competitive edge.”

The Cape Cod native also served on the JLL representation team for RFR Realty at 757 Third Avenue in audit, tax and advisory firm Grant Thornton’s 130,000-square-foot lease last January and negotiated for design firm Knoll International in its 50,000-square-foot showroom and headquarters deal at RXR Realty’s 1330 Avenue of the Americas in 2012.

At 31 Penn Plaza, he’s worked with Savanna as the company invested $21 million in capital improvements, said Kevin Hoo, a vice president at Savanna. Mr. Polhemus acted for the landlord in deals to bring tenants like TPG Architecture, Revtrax, Real Estate Arts and Restaurant Associates to the property, Mr. Hoo said.

“He understands the broad parameters within which we operate as landlords and exercises his acumen and discretion very well to attract quality tenants and give them comfort that this is the correct home for them,” Mr. Hoo wrote in an email. “He is technically sound, but more importantly, understands the nuances of each deal and how he can package it in a way that suits their needs and financial structure.”—T.S.

Evan Papanastasiou (25)

Associate Director, Eastern Consolidated

Evan Papanastasiou did his first real estate deal when he was 19 — but by then he was already a pretty successful businessman.

“When I was 18, myself and two business partners started a concierge service,” Mr. Papanastasiou said. This was the Boston-based BCCG, Boston Collegiate Consulting Group. (It’s still around.) But after about a year or so of arranging concert tickets and reservations, Mr. Papanastasiou (still a student at Suffolk University) figured he could give real estate a try.

“I think I made my first deal before I was licensed,” Mr. Papanastasiou laughed. The brash 19-year old teed the deal for a luxury apartment up and waited until his broker paperwork came though.

It was only a matter of time before he moved south. “In Boston you can get complacent very easily,” Mr. Papanastasiou said. New York City “is the most motivating city in the world.”

Ten months after Mr. Papanastasiou started at Eastern Consolidated he had what any real estate professional would concede are bragging rights: $118.6 million in sales.

This big figure included a $60 million sale for a mixed-use building in Brooklyn Heights at 169 Columbia Street and a $52.85 million sale of 110 Greenwich Street in the Financial District. And we didn’t even mention the over $40 million in sales Mr. Papanastasiou has done in exclusive assignments.

To think, we hadn’t thanked Boston for a trade since the Yanks got Babe Ruth in 1920!—M.G.

Mitchell Moinian (26)

Senior Vice President, Moinian Group

Mitchell Moinian was only in high school when he became an intern at Cushman & Wakefield in 2006. “I begged them to hire me after that, while I was matriculating [at New York University] because I loved to work,” Mr. Moinian said.

On his 18th birthday, he applied for a salesperson license and started doing commercial leasing deals. “I did a number of deals and most of them were high-end office transactions and a lot of hospitality deals,” he said.

At age 23, between his time at C&W and starting at the Moinian Group in 2011, Mr. Moinian finished a deal to bring SLS Hotel to a building his uncle David’s company, Moin Development Corp, owns on Park Avenue South. He exclusively represented SLS’s parent company, SBE, in New York City for a few years while at C&W.

Today, Mr. Moinian is a project manager at the Moinian Group’s 1,174-unit 605 West 42nd Street. He oversees the development, marketing and programming at the 60-story residential tower. This summer, the Moinian Group received $539 million in additional financing for construction of the 1.16-million-square foot residential building. He is also working with Avison Young on the marketing and leasing campaign for Moinian Group’s 3 Hudson Boulevard.

Mr. Moinian noted that he does “underwriting and analysis of new business opportunities in conjunction with my brother, Matthew, acquisitions team and analysts, as well as the exploration of new methods of financing and utilizing capital markets.”—L.E.S.

Matthew Moinian (29)

Senior Vice President, Moinian Group

Matthew Moinian is one of the youngest hoteliers in New York City, having opened the $60 million 21-story Hotel Hugo in partnership with his uncle Morris’ Fortuna Realty Group in April.

Not bad for a 26-year-old just out of Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

“My last year of law school I started to look for projects to build and that became Hotel Hugo,” Mr. Moinian said. He closed on the deal the week he graduated.

Shortly after joining his father’s firm, the Moinian Group, Mr. Moinian became the project manager for the company’s development of the W New York – Downtown Hotel & Residences, which opened in 2010. Today he is pursuing an MBA in finance and organizational leadership at NYU Stern School of Business.

Mr. Moinian has recently been focused on the closing of 605 West 42nd Street, a 1,174-unit rental building at 11th Avenue, which is under construction. On Aug. 1, the Moinian Group announced that it had secured a $539 million loan for the 1.16-million-square-foot residential rental tower at 11th Avenue. In addition, SL Green Realty Corp. will be participating as an investor in the project.

His goal is to one day manage thousands of people.

Prior to joining the Moinian Group, Mr. Moinian worked for HRH Construction as an assistant superintendent at rental building the Marc at 260 West 54th Street.

“I was up at 6 a.m. with a hard hat and pencil,” Mr. Moinian said.—L.E.S.

Tyler McNeil (28)

Director, Cushman & Wakefield

Tyler McNeil began working at Cushman & Wakefield in January 2009, starting in the firm’s Corporate Occupier and Investor Services department. This is the group at C&W that handles multi-market transaction management for its large institutional clients. In his first role at the firm, Mr. McNeil handled the national real estate portfolios for General Electric and NBC.

No big deal.

In August 2010, Mr. McNeil moved to the brokerage side of C&W. Today, he works on Dale Schlather’s team and focuses on representing high-growth companies, including technology, media, financial and entertainment firms, as well as getting start-ups their first offices, and advising international expansions of Fortune 500 companies.

He has been a part of the team that secured 244,415 square feet for Capital One Bank at 299 Park Avenue and 68,500 square feet for SFX Entertainment at 902 Broadway.

“The New York City market is one of the most dynamic and interesting markets from a leasing and investment sales perspective in the world,” said Mr. McNeil. “I think that having started at the bottom of the market in brokerage in 2010 and having witnessed the momentum that we’ve seen in the past four years is an incredible opportunity to have had in the first five years of my career.”

Mr. McNeil received C&W’s 2012 Top Associate Brokerage Professional Award, given to the highest-producing associate in New York. He is also a board member on the CoreNet Young Leaders Committee and an associate board member for the Ronald McDonald House.—D.S.

Greg Maurer-Hollaender (29)

Vice President, CBRE

Growing up in Livingston, N.J., Greg Maurer-Hollaender watched his father work at ESG and Insignia, two prominent New York City real estate firms that were predecessors to CBRE. Even though Mr. Maurer-Hollaender went to Vanderbilt University and studied economics and religion, he always had a desire to return to New York and try to work for CBRE.

So Mr. Maurer-Hollaender took a shot at the firm’s hard-to-get-into Wheel Program, a 12 to 18-month rotation for recent graduates committed to careers in commercial real estate.

Now a vice president at the firm, Mr. Maurer-Hollaender is responsible for helping large clients navigate complex transactions. He helps customize financial models to quantify the financial implications of various strategies. Most recently, Mr. Maurer-Hollaender helped close a renewal transaction on behalf of Weil, Gotshal & Manges at 767 Fifth Avenue.

“It was something I was pursuing with the team since 2010, which was pretty early on in my career,” said Mr. Maurer-Hollaender. “Sometimes these transactions can take a long time to come to fruition. That’s the beauty of our group. Someone like me can be exposed to some complex, high-profile transactions early in one’s career.”

While the majority of Mr. Maurer-Hollaender’s deals have been New York-based, he estimates that around 30 percent of his deals are out of town.

“Being a part of these special assignments is unique for someone of my tenure and I’m honored to be a part of them,” he said.—D.S.

Benjamin Birnbaum (29)

Senior Managing Director, Newmark Grubb Knight Frank

Benjamin Birnbaum spent the summer between his junior and senior years at Union College interning at Newmark Grubb Knight Frank.

He never left.

“I was randomly placed in [the firm’s] retail group and made some great connections,” said Mr. Birnbaum, a Brookline, Mass. native. “I was then asked to come back and work when I graduated.”

Following his college graduation in 2007, Mr. Birnbaum joined the retail group full-time and has since completed more than 100 transactions.

He currently represents CityMD and is a key player in facilitating the walk-in clinic’s rollout in every borough.

This year, Mr. Birnbaum has also helped Hartmann luggage, owned by Samsonite, establish its first flagship store at 520 Madison Avenue. He also helped secure space at 1133 Broadway in NoMad for the iconic Rizzoli Bookstore, set to open in Spring 2015.

But the folks at NGKF recognized Mr. Birnbaum’s prowess years ago he was named “Associate Broker of the Year” in 2008 and 2009.

“I love what I do,” said Mr. Birnbaum. “It’s exciting to interact daily with such smart and driven entrepreneurs, retail executives and property owners.”—Danielle Schlanger

Alex Liscio (26)

Associate, Brookfield Property Partners

This is a business of sharks—so when we hear of a guy who’s successful and also volunteers as a teacher’s assistant on Saturday afternoons, well, we have to take our hat off to him. Alex Liscio only graduated from Hobart College in 2010, but he has been one of the key players on the team tasked with the re-leasing, repositioning and asset management of the 8.5 million square feet of Class A office and retail space at Brookfield Place.

While at Brookfield, Mr. Liscio has completed 40 lease transactions for a whopping 5 million square feet of space, including 700,000 square feet for Time, Inc., 400,000 square feet for Hudson’s Bay Company, 350,000 square feet for the Bank of New York and many others.

The result has been that over the past year the occupancy rate has skyrocketed from 59 percent to 95 percent. Not only that, but Mr. Liscio was part of the team that closed on $1 billion in financing Brookfield Place’s office and retail component and has been responsible for the $250 million of retail repositioning capital.

Of course, the key to downtown’s future success or failure rests largely on the word “livable” and Mr. Liscio made a big score in that category when he was on the four-person team that brought Saks Fifth Avenue into an 85,000-square-foot space, making it the area’s first luxury department store. Add to that the magnificent restaurant leases he’s been bringing down there (Parm, any one?) and a 40,000-square-foot Equinox, and you have a major player in the transformation of a neighborhood. — M.G.

Lance Leighton (29)

Assistant Director, Savills Studley

Ask Lance Leighton how he got into the real estate business and he is straightforward about it: “The answer, in a nutshell, is nepotism.” When Mr. Leighton graduated from Hofstra University in 2008 his cousin, Evan Margolin, offered him a job at Savills Studley, but when he was told that it would require years of grunt work for (at first) very little money, Mr. Leighton balked. He decided to sell office supplies door-to-door, instead. But when he realized he wasn’t cut out to traipse through Times Square on hot summer days asking strangers if they needed extra toner, he reconsidered the real estate offer.

Mr. Leighton is now the assistant director of Savills Studley. However, the years of hustle have done Mr. Leighton a lot of good. In addition to doing deals for hedge funds and private equity firms, in 2012 Mr. Leighton had the idea of starting the blog HedgeFundSpaces.com as a hedge funder’s first stop when he or she starts Googling for new office space.

“My thinking was why go fishing with a hook when you can go with a net,” Mr. Leighton said. “I’d rather become a resource.” Traffic was slow at first; it was six or seven months before his first deal came to fruition.

Now, Mr. Leighton gets four to five leads on properties per week through his blog, and has spun it off into a sister blog for TAMI office spaces (Techofficespaces.com.) And it has earned the envy of many of his colleagues: “People ask me about it all the time, ‘How do I go about starting one?’” —M.G.

Robert Kempner (25)

Director, ABS Partners Real Estate

Robert Kempner works on a team that has exclusive listings from 12 different New York City landlords.

Mr. Kempner, a director at ABS, has spent the past two years booking and managing retail tenants from Tribeca to Harlem.

“I’ve been a part of an exciting growth period at ABS—working closely with Mark Tergesen, Dean Valentino and John Brod,” he wrote in an email. “Everybody brings something to the table here at such a well respected full-service real estate company.”

Mr. Kempner has leased around 30,000 square feet of retail in Harlem alone in the past two years, including Perkins Restaurant & Bakery’s first New York City flagship location at East 125th Street and Third Avenue.

In Gramercy Park, he’s the exclusive leasing agent and a limited partner on the ownership side of a retail condominium at 280 Third Avenue that will be on the ground floor of a 21-story Toll Brothers residential building. Further south in Tribeca, Mr. Kempner represents the landlord at the 1 Hudson retail condo, which counts Brushstroke Restaurant, Gotham Bikes, Bikram Yoga, HSBC and Citibank as tenants.

All told, Mr. Kempner worked on teams that leased nearly 72,000 square feet of retail space for transactions worth approximately $20 million over the past two years. But those activities could just represent the beginning for the retail broker. “Over the past 18 months, our team has increased the quantity and size of large-scale assignments,” he said. “I only see this trend continuing.”—T.S.

Alex Kaskel (25)

Director, ABS Partners Real Estate

Leases for 100,000 square feet of space have turned over at 915 Broadway since Alex Kaskel joined ABS Partners in the middle of 2013. But Mr. Kaskel and the team that manages leasing at the Flatiron District building have replaced each tenant lost with a new one at double the previous rent.

Mr. Kaskel, a director at ABS, works on the company’s leasing and acquisition team, representing landlords and tenants and arranging equity and debt financing. And he’s taking a page from the book of his grandfather, ABS co-founder Earle Altman.

“He started with nothing,” Mr. Kaskel said, “and you see the success than can be created. It’s inspiring.”

At the Flatiron District property, Mr. Kaskel’s team repositioned the building, expanding the onsite footprint of tech education providers General Assembly to more than 40,000 square feet and inking a new 30,000-square-foot lease for the nonprofit Math for America. He’s also helping manage Bridgeport Trade and Technology Center, a small business incubator and office property in Bridgeport, Conn., and raising equity to support a 114-acre, 371-room hotel property in Rye Brook, NY.   

Meanwhile, he was a managing member of the team that acquired a two-story retail property at 32-46 Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens for $5 million. Mr. Kaskel secured a second-floor, long-term lease at the building for a karate studio that allowed ABS to avoid placing $230,000 in escrow during the purchase. There’s much more to come from ABS in the outer boroughs, he said.

“We’re looking at deals every day,” Mr. Kaskel said. “We like retail in the boroughs.”—T.S.

Kelly Holzkamp (26)

Design Associate, Silverstein Properties

Larry Silverstein and Robert A.M. Stern rhapsodize about Silverstein Properties’ rising 30 Park Place condo and Four Seasons hotel tower in a widely watched promo for the development. Too bad Silverstein Properties Associate Project Manager Kelly Holzkamp wasn’t in the credits. She is playing a huge role at the 82-story, 926-foot tower.

Ms. Holzkamp is leading the design and construction of the hotel’s public places in the podium of the structure, overseeing the buildouts in the lobby, reception area, grand staircase, ground-floor restaurant, spa, fitness center, meeting areas and ballroom. At this phase in the construction, the 2011 Cornell University graduate is watching over the look of the signature Four Seasons restaurant two blocks from the World Trade Center slated for 2016, Ms. Holzkamp said.

“We’re looking to create a great synergy between the lobby and the restaurant, to really create an attraction downtown,” she said, declining to divulge many details on the closely-watched property.

The job setting the tone for the building that will have 189 hotel rooms and 157 luxury condos represents a new phase in Ms. Holzkamp’s career following her return to New York City in August from a seven-month stay in Orlando opening Silverstein’s Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World. She showed a sense of initiative and leadership that will translate well to any of Silverstein’s projects, said Mickey Kupperman, Silverstein’s chief operating officer.

“This is not so much about projects as it is about Kelly as a person,” Mr. Kupperman said. “I think if you put her on any project, you’d get the same ‘Oh wow’ result.”—T.S.

Michael Hirsch (29)

Associate, CBRE

Michael Hirsch, who spent his childhood in both Westchester County, N.Y. and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., began his real estate career the summer before his senior year at Bucknell University, when he interned at Wells Fargo’s Real Estate Merchant Banking Group.

After that, Mr. Hirsch was hooked.

“Coming out of college the next year, I knew I wanted to be in New York and I knew I wanted to be in real estate,” said Mr. Hirsch.

In 2007, a week after graduating from Bucknell, Mr. Hirsch accomplished both by starting at Newmark Grubb Knight Frank as a research analyst.

In February 2011, he then made the move to CBRE where he is now an associate. Mr. Hirsch has worked with large corporations like Venmo, Dominick & Dominick and Trulia (he says the 2012 eBay deal at 625 Avenue of the Americas that he inked will always be memorable because it was his first big lease), but he also goes for the smaller ones.

“The small deals are memorable because you get to know the guys,” Mr. Hirsch said.

Of course, a good broker needs a good team and a good home, which Mr. Hirsch feels he found at CBRE.

Outside of work, Mr. Hirsch is chairman of the Development Committee for the non-profit Right to Dream USA as well as a mentor for the PENCIL Patnership program.

“I feel lucky to work with my team at CBRE which has been incredible and has helped mentor me,” he said.—D.S.

Crissy Haley (28)

Senior Project Manager, JLL

The rollicking waters of the real estate industry and the fraught responses to climate change may seem tough to navigate, but this four-time Division III All-American swimmer doesn’t back down from a challenge.

Ms. Haley, a senior project manager in JLL’s project and development services group’s energy and sustainability services division in New York City, has worked at the firm since 2011 helping topline tenants and developers cut their energy usage. The Urban Green Council member now exemplifies the invaluable professionals who will help property managers implement the complex tasks involved with decreasing a building’s energy footprint and complying with the city’s still-evolving retrocommissioning requirements.

“Each year, more and more buildings are due,” Ms. Haley said. “And these projects are more and more exciting. It’s exactly why I got into the industry.”

Ms. Haley has managed 24 projects for JLL during her tenure there. The Westchester native joined the firm in 2011 after she got her bachelor’s degree from Williams College in Massachusetts and picked up a master’s degree in environmental science and management from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

More recently, she led a team that helped LinkedIn cut its water usage in the Empire State Building by 38 to 35 percent, she said.

That’s the kind of work that Ms. Haley brings to her role every day, said JLL’s project and development services group managing director, George Ladyman.

 “She’s willing to go the extra mile with internal colleagues and external colleagues,” Mr. Ladyman said.—T.S.

David Fowler (27)

Associate Director, HFF

When officials at HFF, one of the largest commercial real estate intermediaries in the country, decided to ramp up the company’s investment sales activities, they tapped David Fowler to stand up a new team to originate and execute office equity and investment sales transactions.

Mr. Fowler, an associate director since HFF executives started the team this past summer, began as a debt placement analyst in 2012. The native of Rumson, N.J. and George Washington University graduate has closed almost 100 equity, debt and investment sales transactions worth more than $2.2 billion during his brief tenure. But he’ll now be implementing the five-year strategic plan he helped craft by facilitating deals with the type of figures that generate headlines.

Broad Street Development’s $173 million purchase of 80 Broad Street in September certainly fits that bill. Mr. Fowler’s team helped complete the joint venture equity raise that made Broad Street’s buy of the 423,000-square-foot Financial District office building possible. Looking to the future, Mr. Fowler is marketing both a Midtown office building and a Midtown South office property, he said, declining to disclose anything further.

But real estate watchers should know which properties Mr. Fowler was referring to soon enough, said HFF senior managing director Michael Tepedino.

“I would say that David is the sort of guy that we’re going to build this around because he does anything you need him to do,” Mr. Tepedino said. “You’ll be hearing his name pop up more and more.”—Toby Salinger

Shane Davis (27)

Head of Strategy and Development, SKH Realty

Roughly six months ago, Shane Davis was promoted to head of strategy and development at SKH Realty after four years as a broker. So rather than focusing on transactions, he has a much broader perspective, focusing on building the business, developing concepts and doing lots of schmoozing.

His first deal was for a friend seeking to open “some divey sports bar on the Upper East Side” in 2010, Mr. Davis said. Armed with a design degree, Mr. Davis was applying to architecture school but he decided in the interim to quickly get his real estate license and help his buddy out.

That led him to consider whether he wanted to return to school for five years and endure “the long arduous life that is architecture.”

When Mr. Davis started searching around for careers in hospitality, he came upon Steven Kamali’s name and it wasn’t long before Mr. Kamali hired him as a broker at SKH. His last official deal as a broker was representing Stephen Starr for his new restaurant Upland at 345 Park Avenue South.

Mr. Davis digs the food and beverage industry. Restaurants, hotels and nightlife play an integral part in neighborhood development, Mr. Davis said. “You’re crafting experiences” which is an “impactful” thing in my mind, he said.

While he cannot talk about what he’s been up to the last six months, since they’re all large-scale consulting gigs with confidentiality agreements, he did note that he is helping Dermot Company “program the retail space” at 66 Rockwell Place in Downtown Brooklyn.—L.E.S.

Winfield Clifford (29)

Director of Sales, Massey Knakal Realty Services

Winfield Clifford lived in Gowanus, Brooklyn for two and a half years, walking through it twice daily, and as a result got to know every nook and cranny. This proved incredibly useful in 2010, when he started as a broker at Massey Knakal Realty Services covering the Downtown Brooklyn market.

“It was really important with our business model being hyper-focused within our territory,” Mr. Clifford said. “I was walking or biking around our territory so I understood the retail corridors and really got a feel for our neighborhood very quickly.”

Mr. Clifford was the top producer for Kings County for a number of years and then last year he was promoted to a director of sales in Brooklyn. His territory now is Gowanus-Park Slope, and he is currently marketing 12 listings with an aggregate value of $85 million.

In July, Mr. Clifford and his team brokered the sale of the fee interest in developer Dominic Tonacchio’s building at 370 Fourth Avenue on the border of Gowanus and Park Slope, which is occupied by Hotel Le Bleu. It sold in an all-cash transaction for $10.25 million. Mr. Clifford encouraged his client to renegotiate the master lease to include the entirety of the property and enhance the annual rent.

Mr. Clifford credits Massey Knakal co-founders Paul Massey and Robert Knakal, as well as the other partners, with helping “groom me to be the broker that I am today.”—L.E.S.

Jonathan Butwin (28)

Head, Town Commercial

This Halloween, Jonathan Butwin could be found at a Phish concert in Las Vegas with some friends from SL Green Realty Corp. and Taconic Investment Partners.

Attending Phish concerts is the norm for Mr. Butwin, the head of the newly established commercial division at Town Residential.

After less than two months at Town, he has been hired to exclusively sell an off-market retail building on Madison Avenue in the $40 million range.

“Our focus is going to be in the investment sales business,” he said. “We are trying to sell buildings. A lot of Town brokers have come to me with leads.”

While he is the lone member of Town Commercial, he anticipates two brokers joining him this month.

With so many brokers at Town working with landlords, establishing a commercial arm made sense.

“The idea is to go ahead and add another source of business,” said Mr. Butwin, who was also on last year’s 30 Under 30 list. (Mr. Butwin is the only member of last year’s class that CO decided to repeat. Because, well, when a major real estate outfit decides to open a new commercial arm and it’s headed by a 28-year-old, exceptions are granted.)

Prior to starting at Town, Mr. Butwin was at RKF for six and a half years, where he was a senior analyst on the investment sales team. His deals this year have included representing both the purchasers and sellers in a $23 million deal at 257 Water Street and the $15 million transaction at 63 Spring Street, as well as the $60 million sale of 47-25 34th Street in Long Island City from BLDG Management to Brickman. He also worked on BLDG’s acquisition of the property the year prior.—L.E.S.

Thea Button (25)

Senior Account Associate, Corporate Occupier & Investor Services (CIS)

After graduating early from Trinity College in December 2010, Thea Button was unsure what career she wanted to pursue. Having majored in religion and minored in studio arts, “I did not know what I wanted to do with my life,” Ms. Button explained.

Ms. Button, a New York City native, spent her days interviewing at various companies and tutoring at night. One of the fathers of the children she tutored happened to be a broker in commercial real estate and opened her eyes to the industry.

When an opportunity to be a broker at Cushman & Wakefield presented itself, Ms. Button jumped at it. She immediately distinguished herself; in the first year she was awarded the honor of “Top Gun” as the valedictorian of the firm’s Emerging Broker Diploma Program of 2011.

Ms. Button later transitioned to the firm’s Corporate Occupier & Investor Services department and was designated as Rising Star of the Year for 2012-2013. She now works with several Fortune 500 Companies including some of the giants of the pharmaceutical and telecommunications industries. Ms. Button stressed that she “really does enjoy working [at C&W]” and has had “all sorts of opportunities” at the firm. She sits on the board of the firm’s Future Leaders (C.W.F.L.) New York Chapter and is a co-chair of Artemis, C&W’s New York’s Women’s Business Development Group.— D.S.

Ross Burack (25)

Sales Associate, Winick Realty Group

Ross Burack cited his mentor as the reason he pursued a career in real estate. His mentor also happens to be his brother.

“My brother is nine and a half years older than me, and when I was in high school, I used to intern for my brother at The Jack Parker Corporation,” said Mr. Burack. “I always knew that I wanted to do this.”

Five days after graduating from the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University, he began working at Winick Realty Group. Mr. Burack carved out a niche around Madison Square Park that stretches from NoMad to the Flatiron District; in the past six months alone, he has completed six deals in the area.

“What’s great is we have significantly changed the rents, especially on the side streets,” said Mr. Burack. His faith in the area is so great that when he and his brother began a restaurant chain, Choza Taqueria, the first location opened on 27th Street and Madison Avenue.

Beyond Flatiron, Mr. Burack was also chosen to be part of the team exclusively marketing a prestigious property adjacent to the new Hudson Yards area on behalf of The Related Companies.

Mr. Burack attributes his success to his innate determination. “Nothing is given to you,” he said. “If you want something, you got to pick up the phone. You got to get outside. You have to hustle.” — D.S.

Taryn Brandes (24)

Senior Associate, SCG Retail

Taryn Brandes knew she wanted to be in real estate since she was a kid, driving to Vermont with her father, talking about shopping malls they spotted along the way and why their locations were ideal.

“My dad’s an owner-developer,” Ms. Brandes said. “It was just something I grew up understanding and learning about. He owns suburban properties all over New England.”

But she realized her calling was in a more urban environment.

“I love the action of Manhattan, the retail and the psychology behind co-tenancy,” said Ms. Brandes, who is the youngest member of the ICSC Next Generation committee. “Being in Manhattan on the brokerage side was a good fit.”

She and SCG Retail’s David Firestein exclusively represent Starbucks in Manhattan. They are currently scouting locations for the global coffee giant’s two new concepts, one on the upscale end and the other on the grab-and-go side.

Ms. Brandes has co-represented Sweetgreen in leases at 413 Greenwich Street in Tribeca, 100 Kenmare Street in Nolita and 247 Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg. She is particularly proud to represent the fast casual salad eatery.

“For me it’s significant because I’m part of their beginning in Manhattan,” she said. “It’s been pretty exciting to be part of their initial growth.”

And her good relationship with Sweetgreen led to her representing Mimi Cheng’s Dumplings in its deal at 179 Second Avenue. The eatery recently opened.

Ms. Brandes got her start at Win Properties in Westchester before interning on a leasing team at Acadia Realty Trust while in college. She started at SCG Retail in 2012 immediately upon graduation. — Lauren Elkies Schram