Incoming Trammell Crow COO Adam Weers Talks Promotion, COVID Fallout, DC Development

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Trammell Crow Company, a real estate development, investment and property management firm that is a subsidiary of CBRE Group, has promoted Adam Weers to chief operating officer effective April 1, when the company’s current COO, Mike Duffy, will retire.

Weers is a principal in the company’s Washington, D.C., office, and has led key development projects in his nine years with Trammell Crow and 15 years in the industry.

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For instance, he oversees the McMillan Campus for Advancement of Health and Wellness, a 1 million-square-foot component of the multi-phased, mixed-use redevelopment of the McMillan Sand Filtration Site in Washington; and the 1.5 million-square-foot Northeast Heights, a multi-phase, residential, retail and office development in D.C.’s Ward 7. 

In his new role, Weers will help manage Trammell Crow’s investment approval and executive committee processes, as well as other aspects of the firm’s day-to-day business, such as its technology, communications and marketing.

In an exclusive interview, Weers talked to Commercial Observer about his upcoming role and Trammell Crow’s strategy in 2021.

Commercial Observer: With Mike Duffy retiring, and you stepping into the role of COO, what is the transition plan between now and April 1?

Adam Weers: My primary focus right now is to spend a lot of time with Mike, and I am doing the best I can to learn from him. There’s a good bit of Mike and I talking, and understanding how he does the things he does and what the role entails. I am shadowing him and participating in everything he does with him to take full advantage of that time. 

What are you hoping to learn from him in these four months?

I just want to soak up as much as what Mike has been able to bring to the job as possible. He has been a phenomenal chief operating officer and has done a really great job, and, in many ways, he’s helped elevate a lot of parts of the position, and has played a key role in the success of our company. It’s a very big job and I want to learn as much as I can from him. 

There’s a lot to learn about how you work across different markets, how do you help manage the entire platform, and how do you do all that in an efficient way. I also think it’s clear already that setting priorities and making sure I’m doing a good job of focusing on the right things is something he and I talk about regularly.

How would you characterize the responsibilities of your new position?

I am borrowing from Ann Sperling, who is a friend and a senior leader in our firm out in the Denver office, who, for a time, was the COO of the Americas for JLL. As she put it to me, my job is about people, process and platform. 

The people component of it is an integral part of Trammell Crow Company’s success, that we attract and retain talent in the industry. That’s a big part of my focus and a big part of this job. It’s one that requires constant attention, because we always need to be working on it and improving on it. If we are going to maintain the leadership position we have in our industry today, we need to be committed to attract the best talent out there.

Process is maybe not the most exciting part, but the internal processes that the very talented developers we have in the field do in their jobs every day. I think of my job as being how we can optimize, improve, and update those processes on a consistent basis. For me, that means helping people to do their job better, removing points of friction if there are any, and also encouraging the culture that we have at Trammell Crow Company already, which is very much about collaboration.

The platform part is that we are a wholly owned subsidiary of CBRE, and that is a tremendous blessing to be part of the largest and most successful commercial real estate platform in the world, and there’s a lot of resources we have access to; and I think a big part of my job is making sure our team and the people in our field have a successful way to get access to as many of those resources as they can to help them do their job better.

We’re about a year into the pandemic. How has it impacted the company overall?

We went from a work environment that was very much in-person, open office and very collaborative to instantly [be] distributed, and that’s different. And, now, to be something of a hybrid, with some in-person and some remote, and that is definitely a challenge. It is leading us to lean in on more communication and more touch points, but that’s hard. It’s part of the new world we are adapting to. In some ways, we are doing really well; in others, we are struggling with the same thing that every organization in the world is struggling with.

How has COVID changed the landscape of the D.C. market and Trammell Crow Company’s strategy for the year ahead? 

We are seeing certain parts of our platform and portfolio having different levels of activity right now. Our industrial platform is significantly more active now than it was pre-COVID. There are parts of the platform doing a whole lot more, and other parts that are not seeing that same level of activity. I’m not sure that results in a change of strategy for us, because we are still operating in the same markets and chasing after the best opportunities in those markets. We have an intentionally diverse platform and a suite of product types we operate in. That’s not going to change.

Looking at the portfolio, what are some of the developments that are active that you are excited about for 2021? Specifically, in D.C.? 

I will admit that I have a bias for the mid-Atlantic office because I’ve spent so much time here. I’m not going to have the view today that I will have in a few months from the national platform. But, looking at the mid-Atlantic platform, one of them is the McMillan redevelopment. It’s something I spent a lot of time on, and it’s been a long road. But we are at the precipice of getting started. It’s a phenomenal project and one of the largest health care and life sciences projects in our entire portfolio, and it’s something we are very excited about starting in 2021.

Another is the Northeast Heights development, which is at the intersection of Minnesota and Benning Road, which we are working on with Cedar Realty Trust. The first phase of it is very exciting, because the District’s Department of General Services is moving from the Reeves Center over to Northeast Heights. That is an office development, which is interesting in 2021, and we’ll be starting construction in the next few months. And it’s 240,000 square feet, so it’s a very sizable office development.

There have been some other changes announced recently by Trammell Crow Company, with Mike Lafitte being named CEO and Matt Khourie transitioning into the new role of chief investment officer of real estate investments for CBRE. How do you expect to work collaboratively with them? 

In some ways, I think we get to continue things that have already been happening. With Mike Lafitte moving into the CEO position, he’s been the CEO of our real estate investments group for a while and, thus, has been in close communication and contact with our whole executive committee. So, he’s not a new face; he’s just going to be looking at things a little differently.

I’m really the newest face of the group, which is kind of fun. I’ve been working with the whole executive committee team since the third quarter of last year when we started talking about this. A lot of ways, for me, it’s about learning as much as I can from them because it’s an incredibly talented team. These guys have done incredible things and are an amazing group of seasoned and talented professionals. There is a strong bond amongst the executive team which is really awesome. 

What are you looking forward to most about starting the job on April 1? 

It’s going to be a learning experience, and I am a nerd, so I am eager for new experiences that teach me lots of things, and that’s what this is going to be. One of the things I am excited about doing and hopeful to do, is to be able to use the experience I have and the perspective I have — someone who has been in the field for 15 years, worked in the mid-Atlantic office and done development, and bringing that perspective to the COO role. That can help me bring something unique, and make sure everything I do is done in service of the field and do it better. 

I’ve spent a good amount of the last 10 years at Trammell Crow Company working on our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, and I am eager to continue that focus. It’s something that has increasingly been a point of focus for us as a whole company, and is something that is personally important to me, and I am excited about having that be a priority as well.