Open Impact and JLL Partner to Hunt for Nonprofit Deals

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Three-year-old brokerage Open Impact Real Estate and industry giant JLL (JLL) have formed an alliance, Commercial Observer has learned.

Open Impact co-founders Lindsay Ornstein and Stephen Powers signed an agreement to become JLL’s “exclusive WBE [women-owned business enterprise] partner in the tri-state region,” a spokesperson for JLL said in a statement.

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Longtime partners Ornstein and Powers departed Transwestern in 2021 to set up their own shop, and the duo have carved out a niche arranging deals for nonprofits in New York City. Open Impact recently brokered deals for a charter school in Queens, the nonprofit food pantry West Side Campaign Against Hunger and a Latter-day Saints congregation that rented space from another church on the Upper West Side.

The brokerage initially maintained ties with Transwestern, but that will end now that it has switched its allegiance to JLL, according to spokespeople for JLL and Transwestern. 

“Earlier this year, Transwestern made the decision to end its affiliation agreement with Open Impact Real Estate and we wish their team well,” Transwestern’s east region head, Bruce Ford, said in a statement. 

Open Impact has already rebranded its website to announce its “national affiliation” with JLL.

Now, the relationship between the woman-owned start-up and a much bigger fish could be quite symbiotic since Open Impact’s WBE status opens the door for JLL to bid on contracts with city agencies, hospital groups, higher education and other clients looking to do business with companies owned by women and minorities to meet legal or voluntary benchmarks.

“This should be a beneficial arrangement for everybody,” Ornstein said. “It gives both of our firms the opportunity to partner on large corporate transactions where being intentional about hiring choices matters and the diverse partners they bring in is a priority.” 

Open Impact will team with JLL’s nonprofit practice, headed by David Carlos, to source deals, and the partnership will be a “true differentiator” for JLL, Peter Riguardi, JLL’s New York chair, said in a statement.

“We not only enhance our service offerings but also reaffirm our commitment to nurturing inclusive growth and empowering women in leadership positions within the commercial real estate industry,” Riguardi said in the statement.

Ornstein brings a bit of marketing prowess to Open Impact thanks to her early career experience in the marketing division of real estate advisory firm The Staubach Company. But she decided to pivot to real estate two decades ago, and hasn’t looked back, she said.

“I had the realization that if I can do marketing with something else that I really love and am passionate about, that would be the right path for me,” Ornstein said. “And that thing I loved was real estate. I’ve always been interested in architecture and design, creating community and having an impact on our city.” 

Powers, for his part, is one of New York’s foremost experts on nonprofit commercial real estate deals, having devoted 20 years to nonprofit clients looking to grow in the five boroughs. Often, that means helping them take advantage of tax breaks the state makes available to nonprofit firms.

Open Impact says it has completed more than 20 million square feet of deals focusing on nonprofits and other mission-driven clients since it was founded.

Abigail Nehring can be reached at anehring@commercialobserver.com.