Blog: Marilyn Nix, Rachele Downs, & Jumana Judeh

Marilyn P. Nix
Marilyn is the 2011 chapter president of CREW Detroit. She is also senior vice president for Troy-based Compass Commercial. She previously served as director of strategic facilities planning for General Motors Corporation.

Rachele Downs
Rachele is director of corporate relations for the United Way of Southeastern Michigan and is the immediate past president of CREW Detroit.

Jumana Judeh
Jumana is president and CEO of Dearborn-based Judeh and Associates, a real estate appraisal and consulting firm providing real property market valuation for property taxes, asset management, property management, corporate repositioning and probate. She is a Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) and holds the prestigious designation of MAI from the Appraisal Institute, which represents the real estate industry's leading commercial and general valuation professionals.

Jumana holds a Master of Arts degree in industrial relations from Wayne State University and a Bachelor of Science degree in management from Purdue University. She is also a graduate of Leadership Detroit's XXVI class.

Marilyn Nix, Rachele Downs, & Jumana Judeh - Most Recent Posts:

Jumana Judeh: A Woman’s Place…Is in Detroit’s Transformation thinking of Detroit, the first thought that comes to mind is transformation - which by default deals with real estate.  Detroit can't reform back to what it used to be. The city needs to transform into a tightly organized, cohesive unit that attracts and welcomes global business.  While the region's history is engrained in local and home-grown success, our future must be much bigger than that if we are going to grow and sustain meaningful development and a vibrant corporate community. For businesses to come into the city, they need space that meets their demands, whether it is in design or cost.  For Detroit real estate to be attractive to global business, it needs new ideas, expertise, urgency, team work and innovation.  No longer can individual experts work in silos as has been the tradition.  Everyone needs to be at the table in the beginning to better serve and meet the needs of the global world.   

This new concept is exactly what has been the most recent discussion among the Detroit Chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW).  These real estate professionals are constantly brainstorming about different ways to meet the changing needs of the business world.  The CREW team, about 120 members strong, includes real estate professionals representing all facets of this field – architects, engineers, bankers, lawyers, appraisers, environmentalists, developers and more.  The energy that exists in the room when these women come together to discuss commercial real estate is beyond description.  No one is quiet.  Everyone has an opinion.  And everyone has the experience and the will to make things happen.

Whether it is right or wrong, society raises women differently, which actually gives us an advantage in the business of customer service.  No one is better than a woman to find creative ways of making things happen in a constantly changing environment.  As women, we are quick to take stock of what is happening, who are the players, and what do they need, then developing a strategy that can successfully meet those needs.

Global business is new to Detroit, at least at the level it exists today.  These business owners need someone to understand their different ways of doing business.  They will not be coerced into a box of traditional space.  Having ONE team to meet all their demands from site location to design to construction to moving is the most efficient and least expensive path.

I have been lucky to work on several transformation projects within the city, especially those in Midtown.  I have seen old abandoned industrial buildings transformed into exciting lofts on the upper floors and retail on the first with some mixture of office space.  I have seen investors take the necessary risk to transform their small area of Detroit.  I have seen developers look at dilapidated neighborhoods on the East Side and see opportunity.

Business goes where it is welcome and stays where it is nurtured. No place in the world has greater ability to welcome global business and provide the necessary tools for growth than Detroit.  We have the land, the buildings, the brain power, and the willingness and ability to serve.

Rachele Downs: What’s so Striking about the Detroit Revitalization Fellowship Program? attraction and retention is a key issue facing Michigan from an economic development standpoint.  Together with the Kresge and Hudson Webber Foundations, Wayne State University is leading one of the most exciting talent attraction initiatives I've ever seen locally, with the launch of the Detroit Revitalization Fellowship Program.

Modeled after a similar program offered after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the Detroit Revitalization Fellowship Program seeks to develop a cohort of 25-30 mid-career professionals with advanced degrees in urban planning, public policy or administration, business and law, with relevant urban revitalization experience in real estate and community, business and economic development to commit two years to the revitalization of Detroit.  Upon employment and acceptance, Fellows will participate in programming that combines full-time employment with leadership development education, professional coaching and mentoring, and networking opportunities.  

Upon reading about the program, I reached out to  my fellow Leadership Detroit classmate, Dr. Ahmad Ezzeddine, who is spearheading the initiative, to invite the Fellows to participate as members in Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Detroit. Such membership will  provide immediate access to 130 commercial real estate professionals employed in a wide range of disciplines throughout the region. Dr. Ezzeddine agreed it was a fantastic opportunity to quickly integrate Fellows into the Detroit real estate community.  

Through their individual and collective efforts, the Detroit Revitalization Fellows will have an opportunity to make a real difference in the city and its transformation. 648 candidates applied for the 25-30 spots that were available.  Wow that's a story in of and of itself!  These candidates, many of whom attended the best schools in the country and have significant professional experience, are willing to uproot their families and move to, or back to, Detroit.  I was privileged to serve on the final selection committee and was heartened to see the breadth and depth of talent from across the country and in some instances, from around the world, that was competing for a chance to make their mark on Detroit. Perhaps this is because, as my urban planning friend and fellow CREW Detroit member Sarah Pavelko tells me, Detroit has become a planning industry "mecca of sorts".  

Fellows will be working in the trenches, exposed to the challenges and opportunities economic development and urban revitalization present, including planning and financing for an adaptable, sustainable and resilient city, and how to attract, retain and grow new economy businesses.

As a long time real estate investment and community development professional, it's exciting to see seasoned professionals from across the country, who see what I see: that we have an unprecedented opportunity to re-position ourselves and take advantage of all the assets that are the positive legacy of being the Motor City – the technology, higher education, healthcare and advanced manufacturing infrastructure that will allow us to re-imagine and reclaim our region as an industry leader in several fields.  Sustainability, green technology and manufacturing, the creative industry, medical research…the possibilities are endless!

What makes this program even more exciting is the collaborative model upon which it is founded.  Wayne State, Kresge and Hudson-Webber Foundations, together with government, business and non-profit organizations like CREW Detroit are coming together, just as the Fellows are coming together, to build and support this "brain trust".  I can't wait to see the progress that will undoubtedly develop as this collaboration takes root.

Marilyn Nix: A CREW of women in commercial real estate area real estate is a big topic these days.  Everyone knows how the value of their home has decreased and that there is excess commercial and industrial space due to the lost jobs in this region.  One thing you may not know about real estate in the Detroit area, however, is that there is an organization called CREW Detroit that is made up of primarily women in commercial real estate and that is celebrating its 25-year anniversary this year.  Not only might you wonder if there are enough women in the commercial real estate business to have their own organization, you may be surprised that the group has been thriving for 25 years!  CREW Detroit is the local chapter and founding member of CREW Network, a national organization with 74 chapters in the U.S. and Canada and over 8,000 members.  Our organization is dedicated to influencing the success of the commercial real estate industry by advancing the achievements of women.  

We began the Detroit chapter three years before the national organization to bring together capable women that had a desire to succeed in the Detroit commercial real estate field despite being in a male dominated profession.  They believed in education and networking, building on each other's strengths to learn the business and be successful.  Today CREW Detroit has over 120 members and is an active, vibrant organization with members from all segments of the commercial real estate field.  We have appraisers, developers, brokers, builders, attorneys, economic development representatives, accountants, architects, title experts, environmental engineers, surveyors, and move specialists.  We like to say we have the people to do the transaction from A to Z.  This cross-functionality of our organization makes it a great place for networking as our members can always find others to make their team more complete.  Examples of recent projects involving CREW Detroit members include the Book Cadillac, Henry Ford Hospital West Bloomfield, the RiverWalk Conservancy, Eastern Market, and the Dequindre Cutway.  

I am proud to be the 2011 Chapter President of CREW Detroit.  2011 has already been an exciting year for CREW Detroit and we have more planned for the balance of the year as we celebrate our 25-year anniversary.  In March we announced our Woman's Advisory Board that boasts some of Southeast Michigan's most influential women business leaders.  In April we held our fourth annual CREW Careers Building Opportunities event at Quicken Loans in Detroit.  Twenty-four girls from the GoLightly Technical Education Center in Detroit participated in learning about different careers in real estate and completing a development project challenge on the old Hudson's site in Detroit.  

On September 22nd we will hold our 10th Annual CREW Impact Awards at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills.  This sell-out event honors properties with a positive impact on a 10-county area of southeast Michigan.  A prestigious panel of judges will recognize one new development, one redevelopment, and one special impact project.  Entries are now being taken so there’s still time to get your project in. In October we are planning our 25th Anniversary celebration dinner.  Our keynote speaker will be Senator Debbie Stabenow.  More information about CREW Detroit is available here.

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