Amira Yunis, the former model who turned to real estate and became one of the city’s top-performing retail brokers over her two-decade career, has died after an eight-year battle with cancer. She was 51.
Born in a small town in Minnesota, Yunis worked as a model and a waitress in a Queens sports bar as a single mother before breaking into the male-dominated field of retail brokerage, joining Newmark in 2000. In 2006, she won the REBNY Ingenious Deal of the Year Award for helping New York University bring Manhattan’s first Trader Joe’s to Union Square.
By then one of Newmark’s top retail brokers, she became the first female principal in Newmark’s New York office, building a reputation for reeling in major national and international brands seeking to plant a flag in Manhattan. Her jump to CBRE in 2011, shortly after Newmark was acquired by BGC Partners, made waves in the industry.
Yunis attributed much of her success to her skill at deciphering the opaque retail market — and not waiting for spaces to become vacant before pouncing.
“Typically, good retail areas have very low vacancy rates,” she told the New York Times in 2012. “Finding out who owns which buildings, who are the decision makers and when leases come due can be very hard to figure out,” she said, adding that 35 percent of her deals have been for spaces that were never officially on the market.
In 2013, Yunis was diagnosed with sarcoma in her hip bone. After treatment, she was in remission for five years before the cancer reappeared in her heart in 2018. Then last year, she was diagnosed with a glioma in her brain.
In the years since her initial diagnosis, Yunis became active in the Sarcoma Foundation of America as a board member and fundraiser, and in 2014 received the Stand Up to Sarcoma Courage Award.
She died of the disease in early September, according to a statement from the SFA.
“We are deeply saddened at the passing of our dear friend and colleague Amira Yunis,” CBRE’s Matt Van Buren said in a statement provided to Commercial Observer. “The courage, determination and grace with which Amira carried on throughout her battle was most admirable. We wish Amira’s family our deepest condolences.”
Yunis is survived by her husband, Dudley Hancox, three stepchildren and her son, Anthony.
[Real Estate Weekly] — Bill Egbert