Blanca checks connections in down economy

When Tere Blanca resigned as senior managing director and branch manager of Cushman & Wakefield of Florida to start her own firm earlier this year, some questioned the wisdom of her timing.

Then others saw the writing on the wall. Within weeks, Cushman & Wakefield began eliminating executive positions from its ranks.

Less than eight months after Blanca left Cushman & Wakefield, the commercial real estate entrepreneur has picked up two of Miami’s premier listings — 1450 Brickell in Downtown Miami and One Park Square at Doral. Both listings were previously with Cushman & Wakefield.

Indeed, while many larger brokerages are struggling — CB Richard Ellis lost $6.6 million in the second quarter of 2009 — Blanca Commercial Real Estate appears better able to adapt to changing market conditions. Boutique firms like Blanca don’t have the debt that larger institutional players may have.

“From an operational standpoint, we are able to keep our overhead costs down since our operations are fully scalable,” Blanca said.

Blanca’s firm inked the largest new lease agreement signed in the South Florida office market in 2009 when Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod signed an 80,000-square-foot, 15-year lease at 1450 Brickell. Blanca represented the Rilea Group project.

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“What separates Tere from the pack is her tenacity,” said Hank Klein, an independent broker and former executive director of Cushman & Wakefield Florida, before his position was eliminated. Klein has known Blanca for more than 25 years. “She focuses on getting a deal done with laser beam precision. Tere’s biggest problem is going to be keeping up with the business that’s going to come her way. In order to do that, she’ll have to grow.”

Klein’s insight is telling, since Blanca Commercial Real Estate is now, in essence, a two-woman operation. Danet Linares, formerly senior vice president and director of real estate services for the Foram Group, serves as executive vice president of the firm. But Blanca says she is growing without hiring additional brokers, by forming strategic partnerships.

Blanca’s first is with Darryl Robinson, president of Oak Hill Advisors. Oak Hill will serve as the co-marketing agent for One Park Square, a 51-acre mixed-use development that includes office, retail, hotel and multi-family residential properties.

“[Blanca] knows how to use her relationships to get her foot in the door to present projects,” Robinson said. “She’s dialed into the community.”

Some may look upon her quick success at Blanca Commercial Real Estate as the result of cashing in on the connections she’s made in her nearly 30 years in the commercial real estate industry and community service at organizations like the Beacon Council, an economic development partnership in Miami. But Klein said it’s more about knowing her track record.

“Building owners know Tere can get the job done because they’ve watched her do it over and over again,” Klein said. “She’s not throwing her weight around.”

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