How To Open A Chicago Office From San Diego

SAN DIEGO—Gene Ventura, who, as we recently reported, has joined Faris Lee Investments after a lengthy and successful development career focused on the Midwest, tells you can work from anywhere due to the virtual nature of business today. Ventura is opening Faris Lee’s Chicago office, but also has a focus on the San Diego market since he lives in Rancho Santa Fe, CA. We spoke with him about his accomplishments, his new role with the firm and working remotely.

Ventura: “My role helps expand the company’s wings.”

Ventura: “My role helps expand the company’s wings.” Tell us about your history, accomplishments and connections in the Chicago area.

Ventura: My real estate career started in Chicago in 1989. I was with an old-line organization, Rubloff Inc., a company that, at the time, was considered to be historically the first commercial real estate company in Chicago. It’s definitely one of the most famous commercial developers. Working there was like joining the University of CRE. Most of the significant developers of office, industrial and retail somehow had tentacles coming out of Rubloff. It was an amazing place to start my career. I was in office leasing, in the tenant-rep business.

After a couple of years, I went to work with Goldie B. Wolfe, the first woman CRE broker. She was considered one of the leading trailblazers for women in CRE. She was at that time one of Rubloff’s top producers. There were about four or five of us who worked closely with her, and we formed our own little team within a very large organization. We decided to break off and move with her in what would be deemed a boutique office tenant-rep company. She built a name for herself and her own company.

I started to have a desire to work toward office development. At the time, I came across some development opportunities, and the door opened for me to join Development Resources in order to get into the office-development business. It was a career switch for me, and it turned out to be a really good move. I got to do leasing and marketing and be a partner. I built two spec office buildings in Chicago that today would be unheard of the way we did it with our partners. We grew from an unknown to one of leading developers in Downtown Chicago, each of the partners with our own expertise.

I saw opportunities to buy land and figure out my next path in life: retail development. I started building retail developments and buying land at great prices at the time and developed a fast-growing part of the Midwest with name-brand tenants that had never been there. I built three Starbucks centers, a freestanding Best Buy and built up about 100,000 square feet of retail with my own team. Once the inventory established itself, I started selling and monetizing the assets. I established a relationship with Faris Lee and Jeff Conover out of an office in Del Mar, CA. I got to see how the company worked and was impressed with how close it was to how I worked: a boutique, focused, sales-only type organization with incredible marketing and backup on data and making sure assets were marketed correctly. This relationship went on for years.

Then, I felt I was missing the transactional side of the business. Being a developer can be feast or famine, and I started thinking of who I wanted to do this with and called Jeff Conover. And here I am. Hopefully, they’re seeing things I can leverage due to my multidimensional background of building, leasing and repping almost every facet of the industry. I bring a toolbox they didn’t have before. I will open the Chicago office, which is going back to my original roots—I still have an Illinois broker’s license.

I moved to California in 2006/2007, and my wife was also raised in the Midwest. We have a daughter, and the move was for our daughter to have a different lifestyle. We sold our home and moved to Rancho Santa Fe, and I was able to do everything from Del Mar for the Midwest. You can be anywhere due to the virtual nature of business. What do you hope to accomplish in your new role?

Ventura: I see my new role being a leadership role, seeing things from a different perspective. The world is changing very fast. Real estate and how it’s being used is changing fast. It used to be dimensionally segmented, but we’re in a dynamic change now with the Millennial generation, the way retail spaces are either working or not working. Certain big boxes are not making it. Because I’ve seen everything from the broker to the owner/developer perspective, it allows me to really communicate better with the client, whether buyer or seller. Today, decisions aren’t as easy to make. With office, you need to think about location; with retail, to whom will you lease? Everything is changing quickly, and nobody has all the right answers, but being able to see so many different parts of the industry, I can use my experiences to help the company and clients.

Faris Lee has one of the best support organizations I’ve ever seen, from a marketing and database standpoint and what they can offer the client. They are the best of the best—a Navy Seal-type team. This company doesn’t just have to be a retail company; they can do office and industrial, and I can expand that horizon for them in other parts of the industry. What else should our readers know about your move to Faris Lee?

Ventura: They do a tremendous amount of business in the Midwest; the Chicago office will be at 200 W. Madison, which puts a flag in the ground that they do have a Midwest presence. My role helps expand the company’s wings. Midwest is a great market, and Faris Lee is excited to have an office in Chicago.


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