Nestled in the heart of the North Shore, the Corporate Center of Northbrook office park located at 1033 and 1101 Skokie Boulevard in Northbrook Illinois offers high quality buildings that are six stories with granite and reflective glass curtain walls and a two-story marble-clad lobby. A beautifully landscaped courtyard with outdoor seating connects the buildings, while polished granite doors lead to each building’s elevator lobbies. This property is not only the 2016 Regional TOBY Award Winner, but they have been repeatedly awarded the Midwest Region Management Excellence Award for JLL which recognizes operations compliance, innovation, energy initiatives, and savings obtained at the properties.
Ariel Fuller: How long have you been in the industry as a property manager?
Barbara Liebers: I have been in the property management field since 1993. I hold an MBA from Duke University in Finance and a BBA from the University of Michigan Business School in Accounting. As a licensed real estate broker I tried to incorporate the financial realm of real estate with the operational side, which led to becoming a property manager with LaSalle Partners now known as JLL. When the property manager for the Corporate Center of Northbrook decided to relocate to the City in 2007, I assumed responsibility for the Corporate Center of Northbrook team in addition to the team I was already managing in the area. I then elevated the roles of my team members and we now oversee a multi-asset portfolio in Northbrook.
AF: Tell me about the operational structure of the Corporate Center of Northbrook?
BL: Lane Industries, Inc. developed two Class A office buildings very specific to this market totaling 255,837 square feet that sits on 15.38 beautifully landscaped acres enhancing the appearance of the area in the community. The site offers great locational advantages and corporate visibility in order to attract high end tenants. Our philosophy is to be proactive, provide top of the line amenities and service, and intrigue tenant’s clients when they walk in. We always try to be one step ahead with state of the art technology. We have to ensure that we have all the Class A amenities available to the ten-ants such as a full service sustainable café, the conference center with the latest technology and teleconference, a reserved heated parking garage, and an updated ἀtness center.
AF: As the Regional TOBY Award winner, what encouraged you to enter the contest?
BL: Prior to entering the Corporate Center of Northbrook complex for the TOBY award, I was very active in BOMA and I participated as a judge at the local level. I then judged at both the Regional and National Level level so that I could participate with BOMA and also learn about the program. It was such a rewarding process and it was very enjoyable to meet other property teams in the region and learn about their buildings. As a property team, we were always on the forefront before entering the TOBY. For example, I did a LEED gap assessment to ensure op-erational sustainability and observed our energy reduction to drive down ex-penses, reduce energy, and our carbon footprint. One of the ideas generated from the assessment was the installa-tion of duel electric charging stations to enhance our amenities package as one of the ἀrst buildings to do so. Now, many properties have followed suit. We have also been on the forefront of recycling and green cleaning where we established a goal of obtaining at least 40% of all office supplies containing 10% post-consumer material. All landscaping waste is sent to offsite composting facilities by our landscaping vendor. Organic fertilizers such as compost are used when available. Practical, native or adaptive plant species are used to minimize irrigation, fertilization and maintenance. In addition, all rain water and run off goes to a retention pond and then to the Skokie Lagoons.We also looked closely at our tenant relations and our community impact to ensure that we were doing things that aligned with the TOBY. We would make modifications as needed to our yearly outlook plan. Some of our key accomplishments include a High Tenant Satisfaction score — 4.6 on 5.0 scale, and tenant retention — where we are currently 99% leased. Our focus during the past few years has been involvement in community events which benefit family wellness and youth services.
AF: Tell me about your leadership approach with your team?
BL: I have a dual role within our company as a general manager of two management teams in Northbrook. I have strong assistant property managers, such as Anna Van Dyck, who is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Corporate Center of Northbrook, and has over 31 years of real estate experience. In her role, she oversees and manages building contracts, property personnel, and functions as the liaison amongst the property team, tenants, and vendors. She is the central point of the team. I also act as a group manager for JLL in the suburbs and oversee other teams in Oakbrook, O’Hare, and Milwaukee. By overseeing multiple teams, it allows us to share practices between our properties and ensure consistency across our portfolios. JLL does regional cost effective bids leveraging purchase power through the bidding process for all of our portfolios in the region, which translates into savings for our client and tenants. My role can be very busy, but my longevity at JLL stems from my enjoyment with the amazing people I work with! We are collaborative and all work toward one main goal, which is to give tenants and client’s confidence that the asset is getting the full attention of the best talent, and the best resources the industry has to offer. We continuously strive to be innovative to ensure the buildings are “best in class” by reducing risk, improving tenant retention, enhancing long term asset values, and reducing operating expenses.
AF: What is next for the property within the near future?
BL: We would like to pursue LEED certification in 2017. We still have a few struggles with transportation which is typical in the suburbs, but we will address that as part of our plan. With technology, we want to continue to be on the forefront. I also review what our properties are doing downtown, and try to translate some of the programs to our suburban properties. For example, we currently do not have a wifi lounge and realize we may have a need for that. In addition, our client was looking for real time updates for leasing. With JLL’s recent conversion to an updated accounting platform for the financial reporting, we were then able to incorporate the Hightower technology platform to address the leasing needs. Lastly, we are looking to retro-commission our building so that we can operate the buildings more efficiently.