SFBW and JC White Host Panel Discussion on Tenant Representation

Discover tips on how to move your business and minimize the pain.

SFBW partnered with JC White, a commercial interior design and architectural interior products supplier, for a panel discussion on tenant representation. Tenant representatives, who are paid for by the landlord, help businesses find the right space and execute a plan to move in and build it out. They work with vendors like JC White to provide the right furnishings and even wall systems that can be outfitted with technology systems.

Pilar Illueca, a director with VVA Project and Cost Managers, gave a succinct explanation of why a business would want to use a tenant rep: “I think there’s three things people don’t want to do in life: divorce, die or move. We at least make the move as painless as possible.”

How is that done? “Plan, plan, plan,” she says. Tenant reps, who are sometime called project managers, extract information from clients early on to avoid changing plans during construction, which can best costly.

Ryan Sharpe, senior VP of Sharpe Project Developments, says, “Without a plan, you’re planning to fail, and I think one of the most common things we see with our clients is an attempt to save costs at the beginning of the project by not bringing on the contractor, the appropriate consultants and owners rep or project manager. Although it’s a greater expense at the beginning, it ends up saving the client a tremendous amount of headache, time and money later down the line.”

Jason Hagopian, president of architectural firm Neuvio, says people watch shows on HGTV and can think projects aren’t very complicated, since an episode can last 30 minutes. Costs and budgets need to be set up front, so he spends a lot of time educating clients.

Abel Varughese, a VP at Sharpe, says it’s important for clients to find a tenant rep who will stand their ground. “Sometimes, you’re the bearer of bad news. You have to be real with them.” That’s better than delivering bad news later on.

Architect Stacey Boynton, president of NOMA South Florida, says architects also play a key role to guide clients through projects and are the best liaison between the developer and the general contractor.

Liza Perry, a project manager with CBRE, says, “I see project managers as the people putting all of the puzzle pieces together. We’re all working for the client at the end of the day, but we have the architect, we have the interior designer, we have the furniture people, we have the general contractor, we have the landlord, we have the city doing permits, we have the low voltage people, we have the AV people, we have the IT people, there’s so many people involved that are under our scope.”

How to Move Your Business

AJ Belt, a managing director at Cushman and Wakefield, says tenant reps need to be used early in the process, because they help clients identify the right building and the right space or even a complete renovation of existing space.

Danielle Vennett, a director with Avison Young, says look to the future.

“There has to be a conversation that it’s not just about what is happening in your world today. Let’s talk about the three- and five-year plan, so that we can make sure that the space continues to grow and mature with you and your company.”

If you need flexibility for future growth, that can drive some of the leasing decisions.

Bell says part of a tenant rep’s role is negotiating with the landlord on a tenant improvement allowance that can be applied to construction costs.

If you are not starting the process 18 months before a lease expires, you might be running late and if it’s under a year, “you’re somewhat under the gun.”

Abel Varughese of Sharpe, says, “We have a client I’m working with right now and we just toured all of Miami between Brickell and Wynwood for their future office space and that’s really helpful. We’ve got a short list and we’re doing a comparison and a study of what is it going to cost to go into each of these spaces.”

It would be impossible for JC White to do its job in helping customers without tenant reps, says Mark Feltingoff, CEO of JC White, who owns the company with his wife, Sharon, who is president.

JC White has a stunning new showroom that benefitted from the right process, except for one glitch, he notes. “We made one mistake. We didn’t hire the tenant rep early. We didn’t realize what the cost was to drop a ceiling down from 40 feet high. It was a learning lesson on my part, but it’s a pleasure to work with the trusted advisor and the professionals in this room.”

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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky



Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.