Madison Marquette has welcomed Arvind Bajaj as a managing director of Madison Marquette Property Investments (MMPI), an investment arm for the firm.

The move is part of a strategic effort by Madison Marquette to grow and broaden its reach. Bajaj will be building Madison’s investment capabilities in MMPI’s New York office in close collaboration with Madison Marquette’s national investment team at the company’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., and in its San Francisco and Los Angeles offices.

He will focus on expanding the firm’s investment management business, both in terms of new acquisition opportunities as well as originating and working with new capital partners.

With more than 20 years of commercial real estate experience in New York, London and Los Angeles, Bajaj is best known for his 10-year stint at Morgan Stanley, where he was one of the founding members of the investment bank’s U.S. CMBS lending conduit unit, ultimately running European CMBS distribution for the bank.

Bajaj also served as managing principal with Blackstone’s Park Hill Real Estate Group, and before that was a managing director with Credit Suisse in London, where he headed the firm’s European CMBS origination and distribution. Most recently, Bajaj served as executive vice president at Lightstone.

In addition to Bajaj’s appointment, Madison Marquette has appointed Ryan Colbert as a director of investments. Colbert brings eight years of real estate private equity experience to his new role at MMPI, serving most recently as a vice president at Lightstone. Prior to Lightstone, Colbert worked at Madison International Realty and WP Carey.

NREI spoke to Arvind Bajaj about what he learned during his tenure at Morgan Stanley and what the future holds for Madison Marquette.

An edited transcript of that interview follows.

NREI: What's the most important issue facing the commercial real estate investment industry right now?

Arvind Bajaj: The biggest issue is finding appropriate risk-weighted investments in an uncertain, volatile world. The last five years have redefined the commercial real estate investment business and our economic recovery is tepid at best. The uncertainty of the real estate investment market has made investors justifiably risk averse.

There are substantial opportunities now in the marketplace for organizations and investors who have vision and strong capitalization. Global investors view U.S. real estate as a solid investment thesis—it provides relative value and a stable investing environment. Well located—urban, dense, in-fill—real estate remains an attractive investment asset. Given the future uncertain macro factors, investments have to be able to withstand potential continued economic uncertainty. Having a fortress location is the key.

NREI: What do you plan to do about those issues at Madison Marquette?

Arvind Bajaj: One of the key Madison Marquette competitive advantages is our long history and our broad footprint. What attracted me to Madison Marquette is the firm’s long-term thinking and deep relationships. Madison Marquette is marking its 20th anniversary this year. But for many years before that, our parent company—Capital Guidance—has been investing in real estate in both the United States and other parts of the world. In the U.S., we have a broad footprint—with 10 offices and over 250 employees.

My partners are all senior real estate professionals with long careers and deep relationships. As a management team, we have been through previous cycles. We see things that others don't. Our access to local market knowledge helps us mitigate risk. We have access to proprietary transaction flow. We are very risk averse and we care greatly about our fiduciary duty to our investors.

NREI: What major challenge that you faced during your 10-year stint at Morgan Stanley do you feel significantly contributed to your professional skills and expertise?

Arvind Bajaj: I joined the Morgan Stanley New York City office in 1994 as a senior associate. My job was to process, underwrite and analyze potential real estate investments. In 2002, I was based in London and focused on originating CMBS loans and transactions. As you will recall, the markets encountered some uncertainty. In retrospect, it was very minor compared to 2008 standards! Nevertheless, there were capital market issues and tenant demand decreased. U.K. vacancy rates spiked. There was a lot of uncertainty, and we were not able to sell our loan positions.

The firm asked me to move from originating loans to distributing CMBS to the end buyer. The rationale was for me, as a “creator” of CMBS to share my property and loan level knowledge and experience with CMBS investor side. I became Morgan Stanley’s European CMBS product specialist and I was able to explain and dissect European CMBS—both the advantages and disadvantages—to a global investor base.

We were successful in our investor outreach and indeed the markets recovered. The real clients of the CMBS business were the CMBS investors—not borrowers and property owners. That investor-focused approach was crucial. That thinking is even more relevant in the 2012 real estate private equity markets. At Madison Marquette, we think—on a daily basis—what we can and should be doing for our investors. The real estate investment management industry is all about acting as a fiduciary and being transparent with investors.

NREI: Madison Marquette is known for revitalizing urban areas. Urban centers are becoming more desirable for people to live in; according to the United Nations, in 2008, for the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population was living in towns and cities. How can the commercial real estate industry in the U.S. continue to respond to this trend?

Arvind Bajaj: Firms have to approach urban real estate in a different manner. They have to get deeply involved in the community in a very targeted way and they have to connect with the consumer. A cookie cutter, standard national programmatic strategy simply will not work. Real estate firms have to apply a community-specific approach. Each urban area is unique. The demand drivers in New York City are different from those in San Francisco: Finance versus tech.

Two New Pros at Cassidy Turley

Cassidy Turley has added two new senior team members to its New York brokerage group.

Robert Yaffa has been named executive managing director, principal and Wayne Van Aken is now vice president.

Yaffa will focus on tenant representation, space disposition and strategic planning. He once won REBNY’s Most Ingenious Deal Award for his work with U.S. Customs. Most recently he was executive managing director at Grubb & Ellis.

Van Aken will support existing client account growth and the pursuit of new business. He has focused on tenant representation, specifically in Midtown South, where he has closed more than 1.1 million sq. ft. of transactions. Prior to Cassidy Turley, he was managing director at Grubb & Ellis.

New CFO at Terra

Terra Capital Partners has brought on Gregory Pinkus as chief financial officer.

Pinkus most recently served as corporate controller of the real estate investment firm W.P. Carey & Co., where he directed the accounting for an $11 billion global real estate portfolio and the operations of the advisor.

Prior to W.P. Carey, Pinkus served as controller and vice president of finance for several early-stage technology companies, managed large-scale IT budgets at New York Life Insurance Co. and oversaw an international reporting group at Bank of America.

Szady Joins Newmark Grubb Knight Frank

Brokerage professional Kenneth J. Szady has joined Newmark Grubb Knight Frank Capital Group as executive managing director in the firm’s Chicago office.

Szady specializes in representing institutional clients throughout the Midwest. In March, he closed the largest 2012 industrial transaction to date in the U.S., a 1.35-million-sq.-ft. build-to-suit facility for The Clorox Co. in University Park, Ill., on behalf of an institutional client. Over his career, Szady has a total of $7.2 billion in closed transactions, accomplished across 21 states in 46 cities.

Prior to joining Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, Szady was with Cushman & Wakefield as an executive director and head of capital markets, representing institutional, corporate and private clients in the acquisition and disposition of properties throughout the Central United States.

Hunt Hires SVP, Promotes Two Execs

Hunt Companies Inc. has hired a senior vice president to handle the firm’s military housing investments.

Craig Sands will work for Hunt’s affiliate, Hunt Investment Management LLC, a SEC-registered investment advisor, and will be based in Denver.

Previously, Sands was a senior vice president at Jefferies and Co. in the public private infrastructure group. Over the last 10 years he has underwritten, structured and originated approximately $10 billion in debt financings for the development and construction of large-scale rental housing and military housing projects.

Also at Hunt Investment Management, Edward Oprindick, formerly a senior vice president, has been named executive vice president/managing director, responsible for portfolio management of a commingled fund and separate account totaling $1.6 billion. Since joining the firm in 1999, Oprindick has been involved in acquisitions, asset management and financial reporting.

Paul DiSandro, formerly a vice president, has become a senior vice president, and is the assistant portfolio manager of a commingled fund and separate account totaling $1 billion. DiSandro has worked for the firm since 2003 and has been involved in asset management, financial reporting and accounting for various real estate equity funds.

New Boston Asset Management Firm Founded

ABACUS Asset Management, a provider of commercial real estate asset management services for owners of small to mid-sized office, industrial, retail and multifamily properties, has opened for business in downtown Boston.

The company, located at One International Place, will provide real estate asset management services throughout New England, with a focus on the greater Boston market.

ABACUS Asset Management founder and principal H. Joseph “Joe” Morrison III has previously worked with Natick, Mass.-based Crosspoint Assoc. and Braintree, Mass.-based The Flatley Co. He has been involved in the acquisition of more than 700,000 sq. ft. of commercial space, the development of more than 300,000 sq. ft., more than 180 lease transactions and over $180 million in finance deals. He also has been active in the management of more than 5 million sq. ft. and the sale of more than 650,000 sq. ft. of commercial property.

Expansion, Hires in San Francisco for Transwestern

Transwestern has made a major expansion in the East San Francisco Bay area market by adding 17 new team members, including brokers, property managers and staff.

The team will be led by Managing Director Edward F. Del Beccaro and the new Walnut Creek office will tackle responsibilities for the firm’s market share in the East San Francisco Bay market, which spans from Napa Valley in the north to Hayward and San Jose in the south.

Del Beccaro comes to Transwestern from Grubb & Ellis, where he was a managing director. Throughout his career he has leased more than 2 million sq. ft. of office properties.

The firm’s new additions bring with them approximately 3.5 million sq. ft. of office, retail and industrial listings.

With a full support staff of six, as well as Senior Portfolio Manager Dennis Henry, joining Transwestern in its new Walnut Creek office are the following brokers: Tom Caple, vice president; Sonny O'Drobinak, vice president Scott Ellis, senior vice president; Bob Maderious, senior vice president; Matt Hurd, senior associate; Terry Vani, vice president; Trigger Reital, vice president; John Sechser, senior vice president; and Colby Mikulich, associate.

Transwestern has also brought on David Ford as senior vice president to head up the company’s property management team based in San Francisco.

Ford will oversee the operations and expansion of the firm’s management services platform in Northern California and will be responsible for all aspects of management services, including new business development, service delivery, client relations, recruiting and strategic expansion.

Ford brings more than 27 years of commercial real estate experience to Transwestern, ranging from ground-up development and construction supervision to leasing and sales for developers, owners and institutions. Most recently, Ford served as senior vice president and director of management services at Grubb & Ellis, where he oversaw the operations and new business development for the firm’s property management division in Northern California.

In Southern California’s Orange County, the firm has hired Tom Taylor as executive vice president. Taylor joins Transwestern after spending the last 25 years at Grubb & Ellis. His experience includes managing and negotiating large office leases, building sales and purchases and build-to-suit projects for local and national clients.

Colliers in Atlanta Welcomes Two Hires

Colliers International Atlanta has appointed Rob Whittemore as vice president of LCG/CI, its project management services group.

The firm has also hired Matt Wirth as assistant vice president in its industrial investment sales team.

Whittemore joins Colliers International Atlanta from Jones Lang LaSalle, where he was vice president of project and development services for the past five years, focusing on corporate interior build-outs, capital improvements, call centers and multi-site requirements.

As a member of the LCG/CI team, Whittemore will work with executives of major corporations in formulating and implementing solutions to their real estate needs in the areas of project, construction and move management.

Wirth joins Colliers International Atlanta from Carter, where he worked for five years on acquisitions and asset management on behalf of the Carter Real Estate Fund and separate account clients. As a member of the industrial investment sales team, Wirth will be working closely with Senior Vice President Dennis Mitchell in representing sellers and buyers of institutional-quality industrial properties.

CBRE Changes in London, Chicago

CBRE has appointed Dr. Neil Blake as head of EMEA & UK research.

Blake joins CBRE from Oxford Economics, the economic forecasting consultancy, where he was director of economic analysis. There he had primary responsibility for the analysis of international cities and regional services, commercial property, housing and retail markets, as well as global macroeconomic and financial sector analysis.

At CBRE, Blake will be responsible for research teams for the Europe, Middle East and Africa market and the U.K. market; both teams are based in the company’s office in London.

In the firm’s Rosemont, Ill. office, in suburban Chicago, CBRE Capital Markets has promoted Molly Green to vice president in the debt and equity finance group. Green specializes in raising capital and structuring transactions for office, industrial, retail and multifamily properties in Chicago, the Midwest and nationally.

Since joining the team in 2007, Green has participated in raising more than $3.3 billion in debt and equity through relationships with groups such as JPMorgan Asset Management, Duke Realty, CBRE Global Investors, Clarion Partners and Walton Street Capital.

Prior to joining CBRE, Molly worked at Brookfield Properties (formerly Trizec Properties); she began her real estate career with Deloitte.

In the Chicago office, CBRE Capital Markets has also promoted John Parrett to vice president in the debt and equity finance group. Since joining the team in 2006, Parrett has been involved in more than $1.6 billion of commercial real estate financings. Prior to joining CBRE, Parrett worked at Prudential.

In the Oak Brook, Ill. office, CBRE has hired Steve Roth as executive vice president and Steve Kundert as vice president, also in the debt & equity finance team. Both were previously with Grubb & Ellis.

In their new roles, Roth and Kundert will be responsible for the origination and placement of capital, including first mortgage debt and equity, for commercial real estate investors.

Roth has structured and arranged more than $4 billion in capital for more than 500 commercial real estate transactions. Most recently, he was named to the 2011 Midwest Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame by Midwest Real Estate News.

During Kundert’s career, he has been involved in over $1.5 billion of first mortgage loans on office, industrial, retail and multifamily properties with both institutional and entrepreneurial real estate investors.

Two Multifamily Vets Join Atlanta Firm

Multifamily real estate firm Cortland Partners, based in Atlanta, has added two industry veterans to manage accounting and marketing of its growing portfolio.

Cortland has named Lorrie Coulson accounting manager and Ryan Perez as marketing operations manager. Both have extensive backgrounds in multifamily real estate.

Promotion at MB Real Estate Services

The Chicago-based firm MB Real Estate Services LLC has promoted Kevin Purcell to executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Previously, Purcell served as the firm’s executive vice president and managing director of asset management.

In this new role, Purcell will be responsible for overall operations, service delivery across all business lines and client relations.

In this new role, Purcell will be responsible for overall operations, service delivery across all business lines and client relations.

In his most recent role as EVP and managing director of asset management, Purcell managed a portfolio that grew by 40 percent to 18 million sq. ft. He also led sustainability initiatives which resulted in LEED certifications for 10 properties. Additionally, Purcell oversaw the development of a 90-acre residential project in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood.

Changes at the Top at Griffin

Griffin Land & Nurseries Inc. has appointed Michael S. Gamzon, Griffin's executive vice president and chief operating officer, to the position of president and COO.

Griffin also has appointed Frederick M. Danziger, the firm’s president and CEO, to the position of chairman of the board of directors and CEO.

The position of chairman had been vacant since the death of Edgar M. Cullman last year.

Gamzon joined Griffin in January 2008 and has been involved in all aspects of the company's operations, but with a particular responsibility for seeking new business opportunities for Griffin Land, Griffin's real estate business, outside of Hartford, Conn. Most recently, he has worked on the development of a 228,000-sq.-ft. industrial building currently under construction on speculation in the Lehigh Valley.

Danziger had been president and CEO and a director since Griffin became a public company in 1997 and has led the significant changes in Griffin's operations, particularly the growth of Griffin Land over the past 15 years.

Managing Director Comes to MRC

Madison Realty Capital welcomes David Speiser as managing director at the New York-based firm.

Speiser will lead MRC’s internal legal team in the structuring, due diligence and negotiations of acquisitions and originations for the firm.

Before coming to MRC, he was a senior vice president at Related Cos. and oversaw the 12-million-sq.-ft. Hudson Yards development on the far West Side of Manhattan, a $500 million multifamily investment fund and numerous portfolio investments for Related's $825 million distressed opportunity fund.

Bradford Allen Promotes Managing Director

Andrew DeMoss has been promoted at Bradford Allen from director to managing director.

DeMoss joined the Chicago-based commercial real estate company in 2005 and specializes in landlord representation for downtown Chicago office properties. He is a part of a team that directs the leasing for 200 South Michigan Avenue, which has leased more than 300,000 sq. ft. since the company took the assignment in 2006. Most recently, DeMoss was instrumental in leasing more than 100,000 sq. ft. of office space in a 12-month period at 79 West Monroe on behalf of the Farbman Group.

Property Manager Brought on for Illinois Retail Center

Cypress Equities Companies has hired Steven Hrbek as property manager for The Streets of Woodfield in Schaumburg, Ill.

Hrbek will be responsible for onsite management and operation of The Streets of Woodfield, which is located in Schaumburg, Ill. and is an open-air, core retail center featuring more than 700,000 sq. ft. of retail space.

He comes to Cypress from CB Richard Ellis in Downers Grove, Ill., where he served as a senior real estate manager responsible for a 320,000-sq.-ft., 25-year-old complex, including all aspects of operations, budgeting, collections and corporate reporting.

Stan Johnson Opens Regional Office in California

Stan Johnson Co. has opened a new regional office in the San Francisco Bay area in Palo Alto, Calif., and has brought on two new lead brokers.

Andrew Barnes comes to Stan Johnson after founding the National NNN Investment Group in 2008; he was also senior vice president with Sansome Pacific Properties and its brokerage division, Battery Commercial Corporation for six years. He has been involved in more than $815 million in real estate transactions and brings both buy-side and sell-side expertise to his transactions.

Justin Stark comes to Stan Johnson from the Cornish & Carey Commercial Net Leased Investment Group in San Francisco, and began his career focusing on net lease transactions at BT Commercial.

Partnership between AREA and CC Residential in South Florida

AREA Property Partners and CC Residential LLC are forming a strategic partnership to develop apartment communities throughout South Florida.

The AREA/CC Residential venture is currently developing The Signature at Doral, a 352-unit community in northwest Miami-Dade County, and The Signature at Davie, a 350-unit community in central Broward County. The announcement was made by Richard J. Mack, North America CEO of AREA, and Armando Codina, founder and principal of CC Residential.

Patrick Shannon Joins ML Realty Partners as Director

Patrick Shannon has joined ML Realty Partners LLC as director. Shannon will be based in the firm’s Itasca, Ill. office, overseeing the outside brokers who represent the leasing efforts for a portfolio of the firm’s Midwest properties.

Shannon spent the last 10 years as a broker with Darwin Realty and Development Corporation, where he represented both landlords and tenants in the Chicago area.