Related Companies made big changes at the top earlier this month, naming Jeff T. Blau as CEO, Bruce A. Beal, Jr. as president and Kenneth P. Wong as chief operating officer and director of international development.

Former CEO Stephen M. Ross will serve as executive chairman and will continue to be responsible for global business strategy and development and maintain his focus on the execution of the 26-acre Hudson Yards development in New York City.

Blau will be responsible for the strategic direction of the company, overall management of the firm, the pursuit of new development opportunities and corporate acquisitions and financing activities across all business platforms.

Blau has been with Related for 22 years and has served as president since 2000. He serves on the boards of directors of Equinox Holdings Inc., New York City Investment Fund, Central Park Conservatory and Wharton Graduate Executive Board and on the boards of trustees of the Mount Sinai Medical Center and the Urban Land Institute. He is also a member of the steering committee for the Association for a Better New York and a board member of the Union Square Partnership.

NREI talked to Blau about taking the reins from Ross, the mood of investors and what’s going on at Hudson Yards.

An edited transcript of that interview follows.

NREI: What are the differences and similarities between your leadership style and that of Stephen Ross?

Jeff T. Blau: Stephen and I share a similar leadership style. We hire the best and the brightest and create a challenging, dynamic environment where they can continue to develop. Our single most important strategic asset is our people. The company is extremely entrepreneurial and we are always looking for new opportunities to grow our platform and our people.

NREI: What do you think is going to happen for the rest of 2012 when it comes to luxury multifamily residential? How does the market look?

Jeff T. Blau: Real estate is really a byproduct of the economy and the market varies depending on location. In New York City, we have seen the luxury rental market rebound to pre-recession rents. We have very low vacancy and expect incremental rent growth. In Chicago, which wasn’t historical a rental town, we have seen increased interest in living in the city and a tangible uptick in interest rental market. We have new rental projects in development in both New York and Chicago. We are also seeing strength in Boston and San Francisco.

NREI: One of your roles will now be to look toward new development—where and what do you see in your crystal ball?

Jeff T. Blau: We are looking at micro opportunities versus macro opportunities. It is tough to predict when the broader economy will rebound, so for the near term we will continue to be opportunistic and focus on our core markets. We are also looking at opportunities in the Middle East and Brazil.

NREI: What's the pulse on investors right now? How do they feel?

Jeff T. Blau: We have had great success on the fundraising side and that can be attributed to a very distinct and focused strategy that is execution-based and utilizes our 40-year history as a developer and operator. Earlier this year we closed on an $825 million distressed asset fund and we have already been able to commit over 40 percent of that capital.

Overall we have raised over $1.5 billion in capital from sovereign wealth funds, public pension plans, multi-managers, endowments, Taft-Hartley plans and family offices across three areas: distressed real estate opportunities, origination and acquisition of construction loans and multifamily housing opportunities.

NREI: About Hudson Yards—things are cooking along, but how do you keep the momentum going? Any potential fires you foresee having to put out?

Jeff T. Blau: We are starting the first building on the Hudson Yards this fall and will continue building the entire eastern yards which will include 750,000 sq. ft. of retail, additional commercial space, public space, a cultural center and residential opportunities.

It is important to build a critical mass in order to make the Hudson Yards a destination. Coach Inc. is our anchor tenant in the initial tower and we are in advanced talks with several large users who are looking to consolidate their operations into state-of-the-art space.

With the opportunity to lease or buy essential at cost we are getting a lot of interest in the space. The number of uses we have at the site makes it complex, but it is just the type of project our vertically integrated platform excels at and having all of the expertise for the various asset types in-house ensures we can execute.

Grufferman Joins Colliers as Vice Chairman

Colliers International brought on Howard Grufferman to the firm as vice chairman.

Grufferman focuses on tenant representation, with a specialization in the financial services, technology, and legal sectors. Throughout his career, he has closed transactions valued in excess of $1 billion.

Grufferman comes to Colliers from Grubb & Ellis, where he was a vice chairman. Throughout his career, he has successfully completed complex lease transactions for several large businesses and institutions, including the City of New York; Weil, Gotshal & Manges; Fortress Investment Group; Federal Reserve Bank; Credit Suisse and Alcoa.

Colliers also welcomed Hadley Springer to the New York office as an associate director. She also joins from Grubb & Ellis.

Voit Welcomes Newman in California

Voit Real Estate Services hired Joe Newman to serve as regional director of asset services for Southern California.

Newman will oversee Voit’s asset services operations in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego and the Inland Empire. Prior to joining Voit, Newman served as director of CBRE San Diego’s asset services division and downtown brokerage office, where he led 50 professionals who managed a commercial property portfolio of 16.5 million sq. ft. throughout San Diego County. Newman has more than 30 years of experience in the commercial real estate industry, including 25 years with CBRE.

Stein Returns to Studley as EVP

Gary Stein has rejoined Studley’s Washington, D.C. office as an executive vice president and co-regional manager.

A 27-year veteran of the industry, Stein will continue advising commercial tenants throughout the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area while also counseling clients on corporate real estate transactions throughout the United States.

Stein, who spent the first 16 years of his tenant advisory career at Studley, rejoins the firm from Cresa Washington, D.C., an office he opened in 2008 and where he spent nearly five years as the managing principal. While there, Stein was responsible for several of the firm’s most notable transactions in the region, including the National Association of Manufacturers’ 42,000-sq.-ft. lease and Business Roundtable’s 26,000-sq.-ft. lease.

Over the course of his career, Stein has successfully completed more than 500 transactions totaling 7.5 million sq. ft. of office space on behalf of law firms, trade associations, non-profit organizations and corporations in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

SVP Joins Walker & Dunlop

Walker & Dunlop Inc. hired Douglas C. Blake as senior vice president of the company’s closing department.

He will manage the department and all aspects of the loan closing process. Prior to joining Walker & Dunlop, Blake served as the national head of closing and construction loan administration at Berkeley Point Capital LLC, formerly Deutsche Bank Berkshire Mortgage.

Hughes Marino Welcomes SVP and Associate

Hughes Marino named Scot Ginsburg senior vice president. Ginsburg works exclusively on representing tenants and occupiers of commercial space in San Diego. With more than 8 million sq. ft. of experience, he specializes in high-tech, life science, business service, research and development and other growth-oriented companies.

Prior to joining Hughes Marino, Ginsburg served as managing director at Jones Lange LaSalle and a principal with The Staubach Co.

The firm also hired Tucker Hughes as an associate. Hughes will specialize in tenant representation throughout San Diego. He graduated Magna Cum Laude at the age of 19 from University of San Diego with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, finishing in only two years. He will complete his master’s degree in real estate at USD in May 2012.

CBRE Hampton Roads Promotes Two

CBRE|Hampton Roads promoted two professionals. Hank Hankins was named vice president and Chris Clay has been promoted to assistant vice president.

Hankins joined CBRE in 2006, concentrating on sales and leasing as an associate broker. In early 2007, he began specializing in multifamily housing property sales where he has teamed with Dan Johnson to complete more than $325 million in apartment sales.

Clay joined CBRE in 2004 as communications coordinator before being promoted to director of communications. He then began working with the manufactured housing group as an associate broker. In addition to specializing in the acquisition and disposition of manufactured housing and recreational vehicle communities and land, Clay handles a variety of investment sales locally for private clients.

Grandbridge Hires New Regional Pros

Grandbridge Real Estate Capital hired Michael Balan as a vice president/loan originator and Jay S. Lipsey as an assistant vice president/senior underwriter for its new Southeast Florida regional office.

The company also hired Matthew Kramer as a loan originator, based in Pittsburgh.

In Florida, Balan will focus on originating loans for all types of income-producing properties, including offices, apartments, hotels, industrial and retail, while Lipsey will oversee the underwriting for such properties.

In Pennsylvania, Kramer will be responsible for the origination, structuring, placement and closing of construction, bridge, mezzanine and permanent loans and structured equity.

Cassidy Turley Promotes McGarity

Cassidy Turley promoted Tom McGarity from senior vice president to managing principal in the firm’s Columbus, Ohio office.

McGarity will oversee 35 brokerage and property management associates and run the daily operations in Columbus, while focusing on Cassidy Turley’s strategic growth initiatives in that market.

McGarity joined Cassidy Turley in 2006 and has a total of 25 years of experience in the industry. At Cassidy Turley, he previously specialized in retail and corporate service assignments with experience in the office and industrial sectors.

NGKF Promotes Thomas Wootten

Thomas H. Wootten has been named an executive managing director of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank Global Corporate Services.

Wootten, who is based in the company’s Denver office, represents national and international clients, specializing in corporate dispositions, asset monetization and financial optimization of complex real estate assets.

Wootten has worked throughout the world on all types of real estate, representing corporate ownership as well as investors. On the corporate side, he served as in-house director of real estate with responsibility for the full regional real estate portfolio of ATT Broadband/MediaOne and, previously, also managed the global portfolio of StorageTek.

JSQ Hires Executive Managing Director

JSQ Commercial LLC welcomed Rich Holly to the company as executive managing director.

Holly will identity and oversee investment opportunities nationwide. Most recently, he was managing director at Canyon Johnson Urban Funds, responsible for investment opportunities in the Midwest.

Senior Managing Director Joins HFF

Bruce E. Strasburg joined HFF as a senior managing director in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office.

Strasburg will focus on industrial and flex/office investment sale transactions in the Mid-Atlantic region. During the course of his 30-year career, he has completed portfolio and single asset transactions valued in excess of $6.0 billion, representing 30 million sq. ft. of improved property and 1,500 acres of land.

Strasburg comes to HFF from CBRE and, prior to that, Trammell Crow.

Superintendents Join JLL Construction

Jones Lang LaSalle’s construction team added three new superintendents: Chad Nixon, Dana Shaw and Stephen Delisle.

Together they bring more than 50 years of experience to the firm. Their expertise ranges from interior build-outs to large-scale ground-up projects. They will be responsible for supervising the daily on-site management of a wide range of construction assignments.

Inland Group Names Director

Inland Group Inc. named JoAnn M. Armenta director of the company.

Unanimously voted onto the board, she was also recently appointed a director, president and COO of Inland REIT Inc., the newest REIT to be sponsored by Inland Real Estate Investment Corp.

During Armenta’s 15 years with Inland she has held leadership positions for six different REITs and managed more than 35 million sq. ft. of commercial real estate. She helped facilitate the $6.2 billion sale of Inland REIT. and assisted with $18 billion in acquisitions and due diligence.

Real Estate Vet Joins Almanac as Senior Advisor

Almanac Realty Investors named Simon R.C. Wadsworth as senior advisor.

Wadsworth had served for 16 years as CFO for Mid-America Apartment Communities, a REIT with multifamily investments across the U.S. Sunbelt region. After he retired as CFO, he served as special advisor to the chairman from 2010 to 2012. He was also a director of the company during his entire tenure there from 1994 to 2012.

Wadsworth will be Almanac’s representative on the board of directors of some of the companies in which Almanac invests. Since his retirement as Mid-America’s CFO, Wadsworth has authored a book Cash Is King: Investing in REIT Preferreds to Generate Long-term Income (Book Masters, 2011) on investing in REIT preferred securities. He also performed various consulting assignments and is an active investor in real estate and REITs.

Ryan Promotes Four Professionals

The NorthCentral regional office of Ryan Cos. U.S. Inc. promoted four of its professionals.

Jeremy Jacobs was named national public sector compliance and business manager, Nick Koch and Doug Woolever were named project manager II, construction and Anders Pesavento was promoted to senior associate capital markets, corporate.

Jacobs is now responsible for leading Ryan’s entry into the defense sector. He has been part of Ryan’s business sector associated with market strategy analysis, governmental compliance of project pursuits and open contract solicitation applications.

Koch will manage the entire design-build process from conceptual design, construction documents and estimating through final walk-through. He joined Ryan in 2007 and provides project leadership associated with hazardous abatement and demolition, Veterans Administration tenant management and Primavera scheduling.

Woolever is involved in all aspects of a project from initial design to facility turnover. He is responsible for the administration of contracts and coordinating between owners, designers, the field team and subcontractors.

Pesavento will be actively involved in the financing, disposition and asset management of Ryan-owned and acquired properties. Since joining Ryan in 2009, he has been involved in over $400 million in capital transactions.

Rappaport Hires New Broker

Rappaport Retail Brokerage welcomes Lindsey Floyd as a leasing and brokerage representative specializing in the Richmond, Va. retail real estate market.

Floyd will expand Rappaport's landlord and tenant representation service to the greater Richmond area. Her tenant representation clients currently include Movie Tavern, Jimmy John's, Verizon, Hibbett Sporting Goods, Smoothie King and The Little Gym. She also handles landlord representation, predevelopment leasing and land sales.

Floyd comes to Rappaport from Cushman & Wakefield/Thalhimer Commercial Real Estate in Virginia Beach.

Braisted Rogers Joins McKenna Long & Aldridge in Atlanta

McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP hired attorney Christina Braisted Rogers to the firm’s Atlanta office as a partner in its real estate practice.

Rogers’ practice focuses on the representation of institutional real estate investors including pension fund advisors, real estate investment trusts and permanent and construction lenders and borrowers. She also has extensive experience in acquisition, disposition, joint venture, financing and leasing transactions involving multifamily residential, office, industrial and retail properties.

Four Attorneys Promoted at Hines

Hines promoted three attorneys at the firm’s Southern California offices and one lawyer in Dallas.

Jim Bonham has been promoted to managing director-asset management in the firm’s Los Angeles office. He played an integral part in the acquisition of the firm’s current Los Angeles portfolio, which totals nearly 8.5 million sq. ft. In his new capacity, he will continue as the head of asset management for Los Angeles County and remain an integral part in developing new business.

Ray Lawler has been promoted to managing director in the firm’s Irvine office, where he leads the firm’s Orange County development and investment operations. He joined the firm in 2007 and has been instrumental in growing Hines’ 1.3 million-sq.-ft. Orange County portfolio, which includes California Green, 17600 Gillette, 17885 Von Karman, Alton Corporate Plaza and Bay Technology Center.

Paul Twardowski has been promoted to senior managing director and oversees of all Hines’ investments and management in Orange and San Diego counties, including acquisitions, dispositions, asset management, development and renovation projects. Since joining Hines in 1998, he has contributed to the development, acquisition, financing and/or management of 9.2 million sq. ft. of commercial real estate, representing approximately $2.9 billion.

In Dallas, Hines promoted Rob Witte from vice president to senior managing director. Witte joined Hines in 1993. With Witte’s oversight, Hines’ Southwest Regional land platform encompasses more than 2,700 acres.

Lawyer David W. Brown Joins McNair

David W. Brown, Jr. has joined the Charlotte, N.C. office of McNair Law Firm P.A.

Brown focuses his practice on commercial real estate development and public-private partnerships. He is experienced in the acquisition, sale and development of office, hotel, resort, residential and mixed-use projects, including bulk sales, assemblages, public facilities and complex development by developers and public agencies.

IREM Honors Mary Faith Nugiel

The Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) named Mary Faith Nugiel, president and owner of RCP Management Co., its Certified Property Manager of the Year.

The award was bestowed at IREM’s Heritage Night, held on September 11 at the Palace at Somerset Park in Somerset, N.J.

Presented by IREM, NJ Chapter No. 1, this designation recognizes Nugiel’s “outstanding contribution to the advancement of real estate management as a profession.”

Nugiel has been active in both Community Associations Institute and IREM for the past 20 years and was awarded the Property Management Specialist designation by CAI in 1995 and the Certified Property Manager designation by IREM in 2004.

With a staff of more than 75 professionals, RCP manages 95 communities totaling more than 22,000 homes.