Clarice Clarke was named president of Lee & Associates – Central Coast which includes the Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria offices in California.

Clarke, who joined Lee in 2008 as a firm shareholder, will be responsible for all management activities and will oversee the Central Coast offices’ operations, as well as her ongoing brokerage activities.

Clarke has been active in commercial real estate since 1989 in brokerage and various ownership and management positions. She has served as a partner in the Leider Group and founding partner in Leider Hayes Commercial.

Clarke specializes in investment sales, retail, office and industrial leasing and land sales. Notable transactions include her representation of the City of Santa Barbara during a recent 20-year multi-screen theatre lease negotiation. She also worked on the leasing of the newly developed retail project, Madonna Enterprises which includes 140,000 sq. ft. of space to national and regional retailers in San Luis Obispo.

NREI talked to Clarke about what her clients are asking for, what trends are driving the retail sector and what issues are particularly pressing for the Central Coast region. An edited version of that interview follows:

NREI: What do you think your clients want now that they didn’t want, say, five years ago?

Clarice Clarke: Five years ago people were in crisis mode or survival mode as the recession took hold. Many other people were in a wait and see mode, trying to understand what was happening. Now the market has improved to a degree that people are putting money back out in a significant way to invest and taking advantage of the favorable capital markets to act on opportunities that are out there. I think it’s shifting from a maintenance mode to an active mode in terms of acquisition.

NREI: Talk a little more about the state of capital markets.

Clarice Clarke: I think there are three compelling things. One is that there is an awful lot of cash on the sidelines ready to be invested. Another is the fact that the financial markets are offering incredibly low rates for commercial investment. Third, there are a lot of private equity firms that are very interested in participating in this market. So there is a lot of cash and capital available.

NREI: What do you think is the most important trend going on in leasing retail properties right now?

Clarice Clarke: The retail market continues to improve. The very opportunistic retailers that aggressively leased space at discounted rates and favorable terms during the recession did very well. As the empty boxes that came to the market during the recession were absorbed, rents firmed up and there are now considerably fewer vacancies, so that is a positive for landlords.

There is still opportunity for consolidation in the market, which is continuing to shift the retail landscape. Many retailers are experiencing increases in gross sales. If their outlook for continued growth is positive, they often chose to enter new markets that they may have been hesitant to do in more uncertain times. This should help to continue the positive trends in the retail real estate sector.

NREI: What is the most interesting and pressing issue facing the Central Coast area when it comes to commercial real estate and investment?

Clarice Clarke: I think the biggest factor that characterizes the Central Coast of California is the slow growth/no growth attitude of many municipalities. It makes it very hard to build new product. Some of the cities and counties have decided to loosen their regulations and requirements somewhat. This will allow some new development because they see the benefits of job creators entering the marketplace and they see tax revenue being generated by new entrants to the market.

But we still can characterize the area as a very slow growth region and that puts a real limit on the product available. It’s also a fairly stable market relative to other parts of the country, so there is a lot of demand from investors for real estate in this region. That combination tends to drive up prices so we see very low cap rates and high prices per square foot for most categories of real estate.

NREI: I think it’s noteworthy to mention that you are the only female president in Lee’s network of 46 offices nationwide. What do you think about that fact?

Clarice Clarke: I’m always baffled by this phenomenon. I wish there were more women in commercial real estate. There are certainly some amazing, dynamic and successful women in this industry but it is still primarily a male-dominated industry. I don’t mind that, but I’d like to see more women get involved because it is very exciting and always challenging.

NREI: What advice would you give young women starting out in the industry?

Clarice Clarke: I would encourage them very much to look at this industry to take part in it. It takes a little more at the front end to get established and build relationships but I think women are very well suited to do well in this industry. I think the ramp-up time to become financially successful takes a little longer than something like residential real estate, for example, but that’s a very different industry.

Fascitelli Resigns from Vornado, Alexander’s Inc.

Michael D. Fascitelli has resigned as Vornado Realty Trust’s president and CEO.

He will continue to serve on Vornado’s board of trustees. Steven Roth, Vornado’s chairman, was named CEO. Fascitelli joined Vornado 16 years ago as president and trustee. In May 2009, he became CEO. Roth joined Vornado in April 1980 and has been chairman of Vornado’s board of trustees since May 1989. He was previously Vornado’s CEO from May 1989 through May 2009.

Fascitelli also resigned as the president of Alexander’s Inc. Roth continues to serve as chairman and CEO of that company. Fascitelli will remain on Alexander’s board of directors through his current term that will expire at the company’s annual meeting in May 2013.

Henry S. Miller Co. Loses Leader

Vance Charles Miller, 79, the chairman and CEO of Henry S. Miller Co. died from cardiac arrest Feb. 23 in Dallas.

Miller had been with the company, which was launched by his grandfather, since 1959. He was a veteran, an avid golfer and philanthropist. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Geraldine “Tincy” Erwin as well as his adult children and eight grandchildren.

Hilco Names SVP

Hilco Appraisal Services LLC appointed Thomas McNeely as senior vice president in Hilco’s enterprise valuation services group.

McNeely will focus on new business development in the areas of financial reporting, financial opinions, business valuations and corporate finance. He will also work alongside the Hilco intellectual property, real estate, machinery and equipment, and inventory appraisal platforms. Prior to joining Hilco, McNeely was involved in new business development at a boutique valuation services firm as well as a nationally-recognized middle market accounting firm.

Heitman Promotes One Pro, Hires Another

Heitman LLC appointed Erik Rijnoudt as senior vice president – portfolio management in the firm’s London office.

Heitman also promoted portfolio manager David Brodersen, who will relocate to the firm’s Warsaw office as a senior vice president.

Rijnoudt joins Heitman from Apollo Global Real Estate where he served as a European portfolio manager responsible for €1 billion of Western European core plus and value added assets across the office, logistics, retail and residential real estate classes.

Brodersen joined Heitman in 2010, based in its London office. Prior to that he served for five years as the Prague-based development director to the head of asset management for Central and Eastern Europe at GE Capital Real Estate.

Peachtree Welcomes New SVP

Peachtree Hotel Group welcomed Brent LeBlanc to the company as senior vice president.

He will work in new acquisitions, developments and third-party management opportunities and will enhance Peachtree’s brand relationships.

LeBlanc comes to Peachtree from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, where he most recently was vice president of franchise development.

Lowes Hotels Names SVP of Asset Management

Loews Hotels & Resorts, a wholly owned-subsidiary of Loews Corp. promoted Constantine S. Dimas to senior vice president of asset management.

He is responsible for conceiving and implementing brand-defining initiatives, cultivating revenue generating strategic partnerships and repositioning hotels through real estate programming.

Dimas began his career with Loews Hotels & Resorts in 2008 as the director of food and beverage for the company’s flagship property, the Loews Regency Hotel. He became vice president of food and beverage for the brand in 2010 and took on the role as vice president of asset management in early 2012.

Divaris Welcomes New VP

Sam McCoy was named vice president of Divaris Real Estate Inc.’s new regional office in Roanoke, Va.

McCoy brings to Divaris more than 35 years of experience in all aspects of corporate real estate. He will work in strategic planning, acquisition, site development, sales and leasing of commercial properties throughout the Mid-Atlantic region with an emphasis on the southwest Virginia markets.

McCoy comes to the company from Lowe’s Cos. Inc. in Wilksboro, N.C, where he was director of real estate. There he was responsible for the development of new Lowe’s Home Improvement store sites in the Mid-Atlantic region, primarily the Baltimore/Washington, D.C., market and the states of Maryland and Virginia.

New VP in Houston for SRS

SRS Real Estate Partners welcomed Cody Persyn as vice president in the Houston office. He will focus on disposition, investment sales and land brokerage.

Persyn has 12 years of experience on the transaction side of the business, advising clients in the buying and selling of investment and value-add retail properties. He has particular expertise in the disposition of vacant retail big box properties and has been involved in almost 250 such transactions exceeding $515 million.

Sabal Picks Business Manager

Sabal Financial Group L.P. named Alina Mardesich business development manager for the company’s recently launched commercial real estate bridge lending program.

Previously, Mardesich was the vice president and special loans manager at U.S. Bank, managing a $300 million portfolio of large, complex loans, secured by commercial real estate properties throughout the Western United States. In her career, Mardesich also served as the vice president and senior loan originator at Fremont Investment and Loan, where she originated more than $1.2 billion in non-recourse bridge and construction loans during her 11-year tenure.

NGKF Adds Four Pros in NY Area

Newmark Grubb Knight Frank added Gregory V. Frisoli and Glenn Walsh as executive managing directors and Lawrence (Larry) Ruggieri as a senior managing director.

The three will work in the company’s Westchester, N.Y./Fairfield, Conn. office. The team has successfully maintained occupancy rates of 90 percent or higher, ranging from vacant properties to large portfolios. Select tenant representation transactions include: Montefiore Medical Center, Pernod Ricard USA, Diversified Investment Advisors, Sun Products and Kraft Foods. The executives come to NGKF after tenures with Cushman & Wakefield.

Frisoli was a four-time winner of NAIOP’s transaction of the year award and “40 Under 40” honoree. In his 25 years, Walsh has emphasized corporate and portfolio leasing, as well as property sales, representing both buyers and sellers in the Tarrytown and White Plains areas. Ruggieri has concentrated on tenant and landlord representation, corporate relocations, expansions and consolidations in Westchester County for the past 13 years.

Jared A. Zimmel also joined NGKF as managing director in the firm’s capital group. He will be involved in all aspects of investment sales in the suburban New York metro area, including the sourcing, underwriting, and marketing of for-sale corporate and investment property. Among his clients are pension fund advisors, real estate investment trusts, and other domestic and foreign investors.

Prior to joining NGKF, Zimmel worked for five years as a director in Cushman & Wakefield’s metropolitan area capital markets group. His team organized the underwriting, marketing, and sale of more than $5 billion of worth of investment-grade real estate, totaling approximately 40 million sq. ft.

Auction.com Taps Muoio to Lead New Research Division

Auction.com launched Auction.com research, a new division that provides continuous data and analysis across all residential and commercial real estate sectors.

The new division is led by Peter Muoio, a founder of the research and consulting firm Maximus Advisors, which Auction.com acquired in December. Muoio has also served as managing director and global head of Deutsche Bank’s real estate research group and previously founded and led the real estate research group at Bankers Trust Co.

The division will make its findings broadly available so industry practitioners, lenders, investors and individuals can make informed business decisions.

New Venture Launched

Albert M. Berriz, the CEO of McKinley Inc. and Daryl J. Carter, the founder, chairman and CEO of Avanath Capital Management have launched mckinley – avanath.

The venture commences with the management of two multi-family properties, Gladden Farms, a 220-unit community located near Indianapolis, Ind. and Country Wood, a 180-unit, affordable community located in Naperville, Ill.

Preiss Co. Promotes Leasing Director

The Preiss Co. promoted Adam Byrley to director of leasing and programming for the Raleigh-based company that specializes in the development, acquisition and management of off-campus student housing.

Byrley will set the overall leasing direction for all of the company’s student housing properties and will monitor and analyze specific market trends and statistics to help maintain steady leasing velocity and achieve budgeted rent increases and implement resident programming initiatives across the portfolio.

Byrley joined Preiss Co. in 2003 as a part-time leasing consultant.

MMCC Names New Associate

Marcus & Millichap Capital Corp. named Steven Etienne as an associate in the firm’s Brooklyn office.

Etienne will arrange debt financing for multifamily, retail, office and industrial properties. Prior to joining MMCC, Etienne worked with Fountain Realty Group as a commercial leasing associate and as an analyst with Deloitte Consulting LLP, both in New York.

Two Lawyers Join Duval & Stachenfeld

Duval & Stachenfeld LLP added Tom O'Connor and Alan S. Cohen as partners in its New York office.

O'Connor was formerly the chair of Cooley LLP's national real estate practice group and Cohen was a senior partner in the group.

O'Connor focuses on real estate finance, including the origination, workout and sale of debt and preferred equity at all levels of the capital stack and the acquisition, restructure, and disposition of distressed debt, both on a one-off and portfolio basis. Cohen has handled all aspects of complex real estate transactions for more than 25 years, with a particular emphasis on acquisitions and dispositions, construction and development, real estate finance and hospitality matters.

They are joined by their former Cooley LLP colleagues, Maureen Hannon and Michael Estreicher. Hannon will be of counsel to Duval & Stachenfeld and Estreicher will be a senior real estate associate in the real estate practice group.

Eight Lawyers Join Fox Rothschild

The real estate law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP welcomed a team of eight attorneys from Day Pitney LLP.

Robert A. Klausner, Deirdre E. Moore, Christopher M. Rider, Grace J. Shin and Mat D. Carlson joined Fox as partners. Joining as associates are Jennifer L. Solberg, Joshua J. Franklin and Corey D. Kaplan.

Klausner has represented clients in the office, industrial and retail leasing of more than 15 million sq. ft., sales worth more than $4 billion, and has assisted in the borrowing and lending of more than $2 billion worth of property.

Moore works with commercial and residential developers and investors, handling matters related to the acquisition, sale, leasing, management and financing of commercial, retail, mixed-use development and redevelopment projects, as well as industrial and golf course projects.

Rider represents owners, developers and financial institutions. Shin particularly focuses on commercial real estate transactional matters related to leasing, sales and acquisitions. Carlson works in acquisitions, dispositions, financings, commercial leasing (office, industrial and retail) and real estate joint ventures.

Solberg has represented institutional real estate investors such as life insurance companies, pension fund advisors and asset managers in the acquisition and disposition of commercial real estate throughout the U.S. Franklin, a LEED accredited professional, represents clients in the acquisition, disposition, leasing, financing and development of commercial and residential properties. Kaplan represents clients in commercial real estate, zoning and land use matters.

NYU Schack Names Director of Academic Affairs

The NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate appointed Manish Srivastava the new director of academic affairs for the institute.

Srivastava had recently joined the faculty as a clinical associate professor of real estate finance and investment. Srivastava will initially be involved in monitoring the finance curriculum of the master’s degree in real estate to ensure that all courses are relevant to the evolving dynamics of the real estate finance industry. His responsibilities also will entail recruiting, interviewing and evaluating new faculty members.

USGBC Names Senior Policy Fellow

The U.S. Green Buildings Council named Mark Ginsberg senior policy fellow and announced the goals for the inaugural position.

Ginsberg, an expert in the energy management and efficiency field, will assume dual roles. As an ambassador representing USGBC senior leadership, he will work to enhance USGBC’s international relationships, and as a senior adviser and informal consultant, he will assist with the development of strategy for sustainable green eco-cities across the globe.