Retail brokerage firm RKF is gaining a Chicago office, adding the Midwest to the firm’s markets in New York, Northern New Jersey, Las Vegas, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Anthony Campagni, managing director, is the first to join the firm’s Windy City office. He comes to RKF from Baum Realty Group and specializes in retail-tenant and landlord representation. He began his career in retail real estate with Garrick-Aug Associates in New York, the same firm at which RFK Chairman and CEO Robert Futterman got his start. Campagni will be joined by Associate Elan Rasansky, who was also previously with Baum Realty Group.

No stranger to Chicago, RKF has been responsible for bringing many high-profile retail tenants to the city and its suburban markets. The firm represented Topshop, the London-based international fashion-forward apparel retailer, in its 50,000-sq.-ft. lease at 830 N. Michigan Ave. for its second store in the U.S. RKF has also been involved in leasing several sites on behalf of companies such as Intermix, Kiehl’s, Oliver Peoples in areas throughout the city, including the Gold Coast, Michigan Avenue, the Loop, Lincoln Park and Bucktown.

Nationally, RKF has completed more than 20 million sq. ft. of retail leasing and sales transactions with an aggregate value in excess of $20 billion.

NREI talked to Chairman and CEO Robert Futterman about RKF’s aims for Chicago and the future of the retail sector.

An edited transcript of that interview follows.

NREI: Why is a Chicago office important for RKF's expansion? What is it specifically about Chicago that you feel will be a good fit with the company?

Robert Futterman: I think the fact that we’ve strategically opened in other major cities, first L.A., then Las Vegas, then Miami where we have a real significant presence—Chicago and the Midwest was just a gaping hole for us. We brought in the right people, starting with Anthony. We think with our platform as the nation’s leading retail leasing company, it wasn’t a matter of why, it was just a matter of when. With the nature of our business being tenant representation, we spend a lot of time in Chicago. On the tenant side, the investment sales side, we felt we had to have a presence there. The time was perfect in an economy that is rebounding.

NREI: What are some of the challenges facing the company for the rest of 2012?

Robert Futterman: I think retail is still a very strong sector in terms of when you are looking at commercial or office leasing, hotels, residential, etcetera. I think that retail is one of the strongest sectors in the marketplace. Many of our New York landlords have properties in Chicago, so not only do we represent retailers, we look at the Chicago market as an opportunity to get some landlord representation. The challenge will be to just get some visibility and get ourselves in front of the landlords and present an alternative to the local players. Because of our ability to have a national platform, we think that owners will be extremely receptive.

NREI: How do you see RKF assisting its retail clients with the challenges they are facing?

Robert Futterman: Occupancy costs are down and we can help show tenants that it’s time to take advantage of lower occupancy cost. As compared to, say, 2008, now is a good time to expand. The economy is recovering and people are starting to spend more money. Now is the time. Chicago offers many central business districts and for a retailer to survive they need to expand and they can help their bottom line by opening stores in urban markets. People knock the retail sector but that landscape is changing in the urban market.

NREI: What are the most important issues for the commercial real estate industry now and what is RKF doing about it?

Robert Futterman: We’re such a niche player. Our interest is to represent landlords and tenants who are strictly retail. Tenants do still want to be where people live and work so if there is a lack of commercial office activity or a high vacancy rate it can affect retail.

At the same time, Chicago is one of those cities like New York and Los Angeles where you have probably 25 new hotels either opening or in the works. That leads me to believe that there is both business travel and tourism that can support the retail market. I think that’s a really good sign, in addition to the fact that occupancy rates in the office market are starting to creep back up. I think the timing is excellent. You’re seeing a bit of a spike in residential home sales and prices, in addition to tourism and hotel occupancy being up, and that will help commercial office sectors to rise too.

Venable Doubles its NY Real Estate Practice

Venable LLP has hired six new lawyers for the firm, more than doubling the size of its New York real estate practice.

The lawyers all come from Dewey & LeBoeuf in New York. Peter S. Britell, Gordon J. Davis and Suzanne St. Pierre join as partners, Susan E. Golden as counsel and Michael Phillipou and Ashley Dunn as associates.

Britell is the former chair of Dewey’s Global Real Estate and Construction practice, and has advised clients at Lincoln Center, the New York Public Library, Cooper Union and Lower Manhattan Development Corp. (rebuilding the World Trade Center). With St. Pierre, he is currently advising the New York City Economic Development Corporation on the proposed Willets Point redevelopment project in Queens.

Davis's practice focuses primarily on land use development and related environmental matters. His clients and projects have included the rebuilding of Ground Zero, Lincoln Center, the New York Public Library, the Rockefeller Foundation, the rebuilding of Penn Station, Mount Sinai Medical Center, Viacom, Cooper Union, the American Museum of Natural History, the Lever House restoration and the United States Tennis Association Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

St. Pierre has been advising U.S. and international clients on complex real estate transactions for almost two decades. Her practice encompasses virtually all areas of transactional real estate, including development of cultural and mixed-use projects, formation of real estate partnerships and joint ventures, investments in real estate funds and other investment vehicles, all aspects of construction including negotiation of construction and design contracts and dispute resolution, complex acquisitions and dispositions, real estate financing, New York City-funded capital projects, hotel management contracts, leasing transactions and condominium transactions.

Golden handles land use development projects and commercial real estate transactions. She counsels public, private and not-for-profit clients, including the American Museum of Natural History, Jazz at Lincoln Center and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She also advises on projects such as the redevelopment of the World Trade Center, construction of a municipal recycling facility and the development of Moynihan Station.

Lee & Associates Names Principal in Oakland

Lee & Associates has named Ryan Martens to principal in the firm’s Oakland, Calif. office. There he will specialize in industrial sales and leasing.

Martens started with Lee & Associates during his sophomore year at St. Mary’s College as a summer intern before going full-time in 2009. He focuses on the 880 corridor and was involved in more than 45 industrial lease and sale transactions last year.

Additionally, Martens has successfully represented combined transactions with a total consideration value in excess of $40 million.

New Senior VP Joins Harrison Street Securities

Harrison Street Securities, the Chicago-based real estate securities investment management firm, has added Eden Levinson to its investment professional staff as senior vice president, investments.

Levinson comes to Harrison Street from Duff and Phelps Investment Management, where she functioned as a central member of their REIT team, which managed over $2 billion in assets. Her role at Harrison Street will be to integrate into the portfolio management process as well as cover various sectors within the REIT universe similar to the role at her previous firm.

Senior Associate Rejoins Marcus & Millichap

Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services has hired Michael Rothstein as a senior associate in the firm’s Manhattan office.

Rothstein worked at Marcus & Millichap from 2003 through 2010, but was most recently with Besen & Associates. In his return to the firm, he will represent investors throughout New York City in the disposition of their multifamily and mixed-use investment properties.

LeClairRyan Law Firm Expands NYC Office

LeClairRyan has expanded its corporate, litigation and commercial real estate practices with the addition of eight attorneys and two staff members at its New York City office.

The attorneys joining the firm as shareholders include Barry Cozier, Scott Drago, Cynthia Mitchell and Adrian Zuckerman. Attorneys joining the firm as partners include Linda Bielik, Ralph Berman and Andrea Lawrence. Additionally, Lauren Margiano is joining as an associate. All were previously with Epstein Becker & Green.

Zuckerman, the co-chair of the corporate services practice for Epstein Becker, will serve as a co-leader of LeClairRyan’s Real Estate Industry Team.

Cozier was a member of the New York State judiciary for two decades prior to his private practice, most recently serving as an associate justice of the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court, appointed by Gov. George E. Pataki.

The attorneys joining LeClairRyan in Manhattan bring experience in sophisticated financing, commercial real estate transactions and leasing and major and complex real estate litigation, routinely providing counsel to prominent national and New York-based lenders, real estate owners and funds. While serving a wide variety of clients, they also have particular experience in the healthcare, life sciences and technology industries.

Eastern Consolidated Adds Associate Director

Eastern Consolidated has hired retail leasing broker Patricia Garcia as an associate director at the New York-based firm.

Garcia comes to Eastern from Ripco Real Estate Corp., where she represented local, national and international retailers. Among her most recent deals are: a 5,000-sq.-ft. lease for 7-Eleven at 813 Broadway valued at $5 million, a 1,700-sq.-ft. lease for Crumbs at 254 Park Avenue South valued at $3.4 million and a 4,700-sq.-ft. lease for Epicurean Management at 285-303 Bowery valued at $3.5 million.

CBRE Names Two Senior Vice Presidents, Appoints COO

Joel Wechsler has joined CBRE Group Inc.’s downtown Manhattan office as a senior vice president.

Prior to joining CBRE, Wechsler was with Grubb & Ellis. He began his career at The Edward S. Gordon Co. and spent nearly two decades at the firm.

Throughout his career, Wechsler has represented many high-profile clients, including Ares Capital Corp. in its 65,000-sq.-ft. relocation to 245 Park Avenue; Godiva in its 45,000-sq.-ft. headquarters relocation to 333 West 34th Street; Fortress Investment Group in its 115,000-sq.-ft. relocation and expansion at 1345 Avenue of the Americas and Stifel Nicolaus in its 60,000-sq.-ft. consolidation of its New York City offices at 237 Park Avenue.

CBRE has also appointed Jeff Majewski to the position of chief operating officer for the firm’s debt and equity finance practice. In that role, he will manage the day-to-day operations of the debt and equity line of business within CBRE capital markets. He succeeds Bill Frazer, who will be leaving CBRE in late May to explore opportunities outside the commercial real estate industry.

The new appointment marks a homecoming for Majewski, who had previously spent more than a decade at CBRE in a wide range of management positions. He was most recently executive managing director of Grubb & Ellis’ capital markets group.

CBRE has also brought on Stuart Siegel at its Midtown Manhattan office as a senior vice president in office brokerage.

Prior to joining CBRE, Siegel was an executive managing director with Grubb & Ellis New York Inc. for nearly 20 years.

Siegel’s clientele includes retailers as well as art-related, fashion, high-tech and other creative organizations. Among his noteworthy deals are: Chelsea Arts Tower, a 75,000-sq.-ft., ground-up commercial condominium development in far west Chelsea; the leasing of 300,000 sq. ft. in a converted warehouse at 450 West 15th Street (home to high-end fashion and art tenants Jeffrey New York, Milk Studios and Philips DePury), and the sale of three historic properties in West Chelsea, a transaction valued at $97.5 million.

Bierbrier Hires VP of Development

C. Russell DeMartino has joined Bierbrier Development Inc., a developer and owner of urban shopping centers in Eastern Massachusetts.

DeMartino will serve as vice president of development and will be responsible for acquisitions and mixed-use retail development projects, as well as leasing and sales for new and existing assets. DeMartino is charged with broadening the scope of the company’s Village Retail concept, a format first introduced in Arlington Heights, Mass., with Bierbrier’s Arlington Village Shops.

The concept of Village Retail is to create LEED-certified service/convenience shopping centers with storefronts near pedestrian and vehicle corridors and ample parking to the rear. These developments, in the 20,000-sq.-ft.-to-50,000-sq.-ft range, will be focused on tenants catering to the daily needs of local shoppers for goods and services for immediate consumption, and therefore not vulnerable to the rise in Internet shopping

DeMartino comes to Bierbrier from Vornado Realty Trust in Boston, where he was a vice president. There he oversaw all of Vornado’s assets in New England and led several large-scale, mixed-use development projects.

New Division at Hanley

Hanley Investment Group Real Estate Advisors is launching HIG NNN, a new division that will specialize in the sale and advisory of single-tenant net lease properties across the United States.

The announcement was made by Eric P. Wohl, president of HIG NNN, and Edward B. Hanley, president of Hanley Investment Group.

Last month, the group negotiated the sale of a Walgreens in Victorville, Calif., at a cap rate of 5.69 percent cap rate. HIG NNN procured an all cash buyer that closed escrow in approximately two weeks. Currently, HIG NNN has listed a total of 15 single-tenant net lease properties totaling $45.7 million.

New Attorneys at Loeb & Loeb

Loeb & Loeb LLP has named two new partners and one new associate.

Steven M. Kornblau and David B. Kostman will join the firm’s New York office as partners in the real estate department. Previously, Kornblau was a partner and Kostman was counsel in the New York office of Bryan Cave LLP. The pair will be joined by Associate Emily Rakowicz, who practiced with them at Bryan Cave.

Kornblau concentrates his practice on all aspects of commercial real estate law. He represents a range of real estate industry clients, including financial institutions, investment banks, master and special servicers, real estate owners and developers, pension funds, real estate investment trusts and corporate real estate clients.

Kostman’s practice focuses primarily on real estate finance. He represents local, regional and national lending institutions as well as real estate developers and investors. Kostman also has experience in office and retail leasing, construction and development and the purchases and sales of real estate.

Rakowicz's practice focuses on real estate transactions, with an emphasis on the representation of lenders in the origination, sale, securitization and servicing of commercial mortgage loans.

Jones Lang LaSalle Hires for Stockton, Calif. Office

Jones Lang LaSalle has brought on Robert Taylor as executive vice president in the firm’s Stockton, Calif. office.

Taylor, a 28-year veteran of industrial real estate development and brokerage, joins Jones Lang LaSalle from the Buzz Oates Group of Companies, a leading regional commercial development firm based in Sacramento, from which he recently opened and ran the firm’s Stockton office. Taylor specializes in industrial real estate, providing brokerage services and advisory to tenants and landlords. He currently holds more than 5 million sq. Ft. of agency listings in California’s Central Valley.

Terranomics to Work with Tallen & Keshen on Retail Project

West Coast-based retail developer and investor Tallen & Keshen Holdings(TKH) has engaged Patrick McGaughey and Trish Gonsalves with Terranomics, a Northern California retail leasing team, to direct the leasing efforts for its new retail project on the Monterey Peninsula.

The project, known as Marina Landings, is the second phase of the TKH retail project in the City of Marina, Calif. The first phase of the project was originally acquired by Tallen & Keshen Holdings in 2006 and was redeveloped into a Walmart-anchored store, the only location for the retailer on the Monterey Peninsula. The 6.77-acre second phase of the property now for lease is situated at the Gateway to the Monterey Peninsula, directly off Highway One.

VP to Join George Smith Partners

George Smith Partners, a Los Angeles-based commercial real estate investment banking firm, has named Stephen Stein as a vice president.

Prior to joining George Smith, Stein served as regional manager and first vice president for Marcus & Millichap. There he was responsible for leading other regional managers and more than 150 sales professionals throughout California in navigating the commercial real estate market. Stein has been involved with more than 1,000 transactions involving apartment, retail, office, self-storage, single-tenant, land and golf properties across the country.

Denihan Staffs San Francisco Office

Denihan Hospitality Group, a New York City-based full-service hotel management and development company, has hired Julie Purnell as senior vice president, acquisitions and development.

Purnell will be based at Denihan’s newly-opened development office in downtown San Francisco, its first outside of Manhattan. Purnell will manage the company’s West Coast expansion efforts through new development and acquisitions, joint venture partnerships and management contracts.

A 25-year hospitality industry veteran, Purnell steps into her role at Denihan after serving in several key executive development positions at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, House of Blues Hospitality, Loews Hotels and, most recently, Marriott International.

Marketing Promotion at Coyote

Coyote Management L.P. has promoted Kymberley Scalia to vice president, corporate marketing in Dallas.

Scalia previously held the position of corporate director of marketing for the company. In her new role, she will be responsible for all day-to-day marketing programs, overseeing the new marketing subsidiary, Coyote Creative, as well as all key-asset management and third-party projects.

Scalia joined Coyote Management in March 2001 as the corporate director of marketing. Prior to joining Coyote, she was the director of marketing director/specialty leasing manager for the West End Marketplace in Dallas and marketing director for Insignia/ESP at Maple Hill Mall in Kalamazoo, Mich.

ICSC Names New Mexico Chair

ICSC has appointed Mary Anne Keshen as the National Government Relations Chair for New Mexico.

shopping center investment and development company with offices in California and Santa Fe, N.M. She is also the founder and owner of RTA Investments, a distressed asset acquisition and investment management company.

In her role with the ICSC, Keshen will represent the interests of owners, developers, investors, marketers and other retail specialists across New Mexico.

Keshen plans to form an ICSC Government Relations Committee, comprised of retail leaders and stakeholders from across New Mexico. Assisting Keshen as her government relations liaison will be Peter Fendel, who has extensive national government relations experience in legal, political and policy advocacy, having worked in Washington and at the state level. Brittany Sitzer will also act as the liaison in the development of social media, community outreach and business communications.

Environmental Expert to Lead Greenprint Center

Helen A. Gurfel, an expert in real estate investment and sustainability, has been named executive director of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Greenprint Center for Building Performance.

The ULI Greenprint Center, based in both Washington, D.C. and New York City, is an industry-led initiative comprised of real estate owners, investors, financial institutions and other industry stakeholders who contribute information and measure individual building and portfolio performance on the basis of energy consumption, carbon emissions and several other environmental-related factors.

Gurfel was most recently a director of GE Capital Real Estate’s global sustainability group. As the executive director of the ULI Greenprint Center, she will be responsible for the overall management and executive leadership of the center and the implementation of its work program. In addition, she will direct the production of the center’s annual Greenprint Performance Report as well as other associated research and work products.

Arbor Promotes Nihan to Originator

Arbor Commercial Mortgage LLC has promoted Matthew Nihan to originator in the company’s New York City office.

Nihan is responsible for originating loans under all of Arbor’s multifamily and commercial product lines, including Fannie Mae, FHA and Bridge.

Before this new role, Nihan served as senior analyst of commercial bridge loan origination for Arbor, during which time he was responsible for the initial evaluation, screening and analysis of bridge lending opportunities for all asset classes. Nihan joined Arbor in November of 2010 as a loan origination analyst tasked with flowing new loans through all phases of the loan closing process.

Cohen Financial Expands

Cohen Financial, a national real estate capital services firm, has expanded its commercial real estate capital advisory and valuation services and appointed Kevin L. Miller as managing director to lead the practice.

Prior to joining Cohen Financial in March 2012, Miller led or co-led diligence efforts for more than 20 national and international bank mergers, recapitalizations and note sales/acquisitions for Aperio Advisors and The Situs Companies.

Jones Lang LaSalle President to Be Honored

Peter Riguardi, president of New York operations for Jones Lang LaSalle, is being honored by the New York AIR Society at its annual The Sky’s The Limit benefit on May 17.

The event will be held at Three Sixty, located at 10 Desbrosses Street in Tribeca, to support National Jewish Health. Among those celebrating Riguardi’s contributions to his profession and his community will be Jason D. Pizer, president of Trinity Real Estate and event co-chair; and Roger Silverstein, executive vice president of leasing for Silverstein Properties Inc., event co-chair and founding AIR Society member.

Atlanta Condo Management Company Enters HOA Management

Atlanta-based Condominium Concepts Management is now expanding into the single-family HOA management arena. Heading up the HOA management division will be Regional Vice President Kim Kimura. Tony Valentino will serve as director of sales and marketing for the new division.

The new division will operate throughout the Southeastern United States, with active management contracts in Central Florida and Georgia.