As a vice president at North Wells Capital, Anthony Farella assists with the company’s commercial real estate investment and development activities. Since joining the firm in 2016 he has helped grow, manage and add value to a portfolio of commercial assets in both the River North neighborhood of Chicago as well as in Milwaukee.
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up, where did you go to school?
I grew up in Palatine in Northwest suburban Chicago. I went to the University of Illinois (Champaign/Urbana) and majored in finance and accounting. After undergrad I moved to Chicago and worked in management consulting for a couple years with a commercial real estate focus. I knew I wanted to stay in real estate but get into direct investment so I decided to pursue an MBA at the University of Chicago (Booth).
When you were young, what did you aspire to be?
I remember wanting to be a carpenter at a very young age. I thought it was really cool to build things. As I got a bit older, math was my best subject and I wanted to be an architect. Halfway through high school I realized that studying finance in college was my best bet for success. Given all of this, it’s kind of fitting I ended up in commercial real estate investment.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I was about halfway through my MBA and had begun applying and interviewing for CRE investment jobs. Like many students, I was focusing on some larger firms in Chicago. Luckily, through the alumni network at the University I was introduced to North Wells Capital and Urban Innovations. After learning about their portfolio of commercial assets in River North and their growth plans, I was really excited about the opportunity to make a larger impact and have more autonomy at a smaller firm.
Did you have a mentor who helped you get on your feet, or is there someone you turn to now for support?
As soon as I started at North Wells, our CEO, Jim Fox, helped get me up to speed quickly on all the property level real estate for which I hadn’t had exposure to previously. I can always go to Jim with questions and he’s helped foster a very open and collaborative team here. I probably began looking at real estate “black and white”—just the numbers—but I’ve learned there’s a lot of creativity and critical thinking that goes into positioning an asset and that’s one area his perspective has been a great learning experience.
What does a day in the life of Anthony Farella look like?
Coffee. Run through emails and catch up on local real estate news. Discuss a new offering with an investment sales broker over the phone. Meet with a lender about refinancing an existing asset. Underwrite and model a potential new deal. Walk somewhere for lunch. Share assumptions and valuation with my colleagues. Afternoon meeting with an investment group for introduction to our team/strategy. Update pro forma for an existing project. Brainstorm ideas for value-add with our team. Late dinner.
What do you like most about your job?
I like being so close to the real estate. I knew I wanted to work for an owner/principal on the equity side. Having a portfolio of assets right here in Chicago makes it that much more fun. We’re all so in touch with the local market and we get to know the investments inside and out. It really makes me feel like I’m a part of something in a way that I don’t think those who work in the public markets or in fixed-income get to experience.
Looking to the future, what do you hope to achieve/work on that you haven’t already?
I was in undergrad during the last financial crisis so I’ve only ever worked in an upwards real estate cycle. As much as I’d like to see this positive cycle continue, I think everyone knows a correction will come at some point. I’d like to be able position ourselves in a way that allows us to pounce on opportunities that arise because of market distress. Also, we’re beginning to work on ground-up development and I’m excited to successfully deliver and see those kinds of projects through from start to finish.
How do you spend your time away from the office?
I prefer to spend time with my family and friends. I value relationships and enjoy being social. I attend sporting events (Bears, White Sox) and concerts. No shortage of time spent at bars and restaurants.
What is your favorite place that you have traveled to? Where do you hope to go next?
Italy is number one. On the coast. I love the food, the history, the people. You can’t beat the Mediterranean. For a while now I’ve had Rio de Janeiro in my mind as a place I’d really like to go. It has a combination of tropical beaches, mountains and also a large city with lots of culture that you can’t find in too many places.