As part of our series, CRE Future Leaders, we caught up with Jared Larson, vice president of asset management and investment at Sterling Bay. Since joining Sterling Bay in 2014, Larson has worked in a broad spectrum of the industry, including acquisitions, dispositions, financing, capital markets, asset management and development. His efforts have been focused on Chicago’s Fulton Market district, including the new McDonald’s headquarters.
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up, where did you go to school?
I grew up in Wisconsin, just outside of La Crosse in a relatively small town called Onalaska. I went to the University of Wisconsin–Madison which has a great real estate program. I double majored in real estate and legal studies, originally thinking that I may explore a career in real estate law.
When you were young, what did you aspire to be?
I’ve always had a passion for real estate. As a kid I would ride my bike around the neighborhood and watch all the single-family homes going up and any time my family did a home renovation project, I wanted to get involved. Ultimately, I really wanted to be a contractor so I could build things. Obviously I changed course a little bit, but I’m very happy to be in the real estate industry.
How did you get your start in the industry?
When I was a sophomore at UW–Madison, I took a semester off and worked at Dominium, an affordable multifamily developer located in the Minneapolis area. That was my first experience in a professional setting in the real estate world and it solidified my interest in development. Subsequently, while enrolled at UW–Madison, I worked more or less full time for a local developer in Madison, Wisconsin whose primary focus was market-rate, multifamily development.
My first job out of college was with Ernst & Young in their transaction real estate practice. At EY, I had a lot of broad exposure to various geographical markets and property types—including everything from self-storage and golf courses to the traditional office, retail, multifamily and industrial products. While at EY (about five-to-six years ago), I closely followed Sterling Bay in the news and was very much an early fan and supporter of everything they were doing to transform Fulton Market. Ultimately I was lucky enough to get an interview here and they decided to give me a shot.
Did you have a mentor who helped you get on your feet, or is there someone you turn to now for support?
I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of different mentors, primarily in my time here at Sterling Bay. When I started four years ago, I was a financial analyst and did not have a ton of primary experience with office development and redevelopment. Brad Schmidt, director of asset management, has vast institutional commercial real estate knowledge and was instrumental in helping me learn the ropes at Sterling Bay. He always had my back and was a very willing teacher and mentor—I spent as much time as possible absorbing what I could from him. More recently I have worked very closely with Reed Edwards, one of our principles who I’ve also learned a great deal from and respect immensely.
What does a day in the life of Jared Larson look like?
I always start my day with a workout, usually a run or bike ride, then coffee and after that I’m off to work for the rest of the day. Every day at Sterling Bay is different and exciting. I’m responsible for 10 to 12 different projects in various stages of planning, pre-development and development. I also spend time focused on various strategic corporate initiatives as well as training of junior staff members. Overall, it’s definitely a jam-packed day. I typically leave the office around 6:30–7:00 pm, have dinner and then get through a few more e-mails or read before bed. Every day is unique and exciting and I always look forward to coming to work which is something I feel very fortunate for.
What do you like most about your job?
What I like most is that you can see the physical manifestation of all of the time and effort that you’ve put into something. A lot of people don’t get to see the fruits of their labor in the same way. With real estate, it’s very different. The McDonald’s headquarters, for example, was several years in the making and it was awesome seeing the tenant finally move into the building after the countless hours we invested in that project.
Even more than the individual buildings, is that fact you can literally change and improve neighborhoods and the urban fabric of a major city like Chicago. Sterling Bay is a huge contributor to that in Fulton Market, and eventually Lincoln Yards. I think we try to be—more so than your typical developer—thoughtful about how buildings fit in contextually with the neighborhood and the type of tenants we’re bringing in. So I think for all those reasons, seeing your work come to fruition in a physical manner and being able to have a meaningful, visual impact on the city is very inspiring.
Looking to the future, what do you hope to achieve/work on that you haven’t already?
I’ve primarily been involved with our Fulton Market portfolio in Chicago, and I hope that as Sterling Bay continues to grow, I can help replicate that success elsewhere.
How do you spend your time away from the office?
I like to run, I like to bike, I do a lot of reading (mostly about real estate and urban planning) and I listen to podcasts when I can, usually while running. When I can get away, my wife and I are always looking for a new travel adventure.
What is your favorite place that you have traveled to? Where do you hope to go next?
My wife and I took a trip to Iceland, Copenhagen and Norway a couple of years ago and we loved it. Copenhagen is a super cool and trendy urban city. I really loved the biking culture in Copenhagen. This is the primary mode primary mode of transportation for a significant portion of their population and it gives the City a very quiet, quaint almost Zen-like quality. My grandpa was 100 percent Norwegian, so I feel connected to that Norwegian heritage. Norway is a very rural (apart from Oslo) and phenomenally beautiful country with fjords, glaciers and mountains. My wife and I would love to travel to New Zealand next.