Each year, Midwest Real Estate News publishes its Midwest Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame issue, highlighting the careers of the most talented CRE pros in our region. This year, we are running these profiles online, too. Today, we look at the career of Crystal Kennedy, partner with the St. Louis office of law firm Thompson Coburn.
The right niche: Attorney Crystal Kennedy has fashioned a niche for herself in environmental law, and turned it into a fulfilling career.
After graduating from the University of Iowa law school in 1987, Kennedy went to work for Thompson Coburn LLP in St. Louis, and soon entered the nascent field of environmental law in support of commercial real estate projects. She at first supplemented that then-rarely-needed specialty with general business litigation. But in just a few years, burgeoning regulation and clients’ need of guidance allowed her to be a full-time environmental lawyer.
Difference-maker: Her work has made a difference. For example, Kennedy was involved in the construction of a state-of-the art fertilizer factory in Iowa, the first such plant built in the United States in nearly 30 years. She was also instrumental in the new hospital to replace one destroyed by the 2011 Joplin tornado.
Kennedy has guided multi-family housing developments through voluntary cleanup programs in Missouri, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, giving governments, lenders and residents confidence that the properties are safe for residential use.
In Illinois, her advice on insurance and cleanup issues helped turn a contaminated, abandoned industrial property into a 150-acre business park. The client won a Phoenix Award, recognizing excellence in brownfield redevelopment.
“As an environmental lawyer, I enjoy helping clients turn contaminated property into vibrant, healthy places to work or live,” she said. “I love driving by properties that used to be an eyesore, and seeing them and the surrounding area teeming with people and activity.”
Giving back: Kennedy is committed to helping influence the success of the commercial real estate industry by advancing the achievements of women, joining Commercial Real Estate Women of St. Louis more than 20 years ago. She served in several board roles, culminating in the chapter presidency in 2004. She remains active as a member and mentor.
“For me, the most important step I took to success was to join CREW-St. Louis, whose membership consists of professional women – and men – involved in virtually every aspect of the commercial real estate industry,” Kennedy said. “Through CREW-St. Louis, I learned the universe of issues and practicalities associated with the purchase and development of commercial and industrial property, which enhanced my ability to offer practical advice and solutions to clients on environmental matters.”
“I share my clients’ vision for what a property could become and the positive effect it can have on the entire community once it is cleaned up and developed,” she said. “I use my legal knowledge and communication skills to find cost-effective and practical ways to turn that vision into reality.”