Hamilton Partners’ Mike Rolfs says suburban office market is alive and well

The Hamilton Partners crew of Mike Rolfs, Mark Hamilton, Pat McKillen, and Todd Berlinghof, enjoying some golf.
The Hamilton Partners crew of Mike Rolfs, Mark Hamilton, Pat McKillen, and Todd Berlinghof, enjoying some golf.

If someone were to tell you that everyone wants to be downtown, would you believe it or would you disagree? Mike Rolfs, partner at Hamilton Partners, would be one of the first to tell you that the statement is a common misperception.

Rolfs specializes in Chicago’s north and northwest suburban office markets, where he says there have been very large deals dominating the market’s absorption in the last few years.

The suburban office market has also been seeing that more users are demanding high parking ratios and packing more people into less space. The majority of the bigger transactions are going to the top-of-the-market properties, too, that include all the amenities like food service, fitness centers, conference facilities, day care and covered parking.

Continued positive absorption should occur throughout the rest of the year, he says, but there is some concern about the possibility of an economic pull-back or recession due to global issues affecting U.S. companies.

His personal concern today, however, is the lack of depth in the market for mid-sized leases in the 10,000 to 50,000-square-foot range.

Rolfs will be covering it all when he speaks at Illinois Real Estate Journal’s State of the Suburban Office Market on May 17—from downtown vs. suburban leasing activity, misconceptions, and the looming tax hit in Chicago and Cook County that’s driving up occupancy rates, to the inevitable reverse migration of Millennials to the suburbs looking to start families and be near good schools.

As for what he won’t cover at the conference? Golf lessons, his reasons for being a Green Bay Packers fan, the former U.S. Secretary of State hopes will one day take him golfing, and what brings out his soft side.

Luckily, IREJ has you covered and Rolfs doesn’t hold anything back in the following Q&A. Read more about next month’s speaker.

Illinois Real Estate Journal: Give us a run-down of your role as Partner at Hamilton Partners

Mike Rolfs: Responsible for the marketing and leasing of a portfolio of approximately 2 million square feet of space in the North and NW suburban markets. Also, involved in building sales and acquisitions and have developed at 1.6 million square feet of office space including numerous corporate build-to-suits.

IREJ: What was it about the suburban office sector that attracted you?

Rolfs: I love the opportunity to meet so many different people with different wants and needs regarding their office locations. I am also lucky to be working with some of the greatest people in the industry at Hamilton Partners who love to work and play together!

IREJ: Aside from office, what other CRE market sector intrigues you?

Rolfs: We have recently gotten involved in the multifamily sector and together with our partners REVA Development have three projects in various stages of construction and leasing with one more on the drawing board for a summer start.

IREJ: Can you tell me about a time in CRE that’s stood out to you most?

Rolfs: It would have to be when all of the partners in the Chicago Trammell Crow Company office lead by Allan Hamilton left and started Hamilton Partners back in 1987. I had my second child on the way and wasn’t sure whether we would get a new business started or what I would be doing for a living.

IREJ: What valuable life lesson have you learned from working in this business?

Rolfs: This is a people business and you have to treat everyone you meet with respect and dignity. You never know when you will be working on a deal with someone you met along the way and it really helps to have a prior relationship and a good experience with someone.

IREJ: In your free time, you would most likely get spotted doing what?

Rolfs: I’m an avid golfer and also love to jump on my road bike and ride when I can. I also love to snow ski and travel to exotic places. I’m a huge ND football fan and also love my Green Bay Packers, which will make the Chicago crowd mad!

IREJ: What’s on your music playlist?

Rolfs: I love all kinds of music and a few favorites are Springsteen, Clapton and the Grateful Dead but I also enjoy some of the new alternative bands.

IREJ: If you could spend the next 24 hours with any public figure, who would you choose?

Rolfs: Condoleezza Rice. First off because I admire what she has accomplished in her life and career and secondly because she might take me to play at Augusta National or Cypress Point!

IREJ: What would you consider your biggest, personal accomplishment?

Rolfs: Married for going on 36 years with a wonderful wife and 4 beautiful kids!

IREJ: Surprise us—what’s something most people wouldn’t know about you?

Rolfs:  I’m an emotional sap who cried when Old Yeller died!

IREJ: Last book you read?

Rolfs: I’m just finishing The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz, which is the last of the Lisbeth Salander novels.

IREJ: What philanthropies or charities do you like to support?

Rolfs: I’m on the board of Fellowship Housing which helps at-risk or homeless single moms and their kids as well as the Western Golf Association/Evans Scholars Foundation which helps send caddies to college.