Cresa's Tom Birnbach named president as part of larger restructuring

This article was originally posted on Washington Business Journal.

Commercial real estate veteran Tom Birnbach has been elevated to the newly created role of president at Cresa as part of a larger, Covid-19-inspired restructuring of the D.C.-based tenant representation firm.

While he remains vice chairman of its board of directors and a managing principal in its D.C. office, Birnbach — who helped launch the firm as a founding member in the early 1990s— has been tasked with overseeing Cresa’s more than 80 offices across the U.S. and Canada. That will include a focus on growth initiatives as well as on identifying ways to streamline operations.

It's an analysis many of Cresa's peers across the country have likewise been forced to do amid a slowdown in commercial real estate leasing tied to the pandemic.

Cresa has grown substantially over the years, both organically and through acquisition, and locally, it ranks fifth among the region's largest tenant representation firms. Birnbach said the restructuring will help the firm manage that growth in a more orderly way while freeing up other executives, including CEO Jim Underhill, to concentrate more seeking out potential acquisition and recruitment prospects.

“It was an opportunity for us to restructure our leadership team, and get the right resources to people in our offices, and to drive productivity,” said Birnbach, a 54-year-old Potomac resident and father of three. “It allowed us to continue to create a much leaner company.”

Birnbach informally stepped into the post in April, though the position wasn’t officially announced until now. He still hopes to keep his hand in leasing deals to some extent, but his new role has required him to shift his focus to a wider geographic region than just the D.C. metro.

Along with Birnbach’s new role as president, Cresa recently recruited Kristen MacCarthy from JLL to serve as its new chief financial officer and tapped Gary Gregg, who is based in the firm’s Phoenix office, to serve as chairman of the board.

Birnbach said the firm has also eliminated some redundant positions and systems created through the acquisition of other firms in the past few years. He estimates the firm cut about 10 positions in all.

Those changes have put the firm on a path to emerge from the coronavirus on stronger footing at a time when many of its space-seeking clients are struggling to understand how their needs will change in a post-Covid world, he said. To that end, Cresa launched a new service line, Remote Advisory Services, earlier in the year as a way to help companies adjust to pandemic-imposed precautions including an increase in teleworking.

"If there’s a hybrid model here that works and you need 20% less space, let's move that needle as quickly as we can," he said. "For us its a real opportunity to save our clients money."