Q&A: Warren Smith of Avison Young

The Nashville-area office of Cushman & Wakefield | Cornerstone announced earlier this month it has aligned with Toronto-based Avison Young.

The deal (read more here) includes Avison (pronounced with a long “A”) aligning with what had been the  Cushman & Wakefield | Cornerstone Knoxville office.

Ex-Cushman & Wakefield | Cornerstone CEO Warren Smith is now managing director of Avison Young’s Tennessee offices. He sat down with Post Managing Editor William Williams for a chat.


What drove the decision to align with Avison Young?

We were fortunate to have many options when we began exploring the pending purchase of Cushman & Wakefield by DTZ.  Leadership of our firm made the determination that the most important aspect was to attempt to secure a solution that reflected our core values, retained everyone’s job and minimized brokerage transition. As we conducted our analysis, Avison Young continued to meet all of our parameters. Most importantly, the culture of partnership and collaboration was consistently reinforced with everyone we met at Avison Young. 

On top of an excellent cultural fit, we were attracted to Avison Young’s tremendous growth and prospects for continued growth without certain conflicts that are inherent in our business.

With change come positives and challenges (some potentially negative). Please outline both as they relate to your Nashville and Knoxville offices.

We will have the challenge — also great opportunity — to introduce a new name and platform to Tennessee. As part of Avison Young, we will drive a very exciting initiative to elevate and promote a new, fresh approach to client services and real estate execution across the state. We find ourselves surrounded by new partners who truly want to see our Tennessee operations flourish, as they clearly view Tennessee as a great opportunity for Avison Young. And we also have the national and international reach that is necessary to support global clients. 

Cushman & Wakefield | Cornerstone had 82 employees at the time of the affiliation. Where might that number be 12 months from now?

It is my full expectation that we will continue to grow judiciously throughout Tennessee. We have grown from 20 to 82 since 2009, and I will not be surprised to see us eclipse 100 by mid-2016. We have an excellent and diversified platform to attract new hires, and we are blessed to have a culture that many find very attractive. 

Relatedly, any time there is a deal of this type, there can be personnel changes. Will some folks be leaving?

Our primary objective as we went through the transition and spoke with multiple suitors was to retain all of our associates.  We were presented with opportunities to sell our firm, which would have caused attrition and layoffs, but we remained laser-focused on keeping the team together. I am certainly not naïve enough to think that some of our people will not be enticed to join other firms in our markets, but I believe our culture and leadership’s commitment to every employee certainly would make such a decision more difficult.

On the name change theme, and in addition to Cushman & Wakefield | Cornerstone now being Avison Young,  the Nashville office of Cassidy Turley became, temporarily, DTZ, which is now called Cushman & Wakefield. To the average Nashvillian, this could be confusing. How will your team attempt to minimize that confusion?

Similar to many banks or law firms that have become part of larger brands, people will remember your our name and who we are due to our performance, visibility and proven commitment to the local market. We have a fresh and new brand to promote through our local teams, and Avison Young has provided us the resources and support to make our name very well known in Tennessee.

Avison Young, which is based in Canada, has operated offices in the United States since only 2009. As such, it does not have the local name recognition that Cushman & Wakefield has. Your thoughts?

It’s true that Avison Young is not as identifiable in the industry — yet. However, the company’s growth story is truly staggering because the tenets of the Avison Young brand resonated so well in every new market. Avison Young has grown its business in the U.S. without creating local conflicts and with a very close eye to cultural fits. I am fully convinced that the partnership model and the firms’ highly engaged, collaborative culture will pay huge dividends in the future with only positive news and growth ahead of us.

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Real estate notes: Trail West building razed

The Trail West building, the Lower Broadway historic masonry building perhaps best recognized for a segment of rusted metal skin, has been demolished, Nashville Business Journal reports.

Local business partners Steve Smith and Al Ross bought the property in November for $8.4 million and wanted to rehab the building, to an extent (read more here), to accommodate a steakhouse called Harry O’s.

Nashville-based Quirk Designs is handling the design of the new facility.

The original plan, according to the team, was to essentially construct a new building from within the shell of the existing building (to minimize disruption to both the site specifically and to Lower Broad in general). Once the new structure was completed, the skin of the existing building was to have been removed.

Historic Nashville in 2014 placed the building on a list of the city’s nine most "endangered" historic buildings.

Read more here.


Sears building under contract

The Hickory Hollow Mall building last home to a Sears is under contract for $5 million to Brentwood-based real estate investment firm Crestview Funds, The Tennessean reports.

The 150,000-square-foot Sears closed in 2012 as part of the effort to rebrand and revinvent the mall, now known as the Global Mall at the Crossings.

Read more here.

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Stonehenge says moving forward would have been 'unfeasible'
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Church leases chunk of downtown Franklin space

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Dickerson Road townhome project to break ground

1st North to offer nine units, contemporary design
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Permit Patrol: 21 September 2015

Work to be done in Antioch, Dickerson Road corridor, downtown, Green Hills, Midtown, Osage/North Fisk
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