20 Women Transforming The South Florida Real Estate Market

17 August 2023

Bisnow | August 17, 2023

South Florida is one of the most important commercial real estate markets in the nation, with companies from all over the country looking to increase their footprint in the market. One of its defining characteristics is how many women are leaders in the local industry.

At the same time, Florida’s elected officials have sought to minimize the perceived value of diversity, equity and inclusion programs. In an atmosphere where such programs are being challenged, it has become increasingly important to recognize the immense contributions of the women in commercial real estate who have blazed new trails, executed some of the region’s largest deals and laid the foundation for the next generation of leaders.

Bisnow’s recipients of this year’s South Florida Women Leading Real Estate awards demonstrate the leadership and values that are driving the transformation of the commercial real estate industry as it adapts to a changing economic environment and looks to integrate cutting-edge technology from artificial intelligence to modular construction.

The 2023 award recipients span every level of experience, from rising stars to seasoned professionals. They are all working toward the common goal of not only growing the industry but also creating meaningful change in their communities. They have executed billions of dollars in transactions, helped create iconic South Florida developments and worked to bring the country’s top firms and brands to the region.

As their biographies demonstrate, the industry's top women in South Florida are driving growth and change in both commercial real estate and the communities they serve. They will be honored on Aug. 30 for their contributions to the growth of the sector in the region, their tireless efforts to push the industry forward and their commitment to mentoring young women to ensure that commercial real estate firms evolve. Tickets to the event and cocktail reception are available here.

Vicky Lee, Senior Vice President, Development - Focus

Vicky Lee wants to make Focus a household name. As the senior vice president of development at the Chicago-based general contractor and development firm, Lee is tasked with growing the organization while she leads real estate acquisitions, development and architectural design on more than $800M worth of projects.

Lee was raised in Hawaii but headed to Chicago to experience all four seasons and explore the urban environment. She started at Focus in 2015 and was proud to have led negotiations for two purchase and sale agreements in Florida just one year after the firm announced plans to expand into the Southeast.

She is keenly interested in how the rise of hybrid work will reshape demand for office space and said that any aspiring real estate professional should read the newspaper every day to stay on top of world events that often have profound implications for the industry.

Outside of work, Lee enjoys exploring the world of wine and said that learning about different wine regions and varieties of wine brings appreciation to her life.

Amarjit “Marj” Kaur Bains, Senior Managing Director - Cushman and Wakefield

Amarjit “Marj” Kaur Bains didn’t intend to have a career in commercial real estate. She had a temporary position as a receptionist that has turned into a career spanning more than 20 years.

Kaur Bains, who arrived in Miami from the United Kingdom after her family emigrated from India in the 1960s, has received several accolades for her work in the industry, including a 40 Under 40 Award from the Real Estate Forum and a Florida and Gulf Coast 2021 Women in Real Estate Award.

Kaur Bains is a senior managing director at Cushman & Wakefield, but her experience climbing the corporate ladder has given her insight into how to train and mentor new employees. She is committed to teaching them to not only provide the best to their clients but also to their colleagues in the industry.

A tireless advocate for the industry, Kaur Bains aims to elevate the profile of commercial real estate and to demonstrate its impact on all facets of life.

Donna Abood, Principal and Managing Director, Miami - Avison Young

Donna Abood was one of only a few women working in commercial real estate when she started her career in the early 1980s and set out to welcome women into the industry when she founded Abood & Associates in 1989.

While at the firm, which she said had the largest portfolio of properties of any privately owned company in Miami, Abood recruited and trained more than 15 young women in the business and has been thrilled to watch many of them grow successful and fulfilling careers.

In her role as the leader of Avison Young’s Miami office, Abood is focused on office assets and is keeping a close watch on how the influx of companies from out of state has transformed the market and put pressure on local firms that aren’t able to compete with the rents that new-to-market tenants are willing to pay.

Her father was a developer and inspired her to pursue a career in real estate. She described him as her “absolute role model and faith leader” throughout her career. He died recently, and she strives “to be a living legacy of him.”

Abood’s market-leading approach has earned her accolades from the business press, industry groups and the state of Florida. She was inducted into the Real Estate Forum’s National Women of Influence Hall of Fame in 2018 and was honored as a Florida Business Ambassador by then-Gov. Rick Scott in 2015.

Laura Kozelouzek, CEO - Quest Workspaces

Laura Kozelouzek is a serial entrepreneur with more than 30 years of experience in the hospitality and coworking industries. Before embarking on a career in coworking, she owned a restaurant in New York City and launched a real estate newspaper and a brokerage business.

She founded Quest Workspaces in 2010 and has grown the company to 10 locations providing 360K SF of coworking space to more than 3,000 clients, making it the largest woman-owned coworking provider in the country. It is her second coworking venture after she founded Synergy Workplaces in 2004, growing the company to 25 locations and selling the firm in 2008 to Carr Workplaces.

Kozelouzek believes in the power of giving back, and in 2012 she created Quest Cares, a program that provides complimentary office space and services through Quest and has served more than a dozen charities.

Quest is frequently recognized as a market leader in the sector, and Kozelouzek made headlines in July when the firm launched the Barbie Dream Office at the firm’s Brickell location ahead of the Barbie movie premiere. The hot pink office space with accessories like a diamond-tufted swivel chair generated excitement for coworking schemes just as buzz around the movie reached a fever pitch across the country.

Kozelouzek is also an adrenaline junkie and spends her off time on the ski slopes, scuba diving and water skiing with her son, Jordan.

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