When Sara Terry first saw the silhouetted skyscrapers of downtown Dallas decades ago while visiting as a young girl from rural East Texas, she knew she was destined for life in a big city.
Now Terry, a longtime broker whose career has spanned the Sun Belt, has returned to that skyline and made it her career. She just started a role that takes her out of the third-party landlord representation business and into the executive suite of Pacific Elm Properties, the largest owner of downtown Dallas real estate.
Pacific Elm, the two-year-old real estate arm of Woods Capital, founded by CEO Jonas Woods, has named Terry as its new chief marketing officer overseeing the development of Pacific Elm’s brand, marketing, advertising and leasing activities.
She joined Pacific Elm from Colliers, where she launched the agency leasing business line centered on third-party landlord leasing and management. In her three years at Colliers, she built a team overseeing a portfolio of 8 million square feet to help clients compete in what has become an increasingly competitive business as property owners seek to help tenants lure employees back to the office.
“When the opportunity came up, it was a difficult decision to leave what I was doing at Colliers because I was so proud of what I had done there and it’s a great platform,” Terry told CoStar News. “But this was a unique opportunity for someone like me to join a team in which are visions are so aligned and they have such a passion for downtown Dallas.”
Terry brings to Pacific Elm 26 years of experience in brokerage, property management, development and construction management as she prepared to help expand the firm’s business. Last month, Woods through Pacific Elm added Saint Paul Place to his downtown Dallas portfolio bringing the firm’s portfolio to seven Class A office towers spanning 6.5 million square feet of space. The firm’s real estate portfolio also includes about 9 acres of developable land in downtown and Uptown Dallas.
As Pacific Elm’s portfolio continues to grow, CEO Jonas Woods said he recognized the opportunity to strengthen the firm’s in-house capabilities and leadership by adding Terry to the team.
“Having collaborated with her for more than two years in a leasing capacity, we have witnessed her exceptional talent and experience, which greatly complement our team,” the CEO said. Terry will oversee Pacific Elm’s leasing activities, he said.
In accepting the new role of chief marketing officer, Terry said she’s better positioned to tell the story of the properties in Pacific Elm’s portfolio as she leases space in its buildings. Her position in a key one, Terry said, because leasing real estate is all about the marketing.
“The Woods team was the first client I had won after making the move to Colliers,” Terry said. “It’s been great in terms of their growth trajectory over the last few years because they have been growing exponentially. The relationship also grew with the leasing team and the ownership group of such a large portfolio working closely together.”
Terry’s return to the Lone Star state in 2014 was life changing after a longtime brokerage career rooted in Atlanta with what now is Crescent Communities. Not many landlord representatives change locations after establishing their careers in a major U.S. market, often becoming dependent on the relationships they have worked hard to build.
Inspired by those downtown Dallas skyscrapers in her childhood and towers in Atlanta where her family moved when she was in high school, Terry initially worked full-time at JLL as an on-site leasing executive while attending the University of Georgia. She would enroll at other universities, including Middle Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee, studying advertising before pivoting to interior design, before graduating from Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta with a degree in real estate finance.
Early in her career Terry was helped along the way by longtime real estate executive John Bell, whom she met while working at Crescent Resources in Atlanta. She was able to shadow Bell for six months, learning his techniques and skills on the leasing side of the real estate business and the salesmanship required — not something easily taught in a university setting.
Even though historically real estate has always been local in nature, Terry said, it’s never felt more national, even global, than it does now, with her relationships formed over her years working in Atlanta and Nashville coming back to her in Dallas.
Another relationship that’s remained constant for Terry, regardless of city, is her involvement in Commercial Real Estate Women Network, more commonly called CREW. The industry group’s connections during the CREW national convention in Dallas in 2013 helped lead to Terry’s first Texas real estate job at Dallas-based Stream Realty Partners.
Terry is the local CREW chapter’s board president this year. She has also served on the board of directors for Downtown Dallas Inc., an advisory group for downtown Dallas for the past two years.
“I didn’t know how these relationships I’ve been able to build in other parts of the country would benefit me in my career in Dallas,” she told CoStar News. “You really can’t compartmentalize your life. In talking to investors looking to get into Dallas, I’ve leaned on my relationships in Nashville and Atlanta. Relationships are meaningful, even 20 years later.”