Two Brains Talking: The Science & Art of Development Operations

After managing design and construction projects with real estate consulting firm NTH for the better part of her career, Renee Kirscht-Rascher shook up the Twin Cities development scene earlier this year with a move to United Properties.

In the newly created senior vice president of development operations role, Renee will track all key project milestones, pushing process improvement to ensure successful execution. She will also work with market leaders to imagine possibilities in development across product types.

Renee Kirscht-Rascher, senior vice president of development operations

“After managing projects for 24 years of my life, this was clearly an opportunity to use my skills differently,” Renee shared. “It took a lot to realize I can rise to the occasion and add value to a much different, larger organization.”

Her complementary skillset evolved from her time at University of Wisconsin-Stout, where she earned a B.S. in construction management and a B.A. in interior design. Renee views her science and art background and approach as two brains talking: the logistical management side and the creative side collaborating.

“There is definitely a need for people who understand both design and construction in this world because a great project brings those two aspects together,” Renee said. “You need to push the envelope on creativity while considering logistics, function and budget and how those yin and yang together.”

The Employee Culture is Real

The onboarding, of course, didn’t transpire as planned, with offices closed and the “new normal” still evolving daily. A familiarity with United Properties’ leaders and employee culture eased the transition.

United Properties had partnered with NTH throughout the years on several projects. For Renee, the most memorable was the Olson Advertising (now ICF Next) move to North Loop’s historic Ford Center. More recently, she got a closer view into United Properties’ employee culture when NTH was selected to advise on the Pohlad Companies’ move to RBC Gateway.

“I would say the culture at United Properties is similar to NTH in that it is deeply collaborative and uplifting,” Renee said. “Both companies focus on ensuring everyone is successful as one team.”

A True Mover & Shaker

Renee spent the first couple months meeting with development team members, asset managers and analysts to learn about everyone’s roles and projects, as well as to identify opportunities for efficiencies and innovation. Her onboarding included a trip to United Properties’ newly launched Austin office with president & chief investment officer Bill Katter to understand the scope of United Properties’ development and aspirations.

“It was a great opportunity to get to know the Austin market and Josh Delk while really seeing Bill in his element,” Renee shared. “I’ve known Bill for years, but on the trip I got to see that aspirational and professional side as he mentored Josh and worked to get deals done.”

The next 90 days will be about achieving deeper engagement with the development group through standing meetings and beginning to establish and track project milestones. Though the pandemic poses a unique challenge, Renee is prepared to put the company’s culture of collaboration to work in creative ways.

To learn more about the move, the role, and Renee’s take on the state of the market amid COVID-19, be sure to check out this profile in the Star Tribune business section. A mover and shaker, indeed!