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Katie Bucklew Paves the Way in DC

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As Published in the Washington Business Journal January 2019

As an undergraduate at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Katie Bucklew knew she wanted to pursue a career in real estate but wasn’t sure what role to take on.

She decided to start on the numbers side and began working in Ernst & Young’s real estate tax group in Atlanta before realizing that she was, in her own words, “miserable.”

“It was very fascinating but I did not love sitting behind a desk,” Bucklew said. “I wanted to touch and feel the real estate.”

Bucklew sought advice from a real estate professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, who suggested she reach out to two alumni who had been hired by EDENS, a growing real estate firm with six regional headquarters, including one in D.C. Bucklew landed a job in 2006. Bucklew has since risen through the ranks, holding five different jobs that have exposed her to everything from leasing to multimillion-dollar portfolio transactions and strategy.

Now vice president of development, Bucklew has handled some of EDENS’ biggest projects, including work on the Mosaic District mixed-use development in Merrifield and leading the redevelopment strategy for what is now Cabin John Village, the reinvention of a 25-acre shopping hub in Montgomery County.

Real estate is not a 9-to-5 job. You have to have a growing desire to go out and see new things.

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Why was EDENS a fit for you? Every two to three years I’ve had a different role within the company. They have been really great about realizing I need a new challenge or I want to try a different department out and really helping to build the skill set that I need long-term. I’ve kind of done a little bit of everything in the industry.

Biggest deal you’ve been a part of? When I worked with [EDENS CEO Jodie McLean], I got to lead an M&A transaction where we bought a Texas portfolio and took them private. That was in 2014. It was an $861 million transaction. We acquired 60 shopping centers and properties, predominantly in Texas. That was a very fun, fast and furious period of time where I learned a lot about how to buy a big company, how to learn new markets.

How has the retail industry changed in your dozen years at EDENS? It’s definitely become harder to get deals done. Post-recession, it’s a lot harder for mom-and-pop and local retailers to get capital. But at the same time, the concepts that we do see are very interesting. I think you have some of the most innovative retail that is happening.

How has EDENS adapted to the changing climate? We experiment with retailers, we experiment with spaces. We do everything from throwing up art in a lobby or putting a game on the sidewalk to see if people will interact with it. For something more permanent, like parking spaces, do you make them pick-up/drop-off Uber spaces, 15-minute spaces, car-sharing spaces? We are constantly trying to figure out the least amount of variables for people in centers.

What does it take to be successful in your role? Real estate is not a 9-to-5 job. On the weekend, I drive out to Leesburg because I want to see the new Barnes & Noble before we do a deal at our shopping center. You have to have a growing desire to go out and see new things.

Pet peeves: Really long meetings. When we are going on two hours, I’m like, “We’ve just got to get to the point.” I don’t think anything should be longer than an hour.

What were you like in high school? Lots of energy. Motivated and driven, but also fun.

What advice would you give to your high school self? Be patient. Everything comes in time.

How do you relax? My stress relief is definitely running. I read books a lot. I love experiencing different parts of the city and new things that are coming.

What is your favorite restaurant? I’d say my original favorite is Masseria at Union Market, but my newest favorite is Officina at The Wharf. It’s great to see Chef Nick Stefanelli scale and expand. Plus, I love the various design and development elements it offers.

Favorite part of living in D.C.: All of the museums and parks. Nowhere else in the U.S. can you live with so much history and knowledge in your backyard. It has so much culturally to offer from parks, museums, restaurants, music, plays, etc. There is always something to do.

What is something most people don’t know about you? I don’t usually tell people I’m a twin. I love the reaction when they randomly discover it.