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By Phil D’Amico, director of business growth, The Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County
Brad Toothaker is president and CEO of CBRE | Bradley, an affiliate of CBRE, Inc. He has been a part of real estate executive management in this region since 1997. Brad has a proven track record in the commercial real estate business and has worked hard to become an integral part of the development community in the region as a managing partner of Great Lakes Capital Development. He has been recognized for numerous accomplishments resulting from his hard work and dedication to the real estate business. Brad was recently recognized as recipient of a 2011 Ernestine M. Raclin Community Leadership Award, as well as 2010 Realtor of the Year by the Indiana Realtors Association. He also serves as the board chairman of The Chamber of Commerce of Saint Joseph County.
Brad Toothaker, president & CEO of CBRE | Bradley
Q: So anything new in your world? Are you keeping busy at all?
A: No … same ol’ … same ol’ (ha ha ha). Actually it has been extremely busy but in a good way. We have so many projects, and the energy and enthusiasm behind them have been so great and so encouraging.
Q: Under Great Lakes Capital Management, you have taken on some really big projects, like American Trust Place, the Wells Fargo building and Toscana Park in Granger, Indiana. Was there any trepidation on those projects?
A: I don’t know if trepidation is the right word, but yes, you always weigh a risk/reward proposal. Keep in mind we did American Trust in the height of the downturn and you have to go into some of these projects, like the Wells Fargo building, with a degree of blind faith, but obviously based on our very in-depth understanding of the market and project underwriting, it was mostly with well-founded faith.
Q: Brad, it is not like you go into these projects with just a few changes. You go all-in on these, so blind faith is probably a good way to look at it after the scrutiny of underwriting.
A: Absolutely right. We often go in and gut entire buildings, from heating to cooling, a total rehabilitation project. Now, that said, we work extremely hard to keep the modernization of a building, but yet keep the authentic look to the building. That is always the challenge and always poses an expense issue as well.
|Under Great Lakes Capital Management, Brad Toothaker has taken on big projects, like the American Trust Place.|
Q: What has been the feedback on the American Trust building and, for that matter, on the renewed focus to rebuilding our downtown and the urbanization of our city’s core?
A: I think people want to reunite with the downtown. There is a simplification and densification about downtowns. I have witnessed people really like that there is vibrancy and energy to downtowns. It pulls people and groups together.
Q: Are we getting closer to re-energizing our downtown (South Bend)?
A: I think for sure we are getting closer to this new energy. When you look at some of the momentum in and around areas, such as Eddy Street, East Bank Village and some downtown niche markets, there appears to be a renewed optimism and interest in connecting all those entities together. There are still things that have to happen yet.
Q: So what do you think still has to happen?
A: Certainly, we need to continue to improve our pedestrian-friendly walkways, with a focus on bridges, bike paths, downtown districts, as well as clusters and niche districts. We have to set up our downtown to want to make individuals want to take risk in private development.
Q: Do we have enough downtown housing options?
A: I think that is always a challenge. We probably need more inventory across all price ranges and economic ranges. I think we could always use more apartments, and mixed-use developments that have a cross-section of housing retail and commercial. Many times, development follows rooftops. So yes, we could use more housing, and there is great potential for that.
Q: You sound like you’re having fun.
A: Oh, it has been a blast, although life has been anything but boring. I think that is why there are “before and after” pictures of both the developers and their projects (ha ha ha)!