How I Made It: Renata Simril, real estate advisor
The gig: Renata Simril is a new managing director at commercial real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle. She advises institutional clients such as the city of Los Angeles and USC on what to do with their real estate.
Background: She grew up in Carson. Uncertain about what professional path to follow after graduating from high school, she decided to serve her country by joining the Army. She became a military police officer.
Breakthrough: In the Army, she was stationed in what was then West Germany and traveled to Italy and France. Ruins such as the Colosseum in Rome set her to thinking about what makes communities work. “I was enamored at a very young age at the fall and rise of European cities,” she said.
Education: Simril attended Loyola Marymount University and majored in urban studies, a blend of economics, urban planning and real estate. She also earned a master’s degree in real estate development from USC.
Urban problem analysis: “The current economy is exacerbating challenges cities across the nation face,” she said.
Many cities that added employees during the economic boom of the mid-2000s now have declining tax revenues even as healthcare and pension costs for their workers continue to grow. Facing daunting budget issues, “cities are now looking at creative solutions for their real estate,” she said. “They’re asking how they can be more effective by using proven private-sector techniques in the public sector.”
What she does: Simril helps cities and other entities such as universities and school districts squeeze money out of their real estate. That might include renegotiating leases, selling properties or putting together a joint public-private development.
“Financing has gotten much more complex” than it was in the past, she said. “We come in and provide that expertise to public-sector clients who wouldn’t have it internally. That lets them pay attention to their primary mission.”
Clients: Hers include Los Angeles World Airports, the cities of Riverside and San Diego, UC San Diego and the federal General Services Administration.
Personal: The former Renata Smith married her Carson High School sweetheart, Ken Simril. They named their sons Carson and Sebastian and live in Studio City.
Career path: Simril likes to joke that she has “career ADD” because she has worked for several organizations. Most recently she was a senior vice president at Forest City Development, where she oversaw several projects including a $157-million conversion of a former office building in Los Angeles into condominiums and stores.
She was deputy mayor in charge of economic development, housing and workforce policy in Los Angeles during the James Hahn administration and implemented the city’s adaptive reuse policy that led to the creation of 4,000 housing units. She has also been vice president of real estate development for Genesis LA Economic Growth Corp., which was formed to encourage economic growth in central Los Angeles after the 1992 riots, and director of development for LCOR Public/Private Inc.
Motivation: Her ambition and drive were nurtured at home, where her father, an Army cook, held sway. “My dad ran a pretty rigid household,” she said, “and really emphasized hard work balanced with making sure there was integrity in everything you did.”