Commercial Real Estate Today: Andrew Roscoe Of Project Management Advisors On 5 Things You Need to Create a Highly Successful Career in the Commercial Real Estate Industry Today

An interview with Aron Weiner

Aaron Weiner
Authority Magazine
20 min readJun 25, 2024


Ownership. One of our clients has a poster that says, “Nothing is someone else’s problem.” And for me, that philosophy has really held true. Bring a sense of responsibility and pride to all you do, from the smallest tasks to the biggest challenges. Ownership is a muscle you can stretch and grow every day. Say the paper towel roll is out in the kitchen; be the person who replaces it, not the one who waits for someone else to step in.

The commercial real estate industry is a dynamic and challenging landscape that offers enormous potential for success. However, it requires a unique blend of skills, knowledge, and aptitude to truly excel. How does one establish themselves in such a competitive field? What does it take to consistently rise to the top in commercial real estate? How does one rise above the headwinds that are challenging the commercial real estate industry today? In this interview series, we are talking to commercial real estate professionals, brokers, investors, leaders of Real Estate Firms and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), as well as anyone who’s found significant success in this industry. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Roscoe.

Andy is a demonstrated commercial real estate leader, serving as the Eastern Regional President of Project Management Advisors, Inc., a national firm providing development and strategic consulting expertise within the built environment. Andy has worked with leading technology, healthcare, multifamily and public and private innovators to conceptualize and deliver development projects. He oversees financial performance, resource and pipeline planning, staff development and internal operations for 4 of PMA’s 7 offices.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would like to learn a bit about your origin story. Can you share with us a bit about your childhood and how you grew up?

I’m a Midwest boy, born and raised in a small industrial town in West Central, Ohio. I grew up playing baseball and riding bikes with my friends, back in the days when your parents let you play outside from 8am till 8pm — basically whenever the night streetlights came on.

I’ve known what I wanted to do ever since I was eight years old. My family took a trip to Canada, including visiting Niagara Falls. But Toronto is the part of the trip that stands out best because it was there that I discovered my lifelong love of architecture and engineering. At the time, the SkyDome was still being built — a massive construction project that would soon become home to the Blue Jays baseball team. All that steel and concrete going up blew my mind, especially when I learned that I was witnessing the development of one of the first retractable Major League Baseball facilities in North America. I loved baseball, so seeing the way building and baseball came together really fired up my imagination from an early age.

That of course was just the beginning. From there I started building little stadium projects on my own — with Construx and K’nex building blocks, this led me to the architecture and engineering world in college.

Can you share with us the ‘backstory’ of how you got into the real estate business?

I feel lucky that I knew what I wanted to do from such an early age. That sense of purpose fueled me through my teen years and into college, where I started off studying structural engineering. At 19 I started interning for a prominent firm called Larsen Darby in Rockford, Illinois. I was grateful to then have an internship at the firm, The Hezner Corporation, for four summers. Those earlier days in my education were invaluable in helping me hone my understanding of how to build strong and enduring relationships, but they also helped me see that I wanted to look at the work from a different angle than just architecture. I earned my B.S. and later my Masters in Architecture and Real Estate Finance, both from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. After college I worked at Ernst & Young where I was fortunate to be involved with the reconstruction of casinos in Biloxi, Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina devastated the coast. This is where I fell in love with project management and business consulting. I was at EY for 18 months and then moved on to Project Management Advisors.

Can you tell us about your company and what makes it stand out?

Project Management Advisors (PMA) is a fast-paced, creative real estate and project development firm with deep experience in technical and innovative projects. I love the diversity of clients and product types we work with, because it makes us well-rounded and better at supporting any project type, at any time. For example, on a typical day you could work for a school district in the morning, meet with a commercial client over lunch, and review hospital plans in the afternoon.

What makes PMA a true industry standout, however, is our people. We start by hiring true experts in the field and mix them with talented staff who are eager to learn beyond their already impressive technical background — and then inspire them to stay with tailored onboarding, mentorship and advancement opportunities as their tenures grow. In terms of managing people, we invest time and energy into building our collective emotional intelligence, always trying to understand how people act and what moves them to bring their best, even on stressful days.

This people-centric culture pays off not only for our clients, but for all of us who work here, too. Employees don’t just drop in and out of this company; they shape proud careers here, appreciating that our diverse projects help them grow. Take me, for example: I’ve been a proud member of the PMA team since 2006.

Can you tell our readers about the most exciting new projects you are working on now?

Honestly, I’m always excited about the sheer variety of product types we work on at PMA.

That said, lately we’ve been seeing a lot of momentum in healthcare, life sciences and electronic research and development facilities. We’re working for clients on the forefront of developing advanced AI and microchips, as well as other technologies that could very well change the world. It’s really cool to see clients pioneering game-changing solutions, and knowing you play a role by delivering the purpose-built environments that are key to achieving their visions.

I also feel profound personal connection with work we do in research labs and healthcare projects that will help create brighter futures for patients. I’m on the Board of Trustees at La Rabida Children’s Hospital, and when you go to that hospital and see the kids whose lives these projects will impact, it’s incredibly rewarding.

The other thing about partnering with innovators? We are called to rise to the challenge of innovation, too. PMA is leading the way in creative and strategic technology use, embracing AI and trying to understand how it will change industries and project management alike. For now, the future in this fast-evolving space is still unclear, but it’s invigorating to try to imagine what the next five years will look like, and plan for different outcomes. It’s never easy to change the way you think or do something. But I find those challenging questions fun, and frankly inspiring.

Ok, let’s now move to the main part of our interview about commercial real estate. What are the 3 things that most excite you about the industry now? Why?

The three things that most excite me about the industry now are:

  1. We are actively and collaboratively reimagining CRE: From continuing COVID-19 impacts to changing demographics, the CRE landscape is in a state of incredible flux right now. All of us who work in this space must try to understand the evolving needs of tenants and corporations, a challenge that can be daunting, but thrilling too. We are seeing all-new ways of using real estate to merge different aspects of people’s lives. By relocating developments and bringing commercial, residential, and hospitality spaces closer together, we’re witnessing a future of interconnected communities.
  2. Diverse and innovative developments: I’ve always been interested in highly creative projects, and that’s exactly what’s needed for another growing trend: adaptive reuse. We’re seeing a lot of interest and momentum in reimagining existing buildings as something new, such as office spaces recast as specialized labs or residential units in areas with major housing shortages. These kinds of projects are not easy; they each require a very specific set of knowledge and skills. But they sure are exciting to consider.
  3. Demand for premium offerings: While many firms are still grappling with return-to-office, the fact is that demand is still high for Class A, super-luxury real estate products. And, to put it simply, luxury and high-tech modern development projects are always good fun.

What are the 3 things that concern you about it? Why? What should be done to address and alleviate those concerns?

A few common concerns come to mind.

1 . Rising vacancies in old office buildings. First and foremost is the number of vacancies in large urban areas we’re seeing. It’s important to square that with the “flight to quality” that experts have been clocking. According to recent analysis, 90% of current office vacancies are in the bottom 30% of buildings, i.e. mostly older buildings with limited amenities and functionality. The top 25% of buildings, by contrast, are seeing stable vacancies along with record-high rents. That means not all office spaces are sitting empty — it’s mostly the ones that need significant reinvestment.

But like I mentioned a moment ago, office spaces can be difficult to convert. You can’t just wave a wand over a nice rendering and turn an 80-year-old office building with double-hung windows and low ceilings into a modern office space. And when it comes to transforming an old office building into a new residential one that’s up to code and tenant requirements, we’re talking not just about structural change, but also often the floorplate and even the streetscape itself.

For example, there was one very creative idea in Chicago to raise LaSalle Street up by two or three stories, delivering a whole other level of urban development and pedestrian-friendly walking areas. Revolutionary ideas like that are exactly what it’s going to take to truly activate some of these buildings — but none of it will be easy to pull off.

2. Labor shortages. Another current concern is the ongoing construction labor shortage, which is currently topping half a million skilled workers. But even more concerning to me is the fact that when we talk to our peers in our construction firms, the unions are decreasing with their numbers, too. Fewer young people are going to trade schools now than in the past, nor are they going into the kinds of apprentice programs that have been a pipeline for men and women into trades over the last 50 years. Looking ahead to the next 20 years, I’m anticipating an even more serious shortage in construction labor, whether it’s carpenters or pipe fitters, or anything in between.

On a related note, when people ask me how I think AI will change things, many seem surprised by my answer. My take is that harnessing AI technology is a necessary evolution, because I think the pool of potential workers is just going to be smaller in the future. If we wield it effectively, AI and other advanced technology can help future CRE leaders improve productivity and efficiency in the construction field, so that maybe a given site only needs one person with a particular skill, as opposed to two like they may have needed in the past.

3. Ongoing return to office challenges. Finally, I still see companies wrestling with their return to office strategy for a variety of reasons. I think some are still trying to understand what people want, and playing something of a waiting game as they experiment with different scenarios. Unfortunately, I think a lot are still in a place of, ‘do what you want, and we’ll see how it goes.’ I’ve always said that a non-policy is the worst thing that companies can do because it makes it impossible to utilize commercial real estate effectively — let alone plan future strategy. My advice to companies without a formal policy is to start with something basic but clear and build up and around it from there.

If you had the power to put in place 3 changes to improve or reform the industry, what would you suggest? Please share stories or examples, if possible.

First, I would start at the ground level by ensuring education and training programs are better equipped to recruit people with more diverse backgrounds and those who hail from non-traditional markets.

At PMA, we’re striving to do exactly that with our Thrive internship program, where we reach out to non-traditional schools to connect with promising summer internship candidates, with the long-term vision that they may eventually step up to full-time employment. This intentionally non-traditional outreach doesn’t mean we won’t still look to traditional sources like architecture and engineering colleges — but it does help us expand the breadth of talent and experience in the employee pool of tomorrow.

Secondly, and this is coming from a project manager, so I expect some people will disagree with me — but I’d also like to see career education programs in this field give participants a little more in way of the technical focus. I know sometimes the technical work can seem boring and not as creative for some young people, but an effective education program sets participants up for real-world job opportunities. And ultimately, there is great potential for getting super creative in this field — once you’re able to balance and ground imagination with technical mastery.

Finally, I’d love to see our industry as a whole move faster to embrace changing technology and innovation. Despite new advances every day, the general approach to construction has been status quo for a very long time. I understand the worries some people in this field have: It is hard to innovate. You still have to build a building brick by brick, it’s true. But there are so many new ways to improve speed and sustainability in this industry that I think companies are really holding themselves back by not pursuing innovation in construction. For example, we’ve been seeing a lot of new interest in mass timber projects — for good reason. Concrete and steel have been the go-to for so long, but I don’t think everyone realizes how much energy is needed for those kinds of projects. Mass timber buildings can be just as beautiful and durable, plus, they’re truly a sustainable product because you can always grow more trees.

How has technology changed the commercial real estate industry, and how do you foresee it shaping the future of the sector?”

I think technology is going to create more efficiency around the process. People are always going to be involved in design, construction, and project management. But there’s a lot of inefficiencies today around communication, including project document management and coordination. I think technology tools will help improve collaboration and communication, from reviewing documentation to coordinating implementation, and supporting review. The level of collaboration and efficiency that’s becoming possible will be a game-changer in our ability to manage large, complicated projects.

I am hearing the phrase “Stay alive until 2025” a lot. What is your plan to survive in the current market?

We’re not a small firm, but we’re not a big firm either. Our philosophy has always been to grab a handful of projects that we know we can deliver successfully in whatever market we’re in.

Will 2025 be a magical year? I don’t know. I think the cost of capital is still going to be high and the interest rates haven’t been cut, so it could be another challenging year. But that’s okay, we always plan for the worst because that’s the nature of the business. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about commercial real estate, it’s that it’s cyclical. We’ve had a bull run for 10–12 years, so it’s not uncommon that we’re going to have a couple of choppy years now. We just have to float until we get to the next polling — and we do that by sticking to the projects we know we can deliver.

We also recognize how important it is to inspire clients to be return customers, which is always smart but can be especially valuable in quieter times. I’m hopeful that some of our accounts that have been quieter in 2024 will be more active in 2025 and it will all come together as a good year.

For a young person who would like to eventually make a career in commercial real estate, which skills and subjects do they need to learn?

We hire a diverse set of people, from architects to engineers to real estate finance. Beyond specific skills, I think the biggest thing we look for is people who have a knack for understanding the big picture and trying to see how the puzzle pieces all fit together.

Personally, I’ve always said my architecture background honed my ability to solve and look at problems with multiple solutions. That’s because when you’re in design studio, everyone comes up with a different design and solution for one singular program. It’s always interested me that there’s never just one way to solve a thing. There are dozens of ways. In our world, remembering that incredible potential is critical to unlocking true creativity, not just in terms of design but also how you approach problem-solving with your project team.

So, my advice is to think about the big picture of how the puzzle pieces fit together and remember, there are many ways to solve a singular problem when you open your mind and get creative.

Do you have three things you would advise a new real estate professional to avoid?

First, I would say, don’t get siloed into something too early on in your career. Get a breadth of experience with a diverse set of skills. Try a little bit of everything. Don’t just focus solely on commercial real estate or healthcare. At some point, people become experts and get a certain level of knowledge that demands them to go into a particular arena. But when you’re just starting out, get experience in all the fields. That way, later in your career, you have a wider bank of knowledge to draw on. Plus, it gives you a chance to explore different areas so that you can really understand the options and hone into what drives you to become an expert in that field down the line.

Second, get involved in the community. We always talk to our people about being involved in local organizations and giving back to the community. Make sure it’s something you’re passionate about, though, not just something you’re volunteering for to check it off the list. Find groups or activities you look forward to participating in.

Third, recognize that these early years are an incredible learning opportunity. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, forge new connections, and share your ideas with team members.

When evaluating deals or opportunities in real estate, what are the most important factors you look for and why? Can you provide some examples?

First and foremost is, does it fit within our strategic plan? We have specific sectors we focus on for a reason, including healthcare, hospitality, life sciences, multifamily and technology, to name a few. We have the experience and subject matter experts it takes to perform well in them. That said, we also work in sectors that are a growth market in the current economic environment, which of course changes over time, meaning our sector focus may change over time, too. So there’s a financial responsibility to look at all that as well as a strategic responsibility.

On the softer side of the deal, we also always consider whether prospective clients are going to be good to work with. Are they going to be professional? Are they going to be grateful to have someone like us on their teams? We are committed to fostering a positive and friendly work environment so that everyone can be successful.

Can you share a story with us about the hardest deal you made, that ended successfully for you?

I’m not sure there’s one deal that quite fits that description, but it can often be challenging to navigate contrasting approaches in the real estate industry. Our firm prioritizes fairness and advocates for owners. But there have been times when clients who don’t quite understand the ins and outs of CRE and construction or haven’t acted in good faith.

For example, sometimes there are gaps in memory of what might have been selected during design presentations, and people come on site and are surprised. Those are often tough discussions because you have to remind them that we’d selected this as a team, and then obviously work through the issues because we want everyone to be happy.

In the end, even those challenging times have ended in success, because we always focus on the relationships.

Based on your personal experience and success, can you please share “Five Things You Need to Create a Highly Successful Career in the Commercial Real Estate Industry”?

Everyone’s path will be unique, of course, but I have learned a few keys to success along the way.

Here are my Five Things You Need to Create a Highly Successful Career in the Commercial Real Estate Industry:

1 . Ownership. One of our clients has a poster that says, “Nothing is someone else’s problem.” And for me, that philosophy has really held true. Bring a sense of responsibility and pride to all you do, from the smallest tasks to the biggest challenges. Ownership is a muscle you can stretch and grow every day. Say the paper towel roll is out in the kitchen; be the person who replaces it, not the one who waits for someone else to step in.

Your commitment to successful outcomes with small things is also great practice for the bigger challenges of life and work. If there is a problem with a project management approach, or training or software, then be the one to put together a plan to address it. If you see a gap in business practices, be the one who takes the initiative to research it, shape a plan, and helps executives see why it should be implemented.

I try to live these words, but like I said, it’s an ongoing practice. But I think one example of my own commitment to ownership is when I created a task force here at PMA 10 years ago. At the time I was working on a few accounts with projects where multiple offices were working on the same project. I saw how different our approaches were between offices, from which tools we used to how we handled the meeting minutes. So I came up with a plan: To start a task force convening project managers from different offices to talk about ways we could align processes to create a more efficient and collaborative model. From there, we developed a set of general tools to share, as well as a new employee onboarding program for the company. Overall that task force was a prime example of what I mean by looking at everything you see, thinking that the problems you see are yours to fix — no one else’s — and laying out a plan to solve them.

2 . Urgency. In the consulting world, if you’re not in front of your clients actively serving them, they’re not thinking about you. And when you’re not there, that’s the opportunity for someone else to get in front of them. It’s so important to show them not only that you’re ready, but eager and willing to help. The good news is there are many ways you can do exactly that, from prompt follow-ups and proactive communication to bringing different solution ideas to the table and always bringing your A game.

For example, let’s say your client has a tricky question and you don’t know the answer. You know you’re going to get the information they need as soon as you can, but don’t make them wait around for that. Respond right away and let them know you don’t have an immediate answer, but you’re working on it and will get it to them tomorrow. It’s all about gauging client needs and wants, not by over-communicating, or under-communicating — but by understanding what their level of communication desire is and staying in front of them.

This mindset also extends to new opportunities, by the way. If you hear about a new opportunity, be steady and persistent as you move through due diligence to connect the dots and learn exactly what it will take to win that new opportunity. In this industry, if you can demonstrate a true sense of urgency, then you’re already one step ahead of your competition.

3. Creativity. Remember: There are always multiple ways to solve a problem. In our world, there’s so much more gray than black and white; there’s a million shades and hues in between. Also, creativity doesn’t have to be around design or art or culture. You can be really creative within spreadsheets. You can be creative within all the tools that we use, because identifying multiple tools to solve problems is itself a creative way to approach things. You can, and should, also apply creativity in everyday problem solving for your clients. Ultimately, however you channel it, creativity lets you think about solutions in multiple ways. And it doesn’t hurt that it also makes things more fun and interesting.

4. Collaboration. All your best skills and traits — including the creativity, ownership, and sense of urgency I just mentioned — they can all be even more powerful when you bring your best to your broader project team. This means looking for the good in people, how each person can complement another’s efforts and approaches to problem-solving. It also means recognizing different people have different roles, different expertise, and different levels of experience, but everyone is there to bring their own special sauce to any given task.

So instead of telling people how you think they can solve a problem, help them see what that is by asking the right questions. The idea is to take a constructive approach where you can help the people you’re working with do their best work, without actually doing their jobs for them. To me, the ideal is leading a team where everyone feels like they’re doing their best work, and you’re all in the trenches together.

5) Enjoyment. Commercial real estate is a relationship-oriented world. I’ve been in the business for a long time now, and everywhere I go — whether to New York or San Francisco or most anywhere in between — people in our industry seem to know each other and have connections in common. At a minimum this means you can never burn any bridges. It also means you will also always find someone interesting to talk to. My advice: Bring your best self forward at all times and enjoy yourself. We all work hard, true. But there’s something incredibly gratifying — and yes, fun — in knowing that together, we deliver great projects.

What advice would you give to another real estate professional about improving the work culture, building team morale, and helping each employee thrive?

Practice what you preach — when you bring your best and are truly present with your team, it inspires others to bring their best too. We have social outings that help remind everyone that we work hard and play hard. But it’s not just about where or why you connect; but how you connect. It’s about the relationships you foster with one another. For example, when you’re heading into a meeting, connection can be as simple as asking a question — with genuine interest — about how someone’s weekend was. Ask follow-up questions, and better yet, try to remember what they said so that next week, you can bring it up again. Or when you know someone is having a hard time, check in on them when you can, not prying of course, but just to show you care.

Friendliness and communication make a big difference here overall. Our workplace culture if very much open door. We’re always walking around talking to people, so it’s important to remember who’s in what situation and to make it your priority to address it.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I want to see a more diverse and inclusive workforce that gives people from different parts of the country the opportunity to get into architecture, construction or engineering. Going to a traditional architecture school at a big university isn’t an option for everyone, and I think we need more ways for people to get that first foot in the door.

We know we need to have a broader workforce in the future, and that means getting more people involved. In the past, architecture and design has been very traditional, and therefore hard to break through. It’s time to open the doors wider and invite more people in.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow PMA at or on LinkedIn. We post a lot about our current projects and some of the issues we’re thinking about across our seven offices. And you can follow me on LinkedIn as well.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!