Meet Kathleen (Kathy) MacNeil
Kathy is a principal at MP Boston, the local office of Millennium Partners, an urban real estate developer. Kathy’s work, primarily as real estate development manager, has included several complex urban projects in Boston, including Winthrop Center, projected to be the largest Passive House office building in the world. It is a 1.8 million square foot mixed used tower now under construction in downtown Boston, as well as the recently completed Millennium Tower.
Kathy is a LEED Accredited Professional. She has her Massachusetts Construction Supervisor’s License and has received a Master of Science in Real Estate Development from MIT Center for Real Estate and holds a bachelor’s degree from Wentworth in Architectural Engineering. Kathy serves on the Advisory Board for Historic Boston, Inc., a local preservation organization, as well as the board of directors for Friends of Post Office Square, and is a Trustee at Wentworth Institute where she is also an adjunct professor. She received the Boston Society of Architects Award of Excellence in 2016.
Q: How did you get your start in Commercial Real Estate Development and what drew you to this field of work?
A: I wanted to be an architect since middle school (truth be told I was drawn to architecture after being a Brady Bunch fan – remember Mike, the dad, was an architect). It goes to show you how influential TV is to young minds (but that’s another topic). In any case, being a very goal-orientated person, I pursued architecture. When I graduated, I took a job for a contractor and worked on a condo project. When it was completed, I was approached by the developer to work for them. Even at the young age of 25 I figured out it was the developers who really controlled the process. I wanted to create ‘places’ for people, so I made the move into development and have never regretted it!
Q: What does it mean to you to be a woman in CRE Development?
A: For me, I was always the only woman at the board room table, but as the developer, I also wrote the checks, so that gave me currency from day one. I was never afraid to admit what I did not know. Today, I feel an obligation to share my story and be “out there” attending sessions in order to be a role model to other young women trying to make it in what is still a very white, male world.
Q: Have you seen the field advance, in terms of female representation, since you got your start?
A: Yes and no. Yes, there are many more woman in the field and no, there are still few women leaders/heavy hitters. I lecture at Wentworth and my classes are still 98% males!
Q: What are your hopes for the future of women in CRE Development?
A: My hope is that women can find the right balance to be in leadership positions in the industry while still having the chance to be a mommy; that they bring their skills to the table, influencing changes in the places where we work, live, play, helping to shape the cities of the future. We bring our own perspective and that is the key to diversity – having many different perspectives to shape our built environment.
Q: How has the CRE industry changed in the last two years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
A: Well, the pandemic has really made folks reconsider how, when, and where they work, for sure. For the industry, I think we are still in the midst of what our cities will look like, how office space will evolve, and where housing prices will settle. The pandemic advanced the discussions about healthy buildings, fresh air, access to outdoors, and climate change, all advancements that Winthrop Center (the project out your window) was already doing. Now, those advancements are a must for any tenants looking for office space and any developer building.
Q: Do you feel these changes will be lasting?
A: The requirements for healthier work spaces, yes. In terms of working from home, I think more and more people will come back to the office and want their routines, especially younger people who need mentors, feedback, and interaction to advance in their careers.
Q: What would you say to young professionals coming up in the industry?
A: I advise young people in the industry to get involved in professional groups, to try to get out and network. This is not just for career advancement, but to see and hear how others are doing things, to find an interest, to explore and get involved in what is going on around you.
Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of working in CRE Development?
A: The rewards of my career have been seeing the impact projects we worked hard to make happen have had. Millennium Tower has revitalized downtown – the steps are a place, the comings and goings of people add vitality. Seeing the various projects I have had a hand in be part of our city fabric is very rewarding.