Kirk Sykes is Managing Partner of Accordia Partners (AP). Sykes combines his professional training and hands-on experience in the areas of development, design and construction to create customized responses to the complex issues of urban real estate development. His approach is grounded in the bottom-line driven perspective gained during his tenure as a director of The Federal Reserve Bank, Capital Crossing Bank REIT Board, Fleet Bank, The New Boston Fund and BankBoston’s First Community Bank Advisory Boards and various other for-profit and non-profit board affiliations.
- How has your Chairmanship of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston influenced the work you do in the private sector?
I began my board service at the Boston Fed two months before the beginning of the recession, and left six years later with the departure of Chairman Bernanke. I have tremendous admiration for the analytical capabilities of the Fed, as well as our ability to be creative in solving for the Fed’s dual mandate of managing inflation and encouraging job growth. I became equally enamored with the Boston Fed’s commitment to providing leadership in promoting economic development in our Gateway Cities– communities such as Springfield, Lowell, Lawrence and New Bedford. These cities tell the story of an increasingly urban and global economy whose focus in the US had been a few large coastal metros. I think reviewing both domestic monetary policy, and the global recession has influenced my focus on building global capital and real estate connections as well as a renewed focus on the continued growth of our increasingly dense cities. These economic observations lead to our development company, Accordia Partners. The increasingly valuable CBD will need to create economic development opportunities that align with the demographics of our Cities, which are becoming exponentially more diverse. Accordia seeks to close this generational wealth gap by creating opportunities in equity, employment, and education that benefit a city’s entire resident. In many ways this approach is the micro-economic version of the Feds dual mandate and economic development leadership, exclusively focused on urban areas.
- In your role as the President of Urban Strategy America Fund at New Boston Fund, you oversaw investments in urban communities that some investors approached with caution. How did you identify potential opportunities in cities that benefited the bottom line for those investors?
The Urban Strategy America Fund was launched in 2006 as a Triple Bottom Line Fund, meaning that your investors wanted to make a risk-adjusted return on their capital by focusing on the three “P’s”, People, Planet, and Profit. In addition to financial performance, we also measured the impact our investments had on transforming communities. Our investors were true partners in the Funds strategy and valued all the bottom lines, and believed our niche strategy would lead to enhanced returns as well as transformation. In some cases we found the opportunities, and in others the opportunity found us, Several of our sponsors and JV partners were looking for a finance partner that had the development and operational experience the USA Fund had, which allowed us to see beyond the complexity of an investment to the potential that was hidden to many. When we sourced investments directly, we paid attention to sites that had hidden value in their locations, demographics, transit access and municipal support.
- One of your many philanthropic efforts includes supporting programs that diversify the field of real estate. Why is this important to you and how can your colleagues support your efforts?
Access creates opportunity! In many instances the minority-majority ethnic groups in our cities have no access to the careers that lead to the greatest generational wealth; Boston has one of the largest wealth divides in America. According to the Boston Fed the net worth of a Caucasian family in Boston, and all of America is $250,000. The net worth of families of color in America is $25,000, and in Boston, it averages $1,500. Unless professions like real estate aggressively help bridge this wealth gap we are contributing to a two-tiered economy, actually creating a new version of the medieval walled city. I believe my colleagues at ULI & NAIOP knew this when we convened a group of CEOs of the region’s largest real estate companies to address the lack of diversity in our industry. When the question of why diversity in real estate matters, resoundingly the response was, “because it is the right thing to do”. This summer, CREST (Commercial Real Estate Success Training), a program for diverse undergraduates will run in 20 of Boston’s top real estate firms. All of our members can join us in executing this national model for diversity and inclusion that ULI New England & NAIOP Massachusetts have created.
- When you are not making deals, what do you do with your time?
Much of my free time is spent outdoors with my fiancé, Tammy Jones CEO of Basis Investment Group. We love to bike, run and ski when we are not involved with our family, boards and philanthropic activities. Both of us thrive on the high of outdoor sports that we get from exerting ourselves. My first career was as a professional skier. Before going to college, I competed on the Camel Freestyle World Trophy Circuit in Europe and later taught skiing in New Hampshire. I still am an avid skier and recently embraced Back Country skiing. Having more interests than time, I decided to limit my passionate to two sports, so road and mountain biking is my warm weather skiing.
- What is your favorite quote and why?
“There have been many crisis in my life, most which have failed to materialize.” M. David Lee, FAIA. I try to remind myself not to create drama and waste time on what might happen, but instead to focus on what I can make happen. I am a contrarian, so I prefer to move to my own beat. This quote reminds me to live my life fully, in the moment and with a positive outlook.