Real Estate Spotlight: Grant Killingsworth, Senior VP, CBRE

Grant Killingsworth joined CBRE in January 2015 as First Vice President in the Occupier Services Group in South Florida, where he specializes in representing office tenants in the South Florida market. He brings over 20 years of commercial real estate experience to the industry, with an extensive background working for prestigious landlord and corporate clients.

Prior to his role with CBRE, Mr. Killingsworth spent nearly a decade with Jones Lang LaSalle as part of a team exclusively responsible for marketing and leasing over three million square feet of office space in South Florida, most notably Espirito Santo Plaza, where Grant and I first met in 2003, and 1221 Brickell in Miami’s Central Business District.

Miami is a small town when it comes to real estate and Grant and I have regularly crossed paths over the years. Grant is a solid guy and every time we run into each other we seem to have something interesting to talk about. Grant and I are also of the same mindset and we both believe in the value of building long-term relationships. Grant has uncompromising standards and integrity. He’s one of the good guys in commercial real estate in the 305.

It’s not surprising that over the course of his career, Mr. Killinsgsworth has represented a wide range of local, regional and multinational corporations, nonprofits, and educational institutions.

Mr. Killingsworth has a deep understanding of the lease underwriting process, which has since allowed him to implement unique and creative strategies to drive meaningful cost savings for his tenant clients. He also has significant experience in the office development process, from the design and financial underwriting phase through construction and ultimately lease up. If you’re looking for office space in South Florida, Grant should be the first person you call.

The Office Jedi

A Conversation With Mr. Killingsworth

Stoic Urbanist: What is a regular day for you? Do you have a morning routine?

Mr. Killingsworth: My morning routine has changed since COVID and now I usually get up between 5 and 6 am. I’ll read for 30 minutes and then meditate for a few minutes. I’ll make some coffee and then plow through emails and get myself organized for the day. I like to work out in the morning and am usually at the gym lifting or training at Soul Boxing by 6:45 am. Believe it or not, I’m a former amateur boxer and won the Miami Real Estate Broker Boxing Competition in 2008! I also enjoy a yoga class every once in a while, and riding my bicycle with my boys. I’m 6’7”, 250 lbs. and I like to eat and drink wine, so I end up working out 6 or 7 days a week.

After the gym I help my wife make breakfast and get our kids out the door. The first hour or two of my days I focus on prospecting new business. I always try to prospect first in order to build my pipeline. The rest of my day is then spent on Zoom calls, client meetings, tours, and chasing big opportunities.

My day ends around 6 or 7 pm. Working from home has made me closer with my family. I make dinner every night, and every Thursday night my wife and I have a dinner date and margaritas at the Bal Harbour Shops.

Stoic Urbanist: You earned a BS in Real Estate. What inspired you to follow a career in real estate at such a young age?

Mr. Killingsworth: I initially wanted a degree in business or construction management. I played football in college at West Virginia Wesleyan, but it was too far from home and the food was horrible. My short-lived football career ended after two years and I transferred to Florida State University. FSU didn’t offer a construction management program, but the real estate program looked interesting.

Stoic Urbanist: What was your first job?

Mr. Killingsworth: I was 17 when I got my first job working at Sara’s Pizza Kitchen in North Miami. My favorite job was being a rickshaw runner in Coconut Grove. That job helped pay for college. I met some great friends and got myself into great shape. And I still stay in touch with many of my fellow rickshaw runners.

My first job out of college I worked for Starbucks helping with site selection; it was a paid internship. Shortly thereafter I entered Terranova’s training program and at the time Beth Azor was coaching. I learned a lot from Beth and she helped me develop as a young professional and taught me the basics of commercial real estate.

Stoic Urbanist: What impact has COVID had on the office market?

Mr. Killingsworth: From a national perspective, outside of South Florida, it definitely has had a substantial impact, but it’s not entirely because of the “work from home” component. Historically, most companies have leased more real estate than they really needed, and the reality is that it is usually one of the highest fixed expenses for a company. Companies have come to realize that they are not using space efficiently. Real estate pre-COVID-19 wasn’t a priority, but now business leaders are scrutinizing leases more closely. The business was working for the real estate, but the real estate wasn’t necessarily working for the business.

It seems like business leaders were surprised that their IT systems could handle the overnight demand of their people working remotely. For most organizations, it was a relatively smooth transition and employees were able to remain productive. Now that we’re emerging from COVID, companies will continue to focus on gaining operational efficiency and eliminating unnecessary real estate expenses. We’re having meaningful conversations with tenants about how to better utilize their office needs and create the right environment for their employees to stay engaged and productive at home or in the office.

As far as South Florida goes, things started to open up in late spring 2020. With Florida opening up sooner than most places in the country, many executives from across the US started seeing the benefits of living here from a financial and lifestyle perspective. We’ve seen substantial operations move here and we’re also seeing interest in smaller family offices for executive teams. COVID has benefited the South Florida office market and we think that trend will continue for a significant period of time.

In recent years we’ve averaged 300,000–400,000 sq. ft. of office activity per year in Miami-Dade County. In the last year we’ve seen over 1,000,000 sq. ft. of new to market tenant demand looking to relocate their HQs or create a new operations hub. Of the 1,000,000 sq. ft., the bulk of the demand is coming from financial services, alt-finance (VCs, hedge funds, etc.), and technology. We’re seeing some tech companies doubling or even tripling their existing presence in South Florida.

Some of the notable companies that have relocated to South Florida include:

  • Blackstone (Technology Division)
  • Founds Fund (Peter Thiel)
  • Atomic (Jack Abraham)
  • Microsoft (Regional Hub, Latin America)

Stoic Urbanist: Which office submarkets are the most sought after in South Florida and why?

Mr. Killingsworth: Most companies want to be in a central location near amenities, with good access to minimize their employees’ commute to work. Although we advise clients throughout South Florida, we’re seeing significant tenant demand in Brickell, Downtown Miami, Coconut Grove, and Blue Lagoon/Doral. Most of the recent tenants we represent are either finance or tech companies. We’re also starting to see more interest in Wynwood and Coconut Grove now that CocoWalk has been beautifully renovated. Sixty percent of our business is in Miami-Dade County.

Stoic Urbanist: Which South Florida CRE professionals do you have a lot of respect for and why? Name 2 or 3.

Mr. Killingsworth: My partner, Shay Pope, first and foremost. We’ve known each other for about 20 years and have been working together for 6 years. We started in the business around the same time and we’re close to the same age. While we have completely different personalities, we share a similar commitment to serve our clients, helping them to avoid risks and ensure their real estate project is a success.

Also, there are a lot of talented people in our industry and I believe there is plenty of opportunity. If we all do well, South Florida does well. I want everyone to be successful. I love to compete and win business. However, I respect any broker who’s committed to helping their clients make the right decision to support their long- and short-term business needs. Luckily, there is enough business for everyone.

Stoic Urbanist: What hobbies or interests do you have?

Mr. Killingsworth: I love to spend quality time with my family and try my best to be a good husband and father. We love to travel as a family and my kids have been to more countries than I had been to when I was 40. My wife is from Colombia so we travel to South America often. We love to entertain family and friends at our home. My dirty little secret is that I own six BBQ grills and consider myself a gringo gaucho!

Stoic Urbanist: What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

Mr. Killingsworth: I try to read two or three books every month. I recently read The Transparency Sale by Todd Caponi and highly recommend it. I also just finished reading Powerhouse Principles by the Condo King himself, Jorge Pérez. He’s very passionate about our business. Two of my favorite books include Start with Why by Simon Sinek and The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle.

Stoic Urbanist: What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made?

Mr. Killingsworth: My wife. You are definitely lucky when you find the right person. She keeps me grounded and on my toes. I respect my wife and I think she makes me a better person.

Spending time with my kids and being present at their sporting events and other interests is something I take very seriously. Childhood is short and we only have a limited amount of time to ensure we’re raising quality people. I like investing my time with my sons.

I also like investing in the stock market.

Stoic Urbanist: What’s something very few people know about you?

Mr. Killingsworth: I was diagnosed with a learning disability and dyslexia in school. I had to work a little harder than others, but I learned to set goals and overcome those challenges. Working hard, but struggling, forced me to become disciplined, and as a result it forced me to hustle.