Inside the Mind of Miami’s Retail Visionary
Terranova President Mindy McIlroy on creativity, retail real estate trends and pushing boundaries.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month, Commercial Property Executive is highlighting the inspirational accomplishments of a wide range of female leaders.
Mindy McIlroy is a visionary in the restaurant and retail sector, currently serving as the president of Coral Gables, Fla.-based Terranova Corp. With a keen eye for spotting trends and passion for creating unique experiences, she has made an impact on Miami’s vibrant retail and dining scene. She is the mastermind behind successful leasing to a variety of tenants on such iconic thoroughfares as Lincoln Road in Miami Beach and Miracle Mile in Coral Gables.
The executive has a track record of visualizing and developing innovative concepts. Among her notable achievements is The Lincoln Eatery, a Miami Beach food hall designed by global architecture firm Arquitectonica. The unique venue showcases a variety of fast-casual, artisan and grab-and-go concepts in a single location, appealing to foodies, locals and travelers alike.
McIlroy continues to explore new ideas and position Terranova as a leader in Miami’s retail market. She recently shared insights from her journey with Commercial Property Executive.
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Tell us more about the mission of Terranova and how you became involved with the company.
McIlroy: Terranova is an opportunistic alternative investment firm with a core focus on U.S. real estate. We have a long-standing commitment to building better communities. While the company has built a vast national platform, we remain dedicated to our local roots by making a powerful impact on the commercial real estate industry we serve and on the community we call home.
I began my career at Terranova as an executive assistant in 1997. I had no plans to be involved in the real estate business, but the company president approached me and asked if I would consider transferring to a sales role in the leasing department. It seemed like a good idea at the time and has proven to be the best decision I have ever made.
What do you see as your biggest accomplishment in your career thus far?
McIlroy: My biggest accomplishment consists of building our stellar team at Terranova. It’s been the 26th year since I have devoted myself to our Terranova family. I have the utmost respect for this tight-knit team of amazing professionals—together we have so much more to accomplish and look forward to.
Where do you draw inspiration from? How do you stay on top of industry trends and changes?
McIlroy: I draw inspiration primarily from traveling, something I really missed during the pandemic. To me, traveling allows you to free yourself of the day-to-day routine which then allows you to view your surroundings with a completely fresh perspective. I often travel alone as I enjoy the sense of adventure that solo travel offers.
I think people are uncomfortable when they see me dining alone so the neighboring tables often strike up a conversation with me or ask me to join them. I have the most interesting conversations when this happens and love the opportunity to meet new people.
To stay current with retail industry trends, I go to a lot of networking events and conferences. I prefer in-person meetings and interactions.
You have completed well over $1 billion in retail leasing deals spanning a complete spectrum of retail properties. What lies behind this stellar performance?
McIlroy: It’s a combination of hard work, perseverance, discipline, a positive attitude and always being open to learning and new ideas.
What do you see as the biggest trends or shifts happening in the retail industry?
McIlroy: The restaurant industry has clearly led the way in retail leasing in South Florida. COVID-19 created a delivery culture that gave restaurants another method to reach customers that used to have to come in to eat. Pre-pandemic, ordering options were limited to pizza and Chinese food in South Florida. The delivery options, long a mainstay in cities like New York, exploded down here and Uber Eats and Door Dash were perfectly positioned to fill that need.
While we had years of positive population growth, the wealth of the most recent wave of new residents has far exceeded anything in the past and supported a lot of new restaurants coming down from the Northeast.
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How does Terranova engage with and give back to the community in which it operates?
McIlroy: We give back by participating civically, politically and socially. Our founder, Stephen Bittel, donated $1 million to the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s division of Movement Disorders in the Department of Neurology to accelerate research into a cure for Parkinson’s disease and improve developments in patient care. Having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 10 years ago, I am actively involved with the Parkinson’s Foundation where I am a board member.
I am also the vice president of the Lincoln Road Business Improvement District in Miami Beach, the heart and soul of the Miami Beach retail and entertainment district. All of us at Terranova make it a point to frequent the restaurants and merchants in our investment portfolio during our professional and personal time as we feel it is very important to support our tenants.
In your opinion, what are some of the key skills and qualities that women bring to leadership positions in real estate?
McIlroy: I believe these are strong listening skills, can-do positive attitude and instinct to build an environment of collaboration and community.
What advice would you give to women looking to start a career in the real estate industry?
McIlroy: Find a mentor! Someone who motivates you, has a proven track record and a stellar reputation in the industry.
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