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Meet the 2024 ICSC Trustees’ Distinguished Service Award Winners

May 20, 2024

The prestigious ICSC Trustees’ Distinguished Service Awards were announced at the Volunteer Leadership Appreciation Brunch on Sunday morning during ICSC LAS VEGAS. This year’s three winners have been members of ICSC for a combined 87 years. See why ICSC holds Jane Domenico, Ken Hira and Bob Matias in such esteem.

Jane Domenico

Infrastructure Jane Domenico, third from left, at a March 2023 Ontario Real Estate Clubs Association reception with Toronto Metropolitan University students. She and fellow ICSC Foundation Canada board members Lesley Gibson of CT REIT, Kevin Akyeampong of Cadillac Fairview, Marco Biasiotto of Primaris REIT and Nick Iozzo of The Ancillary Agency spoke at the event, which ICSC Foundation Canada sponsored, about careers in real estate and programs offered by ICSC Foundation Canada.

When Jane Domenico started out in the Toronto real estate industry in the early 1990s, she made a promise to herself that she would give others a helping hand. And she has more than delivered on that commitment through her longtime involvement in ICSC and a passion for mentoring. “Giving back is really important,” said Domenico, who has received a 2024 ICSC Trustees’ Distinguished Service Award.

She and her sister were the first in their family with university educations. Her father was an immigrant who dropped out of school in the ninth grade to support his family. Domenico built a successful career, but it was never easy. “I believe that I am that example that with hard work, intelligence, perseverance and personal aspirations, you can achieve what you set out to do,” she said.

Domenico also believes firmly that you learn from every opportunity, and she has had plenty across her more than 33 years in the industry. She has worked in areas like accounting, investment, asset management, property management and portfolio management and has held senior positions at a variety of companies, including Partners REIT, Triovest, Oxford and Ivanhoe Cambridge.

Her most recent career move was motivated, not surprisingly, by a desire to make an impact. Last year, she left her position as Canada lead of retail services at Colliers to work in the public sector as head of Infrastructure Ontario’s Real Estate Services division. She now manages the provincial government’s building and land portfolio, helping tackle tough issues like affordable housing and providing the real estate that fuels a variety of Canada’s critical programs across housing, health care, education and judicial systems.

Domenico has been an active member of ICSC for nearly 20 years, including serving as a member of the Canadian convention committee for 14 years and convention co-chair in 2013. She began a three-year term on the ICSC Foundation Canada board of directors in January 2023. Domenico is an active participant on the board’s development and governance committees. Bbut it’s outside this formal capacity that Domenico does the service she really loves: mentoring students and talking with them about different careers in real estate.

Additionally, she serves as an ICSC Canadian Ambassador, promoting and advocating for innovation in retail and mixed-use assets.

People might volunteer in order to elevate their profiles in the industry, but “that’s not Jane,” said past ICSC chair and past ICSC Foundation Canada chair John Morrison. “She always took her career hat off and put ICSC first. She was there to give back and not to take something in return.” The fact that she is continuing her involvement in ICSC now that she works for Infrastructure Ontario speaks to her commitment to the association and to the industry, he added.

Morrison met Domenico in the mid-1990s. He was her boss at Oxford, and the two have served on numerous ICSC committees together. “She has always demonstrated that she was serving on these committees on behalf of ICSC,” he said. “She wanted to do right by ICSC. She recognized what the industry association needed in terms of volunteerism and was always looking for ways to improve and promote the industry association together with the industry itself.”

As a member of the ICSC Foundation Canada board’s development committee, Domenico is responsible for cultivating and soliciting a large number of Canadian company and individual members to donate to ICSC Foundation Canada. As part of the governance committee, Domenico has been instrumental in identifying members as prospective directors for the board. In fact, she recruited the newest director, Stephanie Hannon, who succeeded Domenico as Colliers lead of Canada retail services. Hannon began her ICSC Foundation Canada board term in January.

As an ICSC Foundation Canada director, Domenico often is asked to serve as a judge for student case competitions. She loves serving in this capacity and refers to herself as a “case competition nerd.” She views case competitions as a wonderful opportunity to show how real estate can transform a community or a company and to showcase the solutions that come from a diverse group of people with different perspectives working together.

She also gains a reset on her own perceptions. “I love seeing people come with new ideas and from their viewpoint,” she said. She also believes strongly that organizations make better decisions when they have diverse and robust viewpoints at the table. As such, much of her mentoring focuses on working with women and people of color through ICSC and through her longtime participation in Toronto CREW. “If I can help someone achieve their goals,” Domenico said, “that’s a good way to end the day.”

—Beth Mattson-Teig

Ken Hira

Kosmont Cos.’ president Ken Hira, center, with Lewis Group of Cos. president of California operations Richard Lewis on the left and then-senior vice president of commercial development Gary Bauer in 2017 about to be en route between Northern California and Orange County. Lewis Retail Centers was a client and former employer of Hira’s.

Ken Hira’s impulse to pursue leadership roles in professional groups began at UCLA. When he paid $10 to join UCLA’s undergraduate business society, he wanted to do more than just boost his résumé. “Not only did I want to be more involved, but I aspired to run the club one day. Subsequently, I was elected president,” recalled Hira, who now is president of a different entity, Kosmont Cos. The El Segundo, California-based firm works with cities and private developers on economic development initiatives and public-private projects.

The leadership traits of Hira, who has been married for 27 years and has a daughter who works at Goldman Sachs and a son at The University of Utah, have benefited ICSC ever since he joined the organization in 1997. Working in the retail real estate industry at the time, Hira’s decision to become a member was an obvious choice, especially given ICSC’s national conferences and its relationship-building and dealmaking resources.

Kosmont Cos. senior vice president and ICSC Community Advancement Southern California chair Brian Moncrief and Kosmont president Ken Hira, at right, in 2017 with six-time Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest champion Takeru Kobayashi, a mainstay at The Festival Cos. booth at ICSC’s Las Vegas events

Following his nature to do more, he began volunteering in 2002. He joined ICSC’s Southern California Program Committee, and throughout the years assumed leading roles on a variety of Southern California, California and Western Division committees and task forces. He currently serves as co-chair of the Community Advancement Advisory Committee, the successor of the national P3 Retail Advisory Committee, and until recently was part of the Infrastructure Task Force. And now, Hira has been honored with a 2024 ICSC Trustees’ Distinguished Service Award.

Kosmont Cos. CEO Larry Kosmont, center, president Ken Hira, right, and intern Kaden Hira at ICSC LAS VEGAS in 2023. Kaden is an ICSC student member and Ken’s son.

“People who are willing to devote time based on their passion, commitment and goal to make a difference naturally raise their hand when someone asks: “Hey, would you like to volunteer for a committee?’” Hira said. “But they certainly need to be trustworthy and do it for the right reasons. I like to be accountable and believe that if you call on me to do something, I’ll always be there.”

Kosmont Cos. president Ken Hira and Ballard Spahr Los Angeles managing partner Brian Huben were among those who attended the ICSC Federal Fly-In in 2018.

His current role as co-chair of the Community Advancement Advisory Committee dovetails nicely with his professional life as president of Kosmont, which advises cities on economic development strategies and creating retail playbooks, in addition to other services. Among its successes, Kosmont helped the city of Laguna Hills, California, move forward on a blended-use project to convert the shuttered Laguna Hills Mall site into residential, retail, office and hotel. The Village project currently is under construction. Hira said Kosmont also helped establish the first two city-county tax-increment-financing partnerships in California, known as Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts, to support transit-oriented developments: one in Placentia in Orange County and the other in La Verne in Los Angeles County.

Kosmont Cos. president Ken Hira and Serrano Development Group principal Jason Tolleson in 2021 toured The Orchard, a residential and retail project in Azusa, California. Kosmont solicited developers on behalf of the city and helped shape the project.

Hira recognized the importance of collaboration between municipalities and developers early in his career. In 2004, he became the private sector chair of ICSC’s Southern California Alliance, which offered programming to encourage public-private partnerships among ICSC members. At the time, the idea of cities and private investors formally partnering to fuel economic development was relatively new, and both parties needed encouragement and guidance, he said. The ICSC Alliance Program provided the resources and information to foster P3 projects. “Back then, cities were somewhat intimidated going to big ICSC conferences and meeting developers and retailers,” Hira said. “We positioned the Alliance as an opportunity to engage and educate the public sector and for developers to gain a better understanding of how cities work and network. We’d have specific Alliance events with a number of cities and invite lots of developers and brokers in order to do some matchmaking.”

Current ICSC vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion Jazmen Johnson, at left; Kosmont Cos.’ president Ken Hira; and Architects Hawaii principal Bill Brizee at an ICSC P3 Retail Hawaii event in April 2017

Playing the matchmaking role comes naturally for Hira. He likes to connect with people and values honesty and integrity when doing business. Attracted to the tangible nature of real estate, Hira joined Trammell Crow as a development financial analyst after graduating from UCLA in 1990. He later seized opportunities to work in shopping center acquisitions and development and quickly became hooked on the dynamism of retail real estate. “In a shopping center, all of your tenants are an outward manifestation of the asset or project and a reflection of consumer interests: juice and coffee shops, grocery and specialty food stores, general merchandisers, home goods and restaurants,” Hira explained. “Retail centers also tend to be more complex than other asset classes and require a far more hands-on marketing and management approach.”

Hira moved to Kosmont in 2008. The 37-year-old organization integrates advisory, brokerage and public finance services across real estate land uses, and Hira leveraged his retail expertise when working with cities on market intelligence, strategic game plans, implementation and recruitment. He continues to do the same today as president, he said. “The most basic definition of economic development is bringing tax revenues and jobs to cities,” he observed, “but retail is really about placemaking, and we help cities reimagine their communities with placemaking and better quality of life.”

—Joe Gose

Bob Matias

Hannah Matias joined her father Bob at Equity and works as a brokerage administrator in the Orlando office. They both attended ICSC LAS VEGAS in 2023.

“My joke to this day is that I am in the retail industry and I still don’t like to shop,” said Equity’s Bob Matias. That admission certainly hasn’t prevented him from maintaining a successful, 40-plus-year career in retail tenant representation. “I love the strategy of finding the best retail site for my clients,” he said. Nor has it prevented recognition. Matias has just earned a 2024 ICSC Trustees’ Distinguished Service Award.

Matias has been involved in over 20 million square feet of retail transactions throughout his career and for the past 16 years has been senior vice president of retail at Columbus, Ohio-based Equity, a national full-service real estate firm. He has helped to extend the firm’s network to all major cities, and Equity has done work in 48 of the 50 states.

Matias is a lifelong Ohioan, growing up in Cleveland and later attending Miami University, north of Cincinnati. There, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in business. Out of college, he worked in sales for Procter & Gamble and then for Xerox in Columbus. A college friend suggested he look into a career in commercial real estate with one of the largest brokerage firms of the early 1980s, Coldwell Banker Commercial, which later became CBRE.

Bob Matias, at right, at ICSC LAS VEGAS in May 2023 with colleagues, from left to right, executive vice president of brokerage and development Austin Wathen, senior vice president Aaron Heath, advisor Noah Heath and brokerage administrator Hannah Matias

“They said they didn’t have any openings in the office sector of Coldwell Banker/Columbus and the only openings they had were in retail,” said Matias. “I never considered myself much of a shopper, but I love the strategy of it, I love the behind the scenes part of retail and I love the idea of it as a profit center to my clients and not just an expense to their balance sheet. You have got to find the client the right site because it is everything. That is where their sales are generated, so I felt I was doing something really important for clients and I fell in love with it.”

That love led to a 17-year stint with the company, where he helped with the rollout of Walmart Supercenters in Ohio before trying his hand at his own firm. After a few years, he realized he wasn’t as energized on his own and missed the collaborative environment of a larger team. “I am a relationship person,” he said. “I like team. I like competitiveness. I like the idea of trying to beat the competitor by getting a better location.”

Matias found the ideal fit at Equity, he said. “Equity is just a great blend of big corporation and small, personalized shop. They give me the flexibility to work in Ohio and work in Florida. Most large commercial firms would not offer that type of flexibility.”

Matias is celebrating 40 years as an ICSC member, having attended his first RECon in May 1984 as a rookie to the industry. “I had no clue what I was doing, and I go out to Vegas and it is just lights and booths and so amazing. I had never seen anything like it,” he said. “It took me a couple of years to really understand it. ICSC is not like a lot of trade associations. It is at the center of everything. This is where business is done. The ICSC Vegas really opened my eyes to this atmosphere where you can do deals.”

That eye-opening introduction to the organization led to decades of involvement with ICSC, and Matias is now designated an ICSC Ambassador. Matias previously served as the ICSC State Director for Ohio and is serving his second year as director of the Ohio Valley Marketplace Council. “I am not necessarily Johnny Join Up for every club or thing that is out there, but honestly, I thought to myself: ‘How come everybody is not joining to do these volunteer activities?’ This is the heartbeat of what we do, and to me, it was a no-brainer. I would say 25% of my business career has been involved in some kind of leadership position at ICSC, so it was one of the easiest decisions I have ever made and the return has been limitless.”

Matias is a big sports fan and naturally is a strong supporter of The Ohio State University. He also is on the board of RadioU, 88.7 FM in Columbus, a faith-based radio station. “It is Christian-based music and gives kids an alternative because we think music is really, really important and music can be an influence for good or for bad.”

Matias views the ICSC Trustees’ Distinguished Service Award honor as one of his proudest achievements, just behind his daughter, Hannah, joining him in the business. “This completely caught me by surprise. I almost feel like: ‘Why am I getting honored for something where I get more back than what I put in?’ That is just an amazing thing, I mean how is that possible?”

—Ben Johnson

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