Real Estate Times Announces 2021 Excellence Awards for Architecture, Brokerage, Construction, DEI, Engineering, Owner/Developer and Others


BOSTON—Boston Real Estate Times, New England’s largest commercial real estate digital, print and video media, today announced the winners of its 2021 Excellence Awards in Commercial Real Estate.

As previously announced, Adam D. Portnoy, president and CEO of The RMR Group (Nasdaq: RMR) will be honored as the Person of the Year 2021. Mr. Portnoy has led The RMR Group through a transformation into one of the nation’s leading alternative asset management companies with more than $32 billion in assets under management and a focus on commercial real estate and related businesses.

Paul J. Ayoub, chair of the Boston law firm Nutter, and a partner in its Real Estate Department, will receive Boston Real Estate Times’ Lifetime Achievement Award for 2021. Mr. Ayoub has not only built a strong and a successful national real estate practice at Nutter but has also dedicated his life and profession to numerous charitable causes, civic activities and non-profit organizations.

All the winners will be honored during an online award ceremony from 9:30 am to 11:00 am on Oct. 29, 2021 and will be profiled in a special print edition of the Boston Real Estate Times. Due to COVID, Boston Real Estate Times will not host the in-person event this year.

To buy a ticket for the award ceremony, please click here. To sponsor the event and the special print edition, please email to [email protected]

Here is the complete list of Boston Real Estate Times’s 2021 Excellence Award Recipients:

Adam D. Portnoy

Person of the Year 2021

Adam D. Portnoy

President & CEO, The RMR Group

In a year marked by significant uncertainty in the market, The RMR team under Mr. Portnoy’s leadership achieved significant accomplishments for RMR and its clients including: executing a successful capital recycling strategy, including $287 million in asset sales and $585 million in acquisitions, for Office Properties Income Trust (Nasdaq: OPI); completing a $680 million joint venture for Industrial Logistics Properties Trust (Nasdaq: ILPT); transitioning over 200 hotels from other hotel operators to Sonesta Hotels for Service Properties Trust (Nasdaq: SVC); restructuring agreements with senior care facility operators for Diversified Healthcare Trust (Nasdaq: DHC); successfully executing a total of over $2 billion in debt offerings for clients; executing 7.7 million square feet of leasing in the first nine months of fiscal 2021, on top of 8.8 million square feet in leasing in 2020; completing the $100 million redevelopment of Muse at Torrey Pines in San Diego and starting major redevelopments at 20 Massachusetts Ave in Washington, DC, and the East Bank of Nashville; and garnering national recognition from the U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR program and the Building Owners and Managers Association International for its management of a nationwide portfolio of 91 million square feet of office, industrial, medical office, life science and retail space.

In addition to serving as CEO and President of The RMR, Mr. Portnoy was named Chair of the Pioneer Institute in 2020, and in 2021 joined the Board of Directors of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Portnoy earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Policy from Occidental College in 1993.

Paul J. Ayoub

Lifetime Achievement Award 2021

Paul J. Ayoub

Chair, Nutter

Partner, Real Estate Department at Nutter

Mr. Ayoub chairs Nutter, a top-tier, full-service law firm with 150 attorneys headquartered in Boston where it has deep roots and a long-standing reputation for business savvy and pragmatism. Nutter’s real estate group of 40 lawyers has a substantial national practice, representing clients on transactions involving properties located in almost every state. Locally, Nutter has represented 7 of the 10 largest developers in Massachusetts.

In 2020 alone, Nutter negotiated and closed 120 commercial property acquisitions and dispositions involving approximately 15 million square feet; represented clients in over $6 billion in real estate financings; represented institutional landlords and national tenants in the leasing of more than 10 million square feet of laboratory, office, industrial and retail space; and permitted 75 real estate developments, totaling over 11 million square feet, which include mixed-use, office, life science, retail, industrial, multi-family, affordable housing, senior living, academic and health care projects including many of the most high-profile transactions in the region.

Additionally, Mr. Ayoub has extensive experience representing clients in complex debt reorganizations. He is a prior co-chair of the Real Estate Finance and Workout/Foreclosure Section of the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Real Estate Section. Moreover, Mr. Ayoub is involved in several civic, professional, and charitable organizations. He is Chair Emeritus and a member of the Executive Committee of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. During his term as Board Chair, the Chamber adopted and actively pursued its stated purpose “to make Greater Boston the best place for all businesses and all people to thrive” and developed a strategic plan focused on key issues for the region, including transportation, housing, health care, economic opportunity, education and climate readiness. He also is a member and past president of the Board of Directors of the Real Estate Finance Association.

Mike Davis

Architecture Firm of the Year


Mike Davis, President

Bergmeyer is an award-winning design collaborative based in Boston and Los Angeles. Their approach to design is empowering and ego-free, forming proactive partnerships with clients and project teams to create a shared sense of ownership throughout the entire creative process. Bergmeyer designs for their clients’ clients, the people whose lives and experiences are enhanced by their work. They challenge themselves to focus first on understanding the end-user – the customers, students, employees, visitors, residents – while delivering on the clients’ vision and return on investment.

Bergmeyer’s markets include commercial, retail, restaurant, workplace, multi-family residential, academic, cultural, hospitality, healthcare, and Pop-Up + Temporary Experiences. Their projects have received numerous accolades over the years.

The firm is led by Mike Davis, who serves as its president. An architect and a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and deeply involved in the AIA’s government advocacy work, Mr. Davis has been a key influencer in the AIA’s shift to making the fight against climate change its primary focus. He has also used his organizational leadership skills to help Bergmeyer rapidly evolve and sustain its strategic growth despite the pandemic’s many unforeseen challenges.

Gary Holmes

Commercial Brokerage Firm of the Year

R.W. Holmes

Garry Holmes, President & CEO

Founded in 1976 by Robert Holmes and today led by its CEO and President Garry Holmes, R.W. Holmes is one of the very few locally rooted commercial brokerage firms in Massachusetts. The company is celebrating its 45 anniversary this year.

R.W. Holmes has continued to be recognized as a leading real estate advisory firm, consistently ranking in the top 10 for sales and leasing, and a thought leader for the commercial real estate industry. The pride in being a family business focuses solely on the firm’s ability to uphold the character and vision set by Robert Holmes 45 years ago – performing business at the highest integrity, with an entrepreneurial spirit, and with extensive market knowledge to ensure our clients are getting the best service possible.

In addition to sitting on the Board of Directors of a couple real estate industry organizations, Garry is Past Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Foundation for MetroWest, a nonprofit organization that connects donors with philanthropic organizations. Garry was a corporator for Middlesex Savings Bank, and served on the Board of Directors at Wellesley Bank. Garry also had the pleasure of serving on Babson College’s Advisory Council. Garry is a graduate of Bates College.

Michelle O’Neil

Construction Firm of the Year

Essex Builders Corp.

Michelle O’Neil, President

Founded in 1984, Essex Builders Corp. is a full service general contracting and construction management firm. It is the leading merit-shop provider of construction services in New England. Essex Builders focuses on both the public and private sectors including: senior-living, residential, commercial office, retail, healthcare, biotech, religious, corporate, financial, industrial, mixed-use, affordable housing, and education with an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

As the second generation of the Essex Builders team, Ms. O’Neil has been engrossed in the construction industry since a young age and has acquired a deep understanding of the business. She joined Essex Builders in 2014, bringing more than 10 years of commercial real estate finance and investment experience. In her role as President, she provides leadership and oversight for the company’s day-to-day operations, as well as strategic direction of long-term goals, business plans and policies.

Dominic DeChiara

Ms. O’Neil is an active member of CREW Boston, National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), NAIOP Massachusetts and the Real Estate Finance Association Boston (REFA).

In her efforts to lead and grow firm, Ms. O’Neil is aided by Dominic DeChiara, who serves as Vice President of Construction Operations at Essex Builders. He has over 10 years of experience in the construction industry and his client service approach to construction management has developed trusted relationships with clients. In his role he is responsible for conducting contract negotiations, developing cost estimates, building and coordinating project schedules, managing budget controls and establishing project control plans.

Tanya Mitchell

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Leadership Award

The Davis Companies

Tanya Mitchell, Director of Human Resources and DEI Initiatives

The Davis Companies (TDC) this year and appointed Tanya Mitchell as Director of Human Resources and DEI Initiatives. In addition to her HR duties, Ms. Mitchell plays a leading role in advancing the firm’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) agenda. Ms. Mitchell came to the Davis Companies with extensive experience in operations and project management, human resources, and diversity and inclusion and supplier diversity. For the past eight years she worked for the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport), and most recently as the Acting Diversity & Inclusion/Compliance Real Estate Project Administrator.

In her role as Massport’s Acting Diversity & Inclusion/Compliance Real Estate Project Administrator, Ms. Mitchell worked closely with the TDC team that was responsible for the 1,054-room Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport, developed by TDC and opening this fall. The Omni project broke new ground in terms of diversity and inclusion in a public-private partnership, with the significant participation of minority- and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBE) in the design and construction of the hotel, as well as from 37 locally based minority investors in the equity capitalization of the venture. Notably, the project team included the first joint venture between one of Boston’s largest construction management firms and a minority-owned general contractor, as well as an architectural services partnership that led Moody Nolan, the largest minority-owned architectural firm in the United States, to establish a permanent office in Boston.

Ms. Mitchell holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Tufts University and a Master of Business Administration with a specialization in Supply Chain Management, Leadership & Organizational Change and Human Resources from the University of Massachusetts Boston.  She is an active member of the Urban Land Institute and NAIOP. She is also an alumna of the ULI/Project REAP (Real Estate Associate Program) 2020 cohort and serves on the Advisory Committee for YW Boston.

Julie Janiski

Engineering Firm of the Year

Buro Happold

Julie Janiski, Partner, Boston office

Buro Happold is an award-winning global engineering and consulting practice. The firm recently completed work for Harvard University’s new Science and Engineering Complex in Boston. Buro Happold provided services including structural engineering, building information modeling (BIM), and geotechnical consulting for this much-anticipated project, which is LEED Platinum certified and meets Living Building Challenge (LBC) Petal certification in Materials, Beauty, and Equity.

Ms. Janiski is the partner in Buro Happold’s Boston office, where she leads integrated teams of engineers, analysts, and subject-matter experts to deliver the highest performance projects. She aligns design, consulting and analysis to provide solutions that encompass all aspects of regenerative design in the built environment, from carbon reduction and water conservation to social equity and human health and wellbeing. Her career has included work in construction, building operations, architecture, and engineering –an experience that lays the foundation for a fully integrated approach.

Ms. Janiski has delivered projects across every scale (from design of individual buildings to city planning and drafting policy), and in all major sectors. Her recent work includes consulting for Tallhouse, the Massachusetts Commercial Energy Code, a number of U.S. Embassy projects internationally for the U.S. State Department, USDA grant-funded research on forestry and heavy timber design, a Net Zero workforce training center in Pittsburgh, and The House at Cornell Tech – a residential high-rise in New York City which is certified LEED Platinum and Passive House. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Michigan and a Master of Design Science in Sustainable Design from the University of Sydney, and continues to engage with students at many institutions as adjunct faculty, a visiting lecturer or critic. Her commitments in the local Boston community include being a board member for Built Environment Plus, the co-chair of the Boston Carbon Leadership Forum, and a key contributing author for a proposed Net Zero stretch code.

John Sullivan

Life Sciences Design Firm of the Year


John Sullivan

Partner, Director of Architecture

SGA has become a go-to firm when it comes designing Class-A Life Sciences facilities for developers, owners and users throughout North America. SGA was named in the Fast Company’s prestigious annual list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2021.

“Specialists in designing flexible life sciences spaces that can adapt to new technology and conditions, SGA’s approach to architecture has become vital in the age of the pandemic,” Fast Company said. “In the designs it’s created over the past year for more than 4 million square feet of new life science facilities in Greater Boston, SGA has applied some of the lessons of the pandemic to create spaces with movable cabinetry and modular mechanical systems where researchers and scientists can quickly adapt to changing conditions and global needs – buildings that are ready for whatever scientific challenges lie ahead.”

Mr. Sullivan is one of the top leaders of the firm, which is headquartered in Boston and has an office in New York City. His passion for design influences every project undertaken by SGA’s architecture studio, which he oversees.   His enthusiasm for placemaking and creating innovative environments is reflected in the firm’s increasingly prestigious portfolio.

Since joining SGA in 2005, Mr. Sullivan has led large-scale urban projects in the commercial, technology, and life-sciences markets.  He typically plays a major role in master planning, conceptual design, and the public approvals process.  John relishes opportunities to present the perspective of clients at meetings and generate consensus among communities and municipalities. He received a Bachelor and Master of Architecture from Virginia Tech.

Eric Schlager

Owner and Developer of the Year

The Bulfinch Companies

Eric D. Schlager, CEO

Robert A. Schlager, President

The Bulfinch Companies, Inc. is a third-generation, entrepreneurial, value-added real estate investment firm specializing in the development, acquisition, management, and repositioning of commercial properties in Greater Boston. With close to $3 Billion in assets, Bulfinch has built a reputation for identifying opportunities and creating valuable and coveted properties across many industries. Bulfinch owns and manages over 3.5 million square feet of life science, medical and office space.

Robert A. Schlager

In March 2020 at the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak, Bulfinch quickly pivoted and began exploring and implementing new strategies to not only keep their team safe, healthy, and engaged, but also their tenants safe, healthy, and engaged. Their strategy was designed to provide 360-degree employee support and ensure that the team—and tenants—had access to the best-in-class technologies and resources to continue business operations uninterrupted.

Since 2019, Bulfinch’s property management team has also grown substantially and has more than doubled in size. The team growth is part of the company’s strategic plan of expanding its portfolio to include additional life science and medical assets. With a large percentage of life science properties and tenants that were identified as essential businesses during the pandemic, it has been critical for Bulfinch to implement protocols and procedures that allow its properties to remain open, while also enhancing safety precautions.

The firm is led by brothers Eric D. Schlager, who serves as CEO of the company, and Robert A. Schlager, President of the Bulfinch Companies. As CEO, Eric oversees strategy, acquisitions, asset management, finance and general oversight of the company. With over 30 years of experience in real estate, Eric has helped Bulfinch emerge as one of Greater Boston’s leading commercial real estate firms by delivering on the company’s “vision to value” mission through innovative investment and acquisition strategies. He is a passionate supporter and advocate of several philanthropic organizations and actively involved with numerous business and civic organizations. With more than four decades of expertise in the real estate industry, Robert directs and overseas the development, construction, leasing and property management activities for all Bulfinch assets. Throughout his career, he has been responsible for developing and managing more than 7 million square feet of commercial space. Robert is an avid supporter of many charitable organizations in the real estate industry and his community.

Andrew DeFranza

Non-Profit Organization of the Year

Harbor Light Community Partners

Andrew DeFranza, Executive Director

Harborlight Community Partners (HCP) is a non-profit, Massachusetts-certified Community Development Corporation. HCP develops, manages, and advocates for quality, service-enriched housing that is affordable and inclusive, collaborating with communities to cultivate just, equitable and sustainable housing opportunities vital to the health and strength of our entire region. By focusing on the housing needs of underserved populations and creating, preserving, and operating, safe, affordable housing with supplemental supportive services, HCP strives to make homes available to all, because everyone deserves a home.

HCP supports affordable housing in 12 communities north of Boston, serving over 600 residents in 421 units of affordable housing. HCP has 491 in its current development pipeline, including collaborative projects, which have total development costs of over $210 million. HCP serves fixed-income elders, homeless individuals and families, essential workers and their families, and those with disabilities; 98% of our residents are below or well below Area Median Income. More than 500 households comprise the HCP housing waiting list. HCP began in its earliest form as the housing ministry of the First Baptist Church (FBC) in the 1960s, which created homes for vulnerable seniors.

The organization today is led by its Executive Director Andrew DeFranza. He has served as the Executive Director HCP since 2007. Under Mr. DeFranza’s leadership, HCP has grown dramatically. Starting with 7 smaller affordable housing organizations that were merged, forming the nonprofit development and management organization, HCP now has the benefit of scale and economic efficiency. Today, Harborlight has an active project pipeline that is slated to more than double in the next 3 years. HCP has projects in 12 communities north of Boston including Lynn, Marblehead, Salem, Peabody, Beverly, Hamilton, Wenham, Ipswich, Saugus, Rowley, Gloucester and Rockport.

Gary Magnuson

Real Estate Finance Leader of 2021


Gary Magnuson, Executive Vice President and Head of Commercial Real Estate Finance

Citizens has become a major source of financing for commercial real estate developers and investors. The firm’s Commercial Real Estate Finance team is led by Mr. Magnuson, who also serves as a member of the bank’s Executive Leadership Group, the company’s senior leadership team. Based in Boston, he manages Citizens’ national Commercial Real Estate business with offices in Boston, Providence, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Charlotte, Atlanta, Cleveland, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Since joining Citizens in 1991, Mr. Magnuson has held several different management roles in Citizens’ Commercial Banking division. He started his career in banking at Bank of New England in Boston, where he held a number of positions prior to joining Citizens.

Mr. Magnuson is currently a member of the Real Estate Roundtable and a director emeritus of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts having served as Chairman and Treasurer.  He is a former member and Chairman of the Duxbury Massachusetts School Committee.   He also has been a director of Hospice Care of Rhode Island, YMCA of Greater Boston,  the Massachusetts Business Development Company and has been a participant in the Boston Partners for Education – “Big Cheese Reads” program. He earned an MBA from Boston University and a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Business Administration from the University of Delaware.

Bryan C. Connolly

Commercial Real Estate Attorney of the Year

Bryan C. Connolly

Partner Co-Location Head, Boston Real Estate Practice at DLA Piper

DLA Piper is a global law firm with lawyers located in more than 40 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific, positioning us to help clients with their legal needs around the world. Mr. Connolly is Partner and Co-Location Head of Boston Real Estate Practice at DLA Piper. He concentrates his practice on real estate development, acquisitions and dispositions, finance, joint ventures, land use and zoning.

Mr. Connolly has represented owners and developers throughout the entire development life cycle, from due diligence, acquisition and permitting through joint venture financing and construction loan financing, to disposition and recapitalization events. He has experience negotiating development agreements and land disposition agreements with private parties and public entities.

He has represented developers of downtown towers, urban and suburban and residential projects and a wide range of mixed-use developments. Recent projects include: the South Station Air Rights Project, the 678-foot mixed use tower and bus terminal expansion being developed in the air rights over Boston’s South Station; L Street Station, the ongoing 1.7 million square foot redevelopment of the former Boston Edison plant in South Boston; Echelon Seaport, the 733-unit mixed-used development built in three towers located over 125,000 s.f. of retail space currently under construction in Boston’s Seaport District; Meriel Marina Bay, the 352-unit mixed-use waterfront development on Boston Harbor; the 234-unit Beach House development on Revere Beach.

His transactional practice includes multi-jurisdictional real estate portfolio financings, acquisitions and dispositions. Bryan’s clients range from multi-national companies conducting cross-border transactions, pension fund advisors, real estate investment funds, and real estate developers. He has recently counselled clients on acquisitions, dispositions, financings and partnerships on transactions ranging in value from $10 million to $500 million, in a number U.S. markets including Boston, New York, San Francisco, Southern California, Southern Florida, Atlanta, Illinois, Texas, and Colorado.

Mr. Connolly is a member of the Board of Directors of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. He is a member of the Milton Zoning Board of Appeals. He previously served as Chair of the Government Affairs Committee of NAIOP Massachusetts. He holds J.D., cum laude from Boston College Law School. He formerly served as a city councilor in Quincy, Massachusetts.