Deidre Crockett — Courtesy: Mack-Cali Realty Corp.
By Joshua Burd
With a growing focus on its urban, waterfront office buildings, Mack-Cali Realty Corp. has made no secret of the need to reinvent its flagship Harborside complex in Jersey City.
Deidre Crockett has been a key player in that regard, spearheading efforts to bring dozens of events to the new-look Harborside atrium. Since 2017, more than 120,000 attendees have turned out for programs at a space that for years only served commuters and office workers.
“I think it’s just place-making and (creating) that ‘Harborside’ thing in your mind,” said Crockett, the company’s chief administrative officer. She added: “People come over to this side, they see the view and they see there’s cool things happening over here. They see how diverse Jersey City is, how intelligent and democratic Jersey City is — and you can’t see the view when you’re in New York, so I feel like you do have to come and experience it.”
Crockett’s work at Harborside is indeed a feather in her cap, but it’s just one example of her growing influence at Mack-Cali. Look no further than her promotion earlier this year to chief administrative officer and executive vice president, making her the first woman to hold those
titles with the real estate investment trust. The veteran marketing and communications professional has been integral to the company’s moves in recent years to reposition and modernize its portfolio, which has meant shedding most of its suburban office buildings and ramping up its pipeline of luxury apartment projects.
Her promotion also comes as part of a shift within the REIT toward a more diverse employee base and board of directors, a trend that figures to continue with CEO Michael DeMarco at the helm and with Crockett now overseeing human resources.
“You’ve got to accept cultural change and not have a bias,” said DeMarco, who joined Mack-Cali in 2015, later adding: “You also have to be supportive of people’s view about change — where they want to live, how they come to work and so on and so forth.”
Crockett traces her professional roots back to “the ad agency and marketing world in New York,” where she spent the early part of her career. But prior to joining Mack-Cali, she spent several years in Dublin, Ireland, including a stint with an architectural and design project management firm that worked on major retail and luxury multifamily projects in the city.
She notes that she knew and loved Ireland, thanks in part to her family’s heritage and having visited the country as a child. But she returned to the U.S. and, in 2012, learned of an opening for a marketing manager with Mack-Cali.
“I never really saw a role that was more perfect for me,” Crockett recalled. “So it was like combining love of real estate with love of marketing and communications. I’m not a traditional finance person in the real estate world, so I have all those other skills that sometimes people don’t find as important, but are still very necessary.”
She took to the role and would take on additional responsibility under DeMarco, who arrived in 2015 as part of the team that succeeded longtime CEO Mitchell E. Hersh. DeMarco was looking for a new director of investor relations, which Crockett saw as an opportunity to work directly with an accomplished finance and real estate executive.
She said the experience, which started with a successful six-month working interview and has since continued, has been an exciting one as the company has repositioned its portfolio and reshaped its image within the industry.
“The investment community had been getting the same messages from Mitch Hersh the entire time that they’ve covered the stock and nothing new was happening,” Crockett said. “So when the new management came on, I think that the analysts were very excited, the investment community was very excited, especially having somebody of Mike’s background.”
Crockett, who subsequently earned promotions to vice president and senior vice president, has become a key member of DeMarco’s inner circle, especially for a CEO who is known to be plainspoken, cerebral and at times colorful.
“Deidre gives me wisdom, judgment and a different point of view — which is, of course, complementary, but also constructive,” DeMarco said.
That relationship has been all the more important as Mack-Cali has faced additional scrutiny even beyond its transactions and development pipeline. Over the past year, the REIT has faced an attempted takeover from activist investors, which has resulted in four new board members, among other headwinds as it weighs its options for selling pieces of its portfolio or selling the company outright.
Crockett’s role in navigating those challenges was undoubtedly a factor in her most recent promotion. She was named chief administrative officer and executive vice president effective Jan. 1, assuming a role that includes public relations, marketing, investor relations and human resources for both Mack-Cali and its Roseland Residential Trust.
Her rise through the ranks has also coincided with efforts to improve diversity across Mack-Cali, she said, citing improvements in gender, age and ethnicity. She recalls that, when she joined the company, women were mostly in administrative positions and absent from decision-making roles. But the REIT now has five female board members after having none in 2015, for instance, while Crockett noted that DeMarco has promoted women across the company in recent years. “It’s important,” she said. “Women bring a different style of communication, they bring different ways of thinking to a situation. … I think there’s a lot of value to having women at the table, and the industry really just hasn’t been that way.”