The Business Journal salutes industry standouts for bringing welcome relief to the hospitality sector.

BEST IN-HOUSE LEASING

Jeff Kreshek, 43

Principal, Leasing, CIM Group Inc.

In the late 1990s, Jeff Kreshek worked for a developer that was building a retail project at the historic intersection of Sunset and Vine. He’d spend his days toiling at the site, but retreated to the developer’s Beverly Hills office for lunch.

“There really wasn’t anything out here,” said Kreshek, who heads the leasing department for real estate developer CIM Group Inc. of Hollywood.

But Kreshek, 43, has been working to ensure that people can find plenty of good eats at the same intersection that was desolate a decade ago. He handled the in-house leasing program for CIM’s Sunset Vine Tower, a 63-unit luxury apartment building at 1480 Vine St. that opened in January.

The 22-story tower includes about 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space and an adjacent 2,800-square-foot retail building. Despite the terrible state of the restaurant business, he managed to lease all the space to eateries Tender Greens, BLT Burger, Bodega Winebar and Chipotle.

What’s more, Kreshek resisted offers from drugstores, discount supermarkets and “every cell phone store and their mother” to make the tenant mix attractive to both building and neighborhood residents.

“We had a number of uses that came to us and said, ‘We will pay whatever.’ It’s not easy. But we had to remain true to the ultimate goal of the building,” said Kreshek, who declined to discuss lease rates.

While the eateries aren’t open yet – Tender Greens and Bodega will open in the second quarter, Chipotle in the third and BLT Burger in the fourth – the early returns are good. The news of the tenants – hip, burgeoning chain-lets – has drawn praise from local food and real estate blogs.

Kreshek also has drawn kudos from his tenants, including Erik Oberholtzer, co-owner of Tender Greens. Oberholtzer believes that the restaurants will blend in with nearby eateries such as Bowery and Magnolia to create a small restaurant row.

“A guy like Jeff takes the chance and risks a little bit in getting behind a concept like Tender Greens or Bodega that have a good local following but haven’t been tested like a national brand like Starbucks,” said Oberholtzer.

Kreshek said that he and his four colleagues in CIM’s leasing group took a hands-on approach to targeting potential tenants. They simply went out to eat at restaurants and observed. At Tender Greens, for example, he said: “We watched people there for a couple of hours. We liked the food.”

Kreshek, who was born and raised in West Los Angeles, cut his teeth in the real estate world at a handful of companies before joining CIM. After graduating from USC in 1989 with an undergraduate degree in real estate finance, he worked for Katersky Financial, a local real estate investor that owned shopping centers. After four years with Katersky, he left to start his own company, Vision Property Management.

He ran the Century City firm from 1992 to 1997. It provided a variety of services to real estate clients, including property management, redevelopment and leasing. He sold his company and joined Regent Properties as head of its property management and entitlements group before coming to CIM.

He said running his own business was an invaluable experience.

“If you want to be an entrepreneur or be in an entrepreneurial environment, I highly recommend you go out on your own at least once in your career,” he said. “In ’92 I was 25 or 26, and I had a view of the world. I was seeing a down market, really for the first time.”

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