When it comes to urban planning, some might say the best part of a project is the design phase, the groundbreaking or the opening. For Lisa Serafin, however, the best part is what comes after.
“Seeing projects that you worked on that people then live in, or projects that you worked on that people then visit or walk by is very fulfilling, because it’s a very tangible impact when you’re in real estate development and construction,” said Serafin, principal of Redgate Real Estate Advisors.
Living in Boston, Serafin, a Boston and Buffalo native, saw inspiration all around her.
“I think living in the city, primarily, is what got me interested [in urban development],” she said. “Just thinking about the impact of the physical nature of the city and how that impacts the social interactions.”
After attending Columbia University for graduate school and working various jobs in urban planning, Serafin decided she wanted to get more into the physical side of development.
“When I was going to school and such, there was a lot of issues with the hollowing out of the city in the ’80s and ’90s, and it was really a time when people were starting to think that if you could rebuild the physical infrastructure of cities, that people would want to live in them,” she said.
She joined property investment firm Spaulding & Slye – which later merged with Jones Lang LaSalle – and worked her way up from project manager to national director and senior vice president of development.
She joined several fellow Spaulding alums in establishing Redgate, a real estate advisory, development, investment and project management firm, in 2010. In the eight years since, she has worked on the NorthPoint development in Cambridge, in addition to projects with clients such as Boston Children’s Hospital and Massachusetts Port Authority.
The best part of the job? Watching the city grow and change, she said.
“Now that I’ve been in the business for long enough, it’s seeing the city evolve based on all the work that people in this field do,” she said. “Projects take a long time, right? But there are a lot of people involved, and that’s the most fulfilling part, just being able to see the city transform and become a place where people really want to live.”
Outside of work, Serafin is active in a number of organizations – she sits on the MassHousing board of directors and is also active on a municipal level in Brookline, where she lives with her husband and two children.
Serafin has also made a point of helping other women in her field, having just finished a term as the president of the Boston chapter of networking organization Commercial Real Estate Women.
“At a certain point in my career, realizing that there weren’t as many women at my level, in my immediate sphere, inspired me to make those kind of connections with other women, both from a networking and professional development perspective,” she explained.
As the only woman in an all-male partnership, Serafin said that she views her gender as an opportunity, rather than a limitation.
“I think when you have a woman as part of a partnership, you bring a different perspective,” she said. “I don’t think there’s a challenge so much as an opportunity to try to influence having more women in the industry and having women in leadership roles.”