Throughout her career in corporate real estate, Fran Neville has been drawn to the balance between creativity and pragmatism.
“I was a cheerleader in high school and I like building teams. In CRE, I get to build those teams, indulge my creative design side, and drive difficult transactions,” says Neville, Senior Director of Real Estate & Facilities at General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) in Falls Church, Virginia. “Every transaction is different, which is the key to what makes this job so much fun.”
Neville’s commitment to accelerating success in corporate real estate, advancing individual achievement, and serving the larger community has earned her this year’s Pinnacle CRE Leadership Award from the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of CoreNet Global.
The award celebrates her accomplishments in building a new CRE organizational structure for General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) following its acquisition of CSRA, the redevelopment of support models for in-house personnel and service providers, and the completion of a state-of-the-art corporate headquarters venture that reinvents a workplace strategy to compliment branding, corporate culture, and talent acquisition objectives.
Neville’s career began with The Rouse Company in what she describes as a “boot-camp” experience that evolved into development roles ranging from the design and leasing for the New Orleans Riverwalk (“I was paid to eat food in New Orleans!”) to leasing of other downtown specialty shopping centers in St. Louis, Jacksonville and Atlanta. Neville moved on to what she planned as a short-term assignment with MCI Communications that became a 17-year position, extending through MCI’s acquisition by Verizon, during which she worked on the re-structuring of over 100 leases during bankruptcy, in addition to managing a portfolio of property in the northeast, including New York City.
She has spent the last eleven years at GDIT, most recently at the heart of the restructuring and consolidation of facilities across a worldwide portfolio. “From operations, procedures to space planning architecture, we examined everything with a fresh perspective.”
The chain of challenges triggered by the acquisition included a move from a de-centralized real estate function to a centralized model that added facilities management for 270 sites. Substantial savings have been achieved by consolidating sites and downsizing a portfolio within one year from 7.2 to less than 5.4 million square feet. Her staff would grow exponentially, from five to 65. Neville was also a lead player in three divestitures that included the sale of 21 large-scale call center sites, the realignment of vendor relationships, and the redesign and completion GDIT’s new 220,000 square foot consolidated corporate headquarters.
“We built and trained an entirely new Real Estate & Facilities organization, shifting to new ways of working and re-aligned our department with new objectives from our fresh and energetic executive leadership team, says Neville.
The newly consolidated department blends the skills and talents of two organizations and features a bold team that today includes regional professionals overseeing a worldwide portfolio that spans 5.4 million square feet in 270 locations in the U.S. including in 37 other countries.
“We put ourselves out front, get close to our internal clients so we can soak the breath of the mission with them. We always lead the process, as partners with the business units,” says Neville. “CRE has always enjoyed a good reputation within GDIT, so we were starting at a good place and built it further with our new executive leadership team. Today, we collaborate with our growth teams and work aggressively to be ahead of the game.”
Neville has also been a vital contributor to the Mid-Atlantic CoreNet Global chapter, helping to lead seminars and other volunteer programs. She served as a panelist on workplace trends in 2014, ERS Committee member in 2015, and Gala Committee Member in 2016. She contributed to the initiation of an Education Committee program in 2017. She has been a guest lecturer at Catholic University, a participant in NAIOP, panelist with the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) and a Judge for the Washington Business Congress 2018 Craftsmanship Awards. And she has served on the Executive Committee of the Leukemia Ball for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
“It’s exciting to be acknowledged for doing the work you love. And while I’m filled with gratitude, and share the honor with my colleagues, I’m also hopeful that this honor will contribute to a legacy that inspires—not just other women, but other CRE professionals to take on difficult projects and know that they will succeed if they go boldly to choose trusted partners and teams who work proactively to solve issues collaboratively.”
The award, which honors superlative regional achievement and collaboration in corporate real estate, will be presented by the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of CoreNet Global at the Awards of Excellence Gala on May 30, 2019 at the Organization of American States.