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Holland a perfect fit as ICSC chair


Members of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) elected Elizabeth Holland as chairman, marking only the fourth time in the past 59 years a woman has chaired the organization.

Holland brings a unique skill set to the role given ICSC’s top legislative priority and the upcoming presidential election. The period following the inauguration of a new president is always a critical time in Washington, heralding what is traditionally the most active time in the legislative cycle, according to ICSC.

“I think that everyone can acknowledge that we will need to work hard to bring Marketplace Fairness to a vote between now and the general election. There is much more competition for attention during the first two years of any new administration, which is when a great deal of legislation happens, before the midterm elections,” said Holland, CEO of Chicago-based Abbell Associates LLC.

Holland, 51, is a former senior staff attorney on the National Bankruptcy Review Commission and brings to her role as ICSC chairman a familiarity with Washington, finance and law – in addition to experience running a shopping center development company. Abbell Associates is a 75-year-old private real estate acquisition, development and management company with a portfolio of about 3.5 million square feet of shopping center and office space, of which about 75% is retail space.

Holland also previously served as chairman of ICSC’s Bylaws Committee and for the past year ICSC’s vice chairman. She has led the initiative to overhaul the organization’s bylaws and governance procedures. Besides being a trustee, she has served on ICSC’s Political Action Committee and chaired the Economic Subcommittee. She is a member of the Urban Land Institute and its CRC Blue Council.

“Liz is a very strong choice to serve as our next chairman,” said Brad M. Hutensky, an ICSC past chairman and president of Hutensky Capital Partners, a retail property investment, development and management firm. “She understands the issues facing our industry and the needs of ICSC members, having served as a volunteer for close to two decades. As chairman, Liz will combine this experience with her sharp mind, strong communication skills and dry wit that have made her so effective as ICSC’s first vice chairman.”

Before Holland’s employment by the Bankruptcy Review Commission, during which time she made recommendations to Congress for bankruptcy code reform, she was a restructuring and business reorganization attorney at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, in New York City.

Such experience will help ICSC in the event that tax reform comes to the national forefront during the first two years of the next president’s term.

“It is anticipated that everyone is going to have to pay more in any fundamental tax reform scheme, because the government needs more money,” Holland said, noting that it is critical for the retail development industry holds its ground under any new tax proposals. “It’s a very important issue. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 was a cigarette and a blindfold for the commercial real estate industry.”

The top priority for ICSC this year continues to be passage of a bill to require e-tailers to collect and remit state sales taxes, as has long been required of brick-and-mortar retailers. Several bills have been introduced to that effect in recent years under various names, the latest being the Remote Transactions Parity Act (H.R. 2775).

“ICSC really needs to be poised to lead as strong a coalition as it can assemble with regard to main-street fairness to get that through this year,” said Holland, citing the previous incarnation of the bill — the Marketplace Fairness Act — that passed the Senate in 2014 but stalled in the House.

Other aspects of the electronic revolution in retail offer the industry great opportunities to grow and thrive, according to Holland.

“Technology is giving consumers many more tools at their fingertips,” she said, because this has changed the way retailers and shopping centers are designed and operated. By the same token, technological advances are providing efficiencies in everything from energy consumption to property management,” Holland said. “What’s most exciting about retail real estate is its virtual unlimited ability to adapt. ICSC is really at the forefront of these changes and can serve as a central source for disseminating information to its members."

Holland fills a position previously held by past chairman Stephen D. Lebovitz, president and CEO of CBL & Associates. Filling Holland’s roles as vice chairman is Kenneth F. Bernstein, president and CEO of Acadia Realty Trust.

In addition, new trustees were elected including; Jeffrey A. Bayer, president and CEO, Bayer Properties; Scott Carr, executive vice president and chief investment officer, IRC Retail Centers; Karen Janes, senior vice president, global real estate, Ralph Lauren Corp.; Josip Kardun, CEO, Atrium Group Services B.V.; David J. Oakes, president and CEO, DDR Corp.; Brian H. Pall, president, real estate, Hudson’s Bay Co.; Robert D. Perlmutter, senior executive vice president and COO, Macerich.

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