Claire Roberts

Vice President of NAI Everest

Claire Roberts, 55, viewed entering the commercial real estate business as a challenge. In 1991, she owned a retail business in Detroit that anchored a retail strip center. When her landlord sold the center to a real estate broker — who had just launched his own firm — Roberts had to renegotiate her lease with him. He mailed her a flier for his new company picturing 18 men standing around a for-sale sign.

"When I asked, 'What's this?No women?' his whole demeanor changed," Roberts says. "He told me that women didn't belong in the business. I just saw that as a challenge. … I didn't need a job, but I thought it was a little archaic."

Roberts "harassed" her new landlord for three years, trying to encourage him to hire female brokers. In 1994, he invited Roberts to interview and — after seven interviews — hired her, which launched her real estate career. Twenty years later, she's vice president of Golden Valley-based NAI Everest, specializing in office brokerage. Recently, she was part of the team responsible for the $21.5 million sale of U.S. Bank Center in downtown St. Paul.

Roberts was named the 2014 president of the Minnesota Commercial Real Estate Women (MNCREW). She will help promote MNCREW through programming and education, community outreach and networking events. She also will support MNCREW's annual event — Women Run the Cities — benefiting the Ann Bancroft Foundation, CREW Network Foundation and MNCREW.

Q: Why is MNCREW important?

A: It's a good support group. It's a chapter of CREW Network, which has 74 chapters and approximately 9,000 members. Twenty years ago [when I started in brokerage], southeast Michigan was a blue-collar auto industry area, and women weren't part of it. CREW Detroit offered me a lot of support.

Q: As MNCREW president, what are your goals?

A: Making sure that MNCREW gets the recognition and visibility as a larger, strong, 20-year-old chapter. I'm trying to make sure we're elevating our game at the national level. And we have our signature event, Women Run the Cities, which is Sept. 28, and draws about 3,000 people.

Q: Tell me about the U.S. Bank Center sale to St. Paul-based Madison Equities.

A: It's a good property that got distressed and went back to the lender. We represented C-III Asset Management, which was handling the bank note. We ended up with 13 offers. The people who lost the property had made some nice improvements and it's a good location, especially with the new light rail. It had a lot of positives, yet still potential for upside.

Liz Wolf is an Eagan-based freelance writer. She can be reached at