March 03--When Diana Zuniga recently stepped onto the stage at the Austin Country Club, it was to accept the first-ever award by CREW Austin as the top woman in commercial real estate for 2002-2012.
The inaugural event marked the 10-year anniversary of CREW -- which stands for Commercial Real Estate Women. The group aims to promote and support women in what remains a male-dominated industry. It also highlighted the key women leaders who have shaped the group, whose local chapter has grown from 22 founding members to more than 141 members today, and who have influenced Central Texas' commercial landscape along the way.
For Zuniga, the moment was even more special because her mother, Gloria, was in the audience, as was Zuniga's sister Angie.
"My mom always told me that I could do anything I wanted to do, and I believed her," said Zuniga, who was honored as "The Most Distinguished Woman in Commercial Real Estate."
The group's leaders lauded Zuniga as a role model who in her 30-year career "has demonstrated integrity, courage, faith, intelligence, compassion and a willingness to do what it takes to be successful."
Zuniga has been in real estate since 1983. She was the first woman president of the Austin Commercial Real Estate Society, the second woman to be president of the Real Estate Council of Austin, and the only woman member on the advisory board of IBC Bank Austin. She has mentored countless women and men, helping them establish successful real estate careers.
Zuniga was singled out for CREW's top honor from a field of 10 finalists. Zuniga is owner and president of Investors Alliance Inc., an Austin-based real estate services firm, where she has been responsible for more than $395 million in transactions. She also was the only female development partner in the Spring high-rise condo tower on Bowie Street, a project that has helped transform downtown's western edge. She was responsible for securing the equity and debt, as well as overseeing construction details, interior finishes and the marketing the 252 units.
Asked later about her parents' influence, Zuniga said: "My Mom and Dad were very active in the community (and were) members of the church, Rotary Club and school board of the junior college. Whenever an opportunity to join or try something would arise, my Mom would say, "you should do that...just go for it!"
CREW's Austin members are among 8,000 members in North America who represent nearly every discipline within the industry. More than three quarters of the members are presidents, CEOs, partners or senior managers of their companies. Many hold the prestigious CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member) designation, for being recognized experts in the field.
In recognizing the finalists, CREW said each could have qualified for the top award in their own right.
The finalists were:
*M'Lou Patton Bell, a shareholder at Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr PC. Bell has practiced commercial real estate and corporate law for more than 20 years. She was involved in the Central Market development at 38th Street and North Lamar Boulevard and the development of office buildings on Bee Cave Road as well as subdivisions throughout Central Texas.
*Aan Garrett-Coleman, principal and president of Coleman & Associates, a landscape architecture firm recognized for sustainable design. Her stamp is on the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, the Triangle, the Arboretum and Southpark Meadows, among other projects.
*Anita Dabney, commercial lease manager at the Texas General Land Office. Dabney has influenced progressive policies and managed transactions that transformed underused state land into developments including Central Park and the Triangle. She also negotiated the sale of the east campus of the Texas School for the Deaf to the city of Austin for use as a health and human services campus. She currently manages leases in Austin, San Antonio and the Texas Gulf coast to benefit the Permanent School Fund.