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From a Year of Challenge to Hope: Colliers Begins a Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia

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Lanard & Axilbund, the historic namesake of Colliers in the Philadelphia Tri-State area, marks a major milestone in its evolution - with a focus towards the future.

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PHILADELPHIA, PA  May 17, 2021 – One hundred years ago, as the first traffic lights were appearing on Market Street, two young salesmen agreed to a partnership that established the firm of Lanard and Axilbund and helped shape the Philadelphia region. Today, known as Colliers, it is one of the highest-ranked and longest continuously operating commercial real estate firms in the Tri-state region. 
The “pandemic pause” experienced by so many this year was no exception at Colliers - an official birthday took a backseat to the pressing challenges of business continuity and serving the quickly evolving real estate needs of clients – remarkably, growing as contractions and layoffs loomed industrywide. Now, as the business community goes about the work of reopening, Colliers is officially embarking on a long-awaited 100th year celebration. 

L to R: Benjamin Lanard and Jacob AxilbundHeritage
Lanard and Axilbund came to life during a memorable decade. The world was recovering from the upheaval of Spanish Flu, engaged in efforts to end World War I and the twenties were roaring. Railroads were experiencing competition from the new automobile and Philadelphia was the center of a great industrial boom. Downtown streets were lined with towering, bustling manufacturing buildings, and the garment and printing industries, as well as many others, were the foundation of Philadelphia’s economy.  
It was in this context that on July 20, 1920 Benjamin Lanard and Jacob Axilbund united to form a commercial real estate firm dedicated to the growing Philadelphia industrial market. Lanard & Axilbund quickly established itself as a force in the industry, gaining recognition as reputable, efficient ‘leasing specialists.’  Their emblem, a bold red diamond, became a prominent visual of the time.ard and Axilbund came to life during a memorable decade. The world was recovering from the upheaval of Spanish Flu, engaged in efforts to end World War I and the twenties were roaring. Railroads were experiencing competition from the new automobile and Philadelphia was the center of a great industrial boom. Downtown streets were lined with towering, bustling manufacturing buildings, and the garment and printing industries, as well as many others, were the foundation of Philadelphia’s economy.  

“Our firm’s beginnings were based on a committed partnership between two businessmen,” said Douglas Sayer, President and CEO. “100 years later, this value of relationships has remained the foundation of our success.” 

Expansion and Growth
The garment trade fueled the firm’s foundation, and a changing world provided the course for growth and expansion to new markets and sectors. As highways developed, suburban industrial and office parks followed and new retail concepts like regional malls blossomed. After decades of transformation and evolution, Sayer stewarded Lanard & Axilbund through an unprecedented crossroads in its history, establishing a powerful partnership with Colliers that has stood for nearly 30 years.  

The company has evolved to offer a complete service offering that includes industrial, retail, office and investment brokerage, property management, corporate solutions, capital markets and valuation divisions as well as engineering, property marketing, research, and GIS services. Furthermore, what began as a two-man shop now employs 125 and encompasses 6 offices throughout the region: a Philadelphia headquarters located at 18th and Market and regional offices in Mount Laurel, Conshohocken, Allentown, Harrisburg, and Wilmington.

“Lanard & Axilbund was a very successful regional firm, but we knew we had to change,” said Sayer. “When the firm was founded in 1920, almost all business was local. Affiliating with Colliers has provided our clients with services, cutting edge tools and resources across the United States and globally. With gross revenues of more than $3.3 billion, Colliers is one of the three largest commercial real estate providers in the world. 

The silver lining to this affiliation is nimble decision making and strong accountability for clients, with a healthy dose of Philadelphia passion. “From the beginning, our firm has had a local commitment and focus,” said Sayer. “Our officers have always been rooted in Philadelphia. Our livelihood is tied up in this community, and it shows. By remaining locally owned and based and consistently choosing our leadership from within, we have sustained a unique culture.”

“We have very consciously expanded our expertise into a variety of niche sectors over the years.“ adds Sayer. More than a decade ago we saw where the market was going, advancing towards the Lehigh Valley, and began developing a highly specialized team for logistics – that has paid dividends in the era of Amazon.  Senior living, hospitality/golf and automotive retail services as well.  In 2018 we began a proactive push to recruit and provide specialization to the growing life sciences community. Our cluster has grown dramatically, and it is gratifying now to see that expertise fast at work, connecting essential space with essential cures.” 

Reflections from the Ranks
Tim Pulte, Senior Executive VP of Colliers Industrial and Office divisions, said, “While it depends how you measure stature, year in and year out, Colliers is one of the most significant real estate players in the region. As the market has expanded, we have expanded with it. We are active today in every submarket and specialty of commercial real estate."

“This year alone, despite enormous challenges, Colliers continues to illustrate strength in our historic specialty of industrial real estate – as logistics grows and moves closer to the urban core our longstanding market knowledge has played a significant role. Recently, we transacted the 1,800-acre sale of the historic U.S. Steel Fairless Works site to Northpoint Development, a move that will have significant impact to our region.”

“From the advent of the car and the sweeping changes it brought to retail, it is nothing new that the retail sector continues to face disruption from all corners.” says Larry Steinberg, a Senior Managing Director of Colliers Retail division, and President of Rittenhouse Row District.  “Our professionals illustrate time and again they are an asset to clients navigating rapid change. This year we stood by our resilient restaurants, retailers, and landlords of Center City. Colliers’ work at the Court at Cottman, creatively repositioning a mall relic into an exciting mixed use, despite a pandemic, was recognized as the Best Retail Real Estate Deal of the Year in 2020. It is the unique collaborative culture of Colliers that creates opportunities for innovation our clients need.”  

“When our firm began at the heart of Philadelphia’s loft district it was actually selling more steam then making money on rent. At one time there were 300 engineers running boilers across several blocks for our tenants of the garment industry” relates Steve Resinski, Regional Managing Director of Colliers Property Management division, and BOMA Philadelphia Chair. Today Colliers footprint of managed properties has drastically expanded across the region, and the role of property manager transformed. “I wonder what our predecessors, toiling in the boiler room might say about the technology running many of our assets and the various accreditations such as LEED or WELL we reach for - or Colliers’ Tenant Concierge phone app“ says Resinski. “Leveraging new technologies to efficiently operate a building is especially relevant today as we focus on healthy buildings for our tenants. Time-tested principles of building relationships, providing efficient response and memorable experiences remain at our core.”

“As it relates to the way things were and where they are going, a modern marketing capability is quickly becoming the differentiator for real estate” says Elizabeth Brand, Director of Marketing with Colliers. “Prospects today need to be courted from first search and click. We are delivering demand to our client’s properties with a right place right time digital strategy, converting with storytelling and immersive visuals and being smart with technology, tracking insights that fuel meaningful actions. Today more than ever, owners appreciate when competition is fierce that a top-level marketing platform, such as Colliers offers, really makes the difference.”
 
A Culture of Care
“The true secret to our success is the culture within on our firm where people care about one another and care about the success of the people we represent” Sayer sums up.

“Colliers has a strong tradition of valuing and respecting our people, reflected in the tremendous tenure we have. On average, many have been with us 30 years - while some hold an astounding 50 years. This is a place where people want to be and want to produce their best work. We have this enterprising spirit in our DNA, I think.” shares Mary Chan, Chief Human Resources Officer and Diversity Leader for the region.

“It is no secret that a challenge of our industry is a lack of diversity in brokerage business front.” Chan continues. “Colliers is unique in that our senior leadership is decidedly female. And we are applying our enterprising character towards building a better future. One strategy we will take, beginning this summer, is through a mentorship program that introduces School District of Philadelphia students to this industry and opens doorways to the immense social capital and opportunity a firm like Colliers offers.“ 

“This has been a place where we have empowered our people to lead us out of yesterday’s challenges, and there is no doubt that we will continue to empower our people to reach the challenges of tomorrow - and into a more equitable and inclusive future.” 
 
Legacy and Future
With an unparalleled regional history and boundless global presence, Colliers continues in its tradition of adaptation and growth. 

“When Benjamin Lanard and Jacob Axilbund started the firm in 1920, they could look out the window and see their market. Today, the market is international, place driven and virtual.  We have seen major changes in the types and nature of businesses of the Greater Philadelphia region” said Sayer. “We’ve gone from mills to last mile hubs and from manufacturing goods to manufacturing services and cures.  We have seen Philadelphia evolve into a world class city with the development of strong regional commercial real estate markets in the Pennsylvania suburbs and in southern New Jersey.”

Though the market looks quite different than it did in 1920, the principles of Lanard & Axilbund are very much the same. 

“I am proud of the role Lanard & Axilbund has played in the Philadelphia region during our first 100 years. Most local firms have ceased to exist or have been gobbled up by national firms,” said Sayer. “While much has changed, what hasn’t changed is our focus on putting our clients first.  We will continue to adhere to the highest standards of integrity, reinvest in our firm and people, and to understand and be committed to our client’s goals. We will continue to focus on longevity as well as innovation. These principles have enabled our firm to grow, and these principles will dictate our decisions and growth in the future.”

 

Media Contact:
Elizabeth Brand
Director of Marketing, Greater Philadelphia Region
Elizabeth.Brand@colliers.com
215-928-7582

 
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About Colliers International

Colliers (NASDAQ, TSX: CIGI) is a leading diversified professional services and investment management company. With operations in 67 countries, our more than 15,000 enterprising professionals work collaboratively to provide expert advice to real estate occupiers, owners and investors. For more than 25 years, our experienced leadership with significant insider ownership has delivered compound annual investment returns of almost 20% for shareholders. With annualized revenues of $3.0 billion ($3.3 billion including affiliates) and $40 billion of assets under management, we maximize the potential of property and accelerate the success of our clients and our people. Learn more about how we accelerate success at corporate.colliers.com, Twitter @Colliers or LinkedIn

 

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Colliers Turns 100 in Philadelphia