Karen Backus

Principal & Co-Founder

With 35 years of experience in real estate and economic development, Karen Backus provides strategic advice and project management services to universities, medical centers, governmental entities, and other nonprofit clients. As Principal & Co-Founder of U3 Advisors, Karen oversees all client engagements in U3A’s New York office, providing leadership and strategic advice.  Karen merged her previous firm, K. Backus & Associates, established in 1997, to create U3 Advisors in 2014.

U3A serves as development manager, advisor and strategist for clients planning or implementing complex projects. Karen and her firm have advised Columbia University since 1999, Princeton University since 2005, and Cornell University since 2011.  Other key U3A clients include the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University, Rice University, Washington University in St. Louis, The District of Columbia, The Brooklyn Public Library, The YMCA of Greater New York, and many others.

Prior to founding K. Backus & Associates, Karen was Vice President of Forest City Ratner Companies’ Retail Development Division from 1995 to 1997, where she managed the development of five projects in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. She was responsible for leasing, financial analysis, public approvals, and overall project management.

Karen also served as Vice President of Real Estate Development at the New York City Economic Development Corporation and its predecessors. Her career at NYCEDC spanned almost 10 years.   Karen led a variety of major projects ranging from the relocation of the New York Times’ printing plant from Times Square to Queens, to the development of the first residential building at Queens West. Overall, she oversaw more than 100 City-sponsored development projects. Early in her career, Karen worked for several nonprofit management consulting organizations and the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency.

Karen earned a BA, magna cum laude, in Letters and History, from Wesleyan University and a Master's in Business Administration from the Yale School of Management.

Karen is a Trustee of the Citizens Budget Commission, a member of the Urban Land Institute - Council on University Development, and a member of Women Executives in New York Real Estate.