With 35 years of experience in real estate and economic development, Karen Backus serves as Principal & Co-Founder of U3 Advisors. Karen provides strategic advice and leadership to client engagements in U3A’s New York City office, working primarily with colleges and universities. Karen also plays a leading role in business development and represents U3 Advisors at conferences and other meetings.
Karen established her previous real estate consulting firm, K. Backus & Associates, in 1997, building a distinguished track record in serving academic institutions and other large nonprofit organizations. Karen merged her firm in 2014 to create U3 Advisors. Karen and her firm have advised Columbia University since 1999, Princeton University since 2005, and Cornell University since 2011. Other key clients include Washington University in St. Louis, New York University, The New School, 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 is a member of the Urban Land Institute's Council on University Development and a member of Women Executives in New York Real Estate.