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Meet our new Associate, Malia Teske

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Honolulu to Ithaca, Cambridge to New York City. Malia Teske has lived, studied, and worked in a wide variety of urban settings, and made projects happen in some of the country’s most challenging and dynamic real estate markets.

As an Associate in U3 Advisors’ New York office, Malia is focusing her enthusiasm for what she calls “mission-driven real estate” on helping institutions and their hometowns everywhere.


How did you hear about U3 Advisors?

I heard about U3 through my friend Andrew Fix, who works [in U3 Advisors’ New York office]. He was my former colleague at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). When he left for U3, it just became a company that I kept on my radar – they were up to some really cool, mission-driven work that seemed right up my alley. 


What was your kind of introduction to the field of real estate? 

I got into real estate by way of urban planning – that’s what I studied in school. I’ve always been interested in the built environment, and how the actions of a few create a built environment for us all. There’s so much we can do in the built environment to positively impact how we live our lives. I’ve since gravitated towards real estate and urban development because I found myself wanting to be as close to the action and implementation of projects as possible.


How did your work for NYCEDC prepare you for this role?

I was in [NYCEDC]’s Asset Management Group, where I oversaw a portfolio of city-owned assets across Manhattan. Our portfolios were divided by borough and I was lucky enough to be focused on Lower Manhattan. It was a really great experience to see how things get done in the city and interface with a variety of development partners and stakeholders that shared our mission of creating jobs and building strong neighborhoods.


You are U3 Advisors’ first Hawaii-born employee. How did growing up in such a unique place influence your thinking about planning and design? 

Geographically, Hawaii is this small group of islands but it has such a strong sense of place and a rich indigenous culture, where traditional land use systems were very advanced. There’s this deep connection to the land and sea and a sustainable systems way of thinking that I try to bring into my work.


Going from there to upstate New York for college must have been quite a change.

It was. I think it was a little bit of a rebellious teenager move [laughs]. Everyone from Hawaii ends up going to California or somewhere else on the West Coast. But I wanted to experience something really different. I told myself, “I’m going to the East Coast,” and then I picked Ithaca of all places. But I ended up loving it.


How did you find city planning as a major when you got to Cornell?

Cornell’s slogan is “Any Person, Any Study,” and I really took advantage of that as an undecided freshman. I took a sociology and then an environmental psychology class that really piqued my interest. Those courses introduced me to urban planning and design as professions and I guess I just gravitated to it. I ended up getting my masters in urban planning at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design a few years after Cornell, concentrating in real estate and urban development. 


How have you seen mission-driven real estate work evolve in the last few years?

I think public-private partnerships are really leading the way and more and more anchor institutions are playing an active role in the (re)development of their communities. I think there’s this recognition that institutions, like universities, have this power and opportunity to be a catalyst and positively impact the places where they are located. That really resonates with me.