Retail’s Newest Pros

Aunique collaboration between a professional retail association and a major university may move lease administrators further into the real estate industry spotlight.

The National Retail Tenants Association (NRTA) and Boston University (BU) have announced the expansion of the college’s real estate certificate program to include lease-administration classes. The first of these courses, which launched on April 12, is entitled “Methods and Techniques of Commercial Lease Abstracting” and is being taught by Rick Burke, president of Marblehead, Mass.-based Lease Administration Solutions and a founding member of the NRTA.

According to executive director Paul Kinney, the alliance between NRTA and Boston University is one that will have long-term ramifications for current and future lease administrators.

“For years the NRTA has discussed creating a lease-administration certification program,” said Kinney. “Certifying lease administrators will not only allow real estate professionals to advance their knowledge in the area—and have those advancements be measured and certified—but also will further raise the credibility of the profession as a whole.”

Lease administration didn’t get much attention before the NRTA was formed 12 years ago. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of the association to develop interest in the field, deliver as much learning as is possible in an annual conference and regional meetings, and keep its membership current on the latest technological advancements, practitioners have begun earning much-deserved recognition within retail.

And now BU has recognized lease administrators, as well. According to Ruth Anne Murray, director of the BU Center for Professional Education, the university took notice of the profession because of its impact on retail and other industries, and also because it was wide open in terms of advanced education.

“We like to be trailblazers,” said Murray. “One of the main criteria before launching a new program is that the need is not being addressed by someone else.” BU’s current real estate certificate program encompasses commercial real estate, finance and facilities management. Lease administration will be an adjunct to those courses.

The NRTA is charged with creating the curriculum, which will consist of approximately six courses of 20 hours each (at a cost per course of $595), under the guidance of BU. Both groups expect that the first year will be spent firming up the courses—“Commercial Lease Administration Fundamentals” will launch this September, followed by classes on lease auditing and due-diligence procedures. Simultaneous with the creation of the various courses, the NRTA will outline the certification program. While the details haven’t yet been decided, the plan is to hold the final exam in conjunction with the NRTA’s conference each year.

“My vision is that, by next year or the year after, we will offer the exam on either the day before the conference or the day after,” said Kinney. “Our hope, too, is that once someone earns certification, one of the ways that certificate will remain valid is by attending the NRTA conference at least every two years.”

The NRTA’s vision transcends certification. The ultimate goal is to offer the courses online, making advanced studies available potentially worldwide—and not just to those who can attend classes at BU once a week.

Because BU currently offers online course work, the path to online lease-administration certification isn’t expected to be a difficult one. “Step one is to measure how well the first courses are received,” said BU’s Murray. “Step two will be rolling out the entire certificate. Based upon the reaction to that, we will start talking about online.

“If a year from now we have developed the program—and it’s very successful—bringing it online will be very easy.”

For more information about the BU lease-administration certificate program, visit www.retailtenants.org.

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