E Smith Communities CEO Tamela Thornton has been named the new executive director of the Dallas-Fort Worth District Council of the Urban Land Institute (ULI DFW). Thornton will succeed Pam Stein, who retired last month.
Stein was hired as the institute’s first executive director back in 2013. The position was created as the organization plans to expand its role in the region, anticipating extensive population growth. At the time, the attorney brought more than 20 years of experience working with developers, property owners, financial institutions, and investors in the North Texas region in her previous role as a shareholder with Greenberg Traurig.
A well-known leader in the North Texas commercial real estate community, Thornton was an obvious fit for the opening.
Thornton currently heads E Smith Communities social impact growth initiatives, including the 4315 Lancaster Innovation Center, a job training and job creation hub.
“We were fortunate to have a number of highly qualified candidates, but Tamela’s experience as a strategic leader and her knowledge of the commercial real estate industry made her our top choice,” said Steve Modory of Champion Partners, current District Council Chair for ULI DFW.
While studying at the University of Pennsylvania, Thornton focused on urban redevelopment and thought she’d become a civil engineer. Instead, she got into real estate development for global companies like Yum! Brands and Starbucks. It was through her work for the coffee conglomerate that she got to know Emmitt Smith, who was making the segue from football to commercial real estate. She joined him as a partner in E Smith Legacy, which leverages relationships and expertise to finance and develop commercial projects. Lately, Thornton has been concentrating on community redevelopment, going full circle back to her days at Penn. “It’s social impact investing—profit, but also purpose for the community,” she previously told D CEO.
“I have a long history with ULI and understand how our members and resources support positive, transformational change in communities,” she says. “This role gives me the opportunity to deepen the impact of ULI DFW as we engage with new constituents across the metroplex, and I am excited to lead us in this next chapter.
“ULI DFW has an enormous opportunity ahead as it prepares to host ULI’s annual Fall Meeting in October of 2022, bringing over 7000 leaders in commercial real estate to this region” noted retiring Executive Director Pam Stein. “Tamela will have an exciting year as ULI returns to in-person events and grows its membership substantially in anticipation of the Fall Meeting.”