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Feb. 5, 2018

Five Minutes with Jim Reminga

Jim Reminga, Rockford’s Senior Vice President of Land and Master Planning, has served the design needs of the real estate development community for more than four decades. He is especially skilled in creative and efficient site planning, and offers unique experience in the areas of public approvals, rezoning, site plan approval and variances.

Q: What is your role at Rockford?

Focusing mainly on the development side of the business, I’m involved in finding opportunities and solving challenges associated with site design. I’m the resident problem solver. Clients come to me with vacant property or existing buildings and I work to solve the question: what is the highest and best use we can set to this?

In Rockford’s developments, I search for ways to answer that question in the context of community building. Good real estate serves a purpose for the neighborhood and adds beauty to people’s worlds, and I don’t just mean how it looks. The built environment affects how we feel about our communities. Good design can add dignity to our lives.

Q: What are your workspace must-haves?

I’m always playing music because I don’t like to work alone. I like noise, people, and movement. At Rockford when I’m working with others, I’m surrounded by people who bring quite different skills to the table. Underwriters, construction estimators, designers – put those three very different experts in a room and we can quickly budget whatever the sketch is and work through a proforma. Together, we can have a solid opinion of the opportunity within an hour. Typically, those are independent phases. You pass your work along to someone else. They do their work and pass it along again. The real estate world has many moving parts, but here we can talk projects into place in pretty short order. It’s the quick stuff of opportunity and that’s what excites me. So, to answer your question: I have to have people around me.

Q: What is one lesson you wish someone told you as you started your career?

Most of the early advice I got, I ignored. In college, I worked for a wonderful lady and told her it was my goal to start a design firm by the time I was 30. She tried to talk me out of that. In March of the year I turned 30, I co-founded Design Plus.

I’ve learned a lot since then. Jonathon Bradford at Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF) has been a big influence in my world. He talks about beauty in the built environment and how that can better people’s lives. When you commit to that kind of thinking, you recognize the value and obligation to design well for the greater good.

Speaking of that value, I once went to a conference to hear from the four architecture schools in Michigan. Of everything that day, the one piece that stood out to me most was a short statement made by the Dean of the smallest program in the State. The man from Andrews University in Berrien Springs shared this: “At Andrews, we teach architecture as an obligation.” While the other schools spoke about high design and major accolades, Andrews had a strikingly different point of view. The dean spoke about architecture as a service to the community, and how it can shape places that foster the whole human health. That stuck with me.

Q:  In ten words or less, explain why you enjoy the work you do.

It’s more about people than product.

At this point in my career, I am still in awe with the broad range of people we intersect with here. To work with major corporations the same way we work with philanthropic organizations is the coolest.