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Berg, veteran commerical real estate broker, dies

Jan Berg (pictured), who helped pave the way in the local commercial real estate business for women, died March 17 after a brief illness. 

She was 64.

“She was really generous with her time with younger agents, helping them learn the businesses,” said Richard Hurd, president of Hurd Real Estate Services in West Des Moines. “When she started, there was only a handful of women in this industry. It was a pioneering period for women in commercial real estate. …

“She and the other women paved the way for those who came after them.”

Berg, an Iowa State University graduate, began her professional life as a teacher in the Chariton and Des Moines school districts. She later worked in sales in the furnishings industry at Eldridge Co. and Pigott. In about 1991, she began working in the commercial real estate industry, first at Crowley Mandelbaum and then at CBRE|Hubbell Commercial, where she began working in 2001 and became a vice president.

She specialized in all areas of commercial real estate, including office, industrial, land development retail and multifamily.

Berg was “extremely knowledgeable about all the different areas of commercial real estate,” said Jackie Johansen, principal of Shattered Glass Development. “Over the years she had done leases and acquisitions and dispositions and she’d seen so many projects from the ground level up.”

Colleen Johnson, a vice president at CBRE|Hubbell, met Berg when they both worked at Crowley Mandelbaum. “She was always teaching and mentoring,” Johnson said. “She never gave that up.”

Berg, who frequently worked on top-of-the market deals, also helped with smaller projects.
“If someone called her up and needed 600 square feet of retail [space] for three years for a startup business, she was out there looking for it for them,” Johnson said.

Nadja Wirth, a broker with CBRE|Hubbell, knew Berg for nearly four years and was mentored by her. The mentorship was developed through CREW Iowa, a group for women involved in all aspects of commercial real estate.

“She was a phenomenal mentor because she truly cared about me as a person,” Wirth said. “It wasn’t just advice about the business, but it was ‘How can I help you?’ and ‘Here are ways you can better yourself.’”

Wirth said when she told Berg she wanted to focus on office and industrial real estate, Berg “immediately took me under her wing. … She invited me to go to a conference with her out of state. It was like, let’s hit the ground running.”

Wirth said she often saw Berg speak up about what was on her mind. “She had this mindset of ‘me being a woman has nothing to do with how successful I am or not in the industry.’ … That kind of attitude and leadership was contagious to other women. She was so very respected in the community.”

Berg was a Certified Commercial Investment Member and belonged to the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors, at which she was on several committees. She also was a member of CREW Iowa and Iowa Commercial Real Estate Association.

She was named Downtown Broker of the Year in 2009, and in 2015 was named CoStar Power Broker – Office Leasing Transactions.

Berg died from a disease of the central nervous system, her family said.

She is survived by her husband, Rod Kruse, and adult children Justin Berg, Tarrah Selland and Harrison Kruse, who partnered with her in the commercial real estate business.

Arrangements are pending for a celebration of life gathering.

To read Berg’s obituary, click here

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