Mindy McIlroy, President of TerraNova Corp.

Parkinson’s Diagnosis Hasn’t Hindered Terranova President’s Success: ‘Outlook Plays a Big Role in How You Feel’


Mindy McIlroy, president of commercial real estate investment firm Terranova Corp., has completed $1 billion in retail leasing deals throughout her unique career in South Florida, but her success hasn’t come without challenges.

McIlroy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2014. But instead of letting it slow her down, she decided not to view herself as a victim and tackle the disease head-on by being open about it with her colleagues.

“It hasn’t been a challenge as far as how the community views me. Some days, physically, are more challenging for me than others, but I really believe with any sort of illness, whether physical or mental, your outlook plays a big role in how you feel,” said McIlroy.

Parkinson’s is a central nervous system disorder that affects movement and often causes tremors.

Even while battling her condition and on top of her responsibilities at Terranova, McIlroy joined the board of directors of the National Parkinson Foundation and became chairwoman of the Moving Day Miami, the foundation’s annual fundraising walk. She also served as co-chair of the development committee for the foundation.

Today, in her role as president of Terranova, Mindy oversees all day-to-day operations for the company’s national retail portfolio. She focuses on a variety of retail properties, such as suburban shopping centers, lifestyle, entertainment centers, urban retail and mixed-use projects.

During the most challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, McIlroy is credited with leading her company to complete over $230 million in capital markets transactions in 2021 and closing deals worth over $61.7 million across 200,000 square feet of South Florida commercial retail space on behalf of a Terranova-affiliated landlord.

McIlroy is also known for conceptualizing establishments such as The Lincoln Eatery, a food hall in Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road district. She co-founded the Lincoln Road Property Owners Association, which is now the Lincoln Road Business Improvement District, and is currently an executive board member.

Employees ‘Aren’t Just People Sitting at a Desk’

McIlroy said one of her biggest accomplishments is creating a work environment that feels like a family.

“We care about each other, we have a nice working environment and everybody helps each other to get things done. Being a leader and developing that culture has been very rewarding and is one of the highlights of my career,” she said.

To create that kind of culture, McIlroy said business owners must take the time to get to know their employees on a personal and professional level.

“They aren’t just people sitting at a desk. It takes time, energy and effort to really care about your staff. You need patience, to spend time offline and not always within the confines of the office, and take them out to lunch from time to time,” said McIlroy.

McIlroy’s career began in 1997, when McIlroy moved from Atlanta to South Florida. After going through a staffing agency, McIlroy was hired as an executive assistant at Terranova working under its chairman and founder Stephen Bittel.

“I never sought this career. I think it sought me,” said McIlroy. “I ended up in that role because I was in the hospitality industry and I was in a sales position, and, in order to grow in sales, you have to be able to relocate often to larger locations.”

After a couple of years, McIlroy resigned from Terranova with the intent to go back into sales in the hospitality industry, when Terranova’s then-president offered her a real estate sales position. From there, she moved through the ranks.

McIlroy credits much of her success to her mentors, including Terranova chairman and founder Stephen Bittel, along with her predecessors Trish Blasi and Beth Azor.

“People who are in leadership roles should absolutely be conscious of the fact that they need to give back and mentor someone,” said McIlroy. “A lot of my acceleration in my carerr was due to the fact that I had worked directly for him [Bittel] for two years.”

Since Bittel is such an icon in the real estate industry, McIlroy said she was able to recognize all of the big hitters who came through the office and get acquainted with them.

“You develop a relationship where you can talk very candidly with each other, so he certainly didn’t miss any opportunity to tell me when I wasn’t doing something right,” said McIlroy. “From that, I would learn very quickly, because you want someone you trust to tell you what you need to do differently to improve your situation.

It’s Not Who You Know, But ‘Who Knows You’

Being successful in any field means developing thick skin, in McIlroy’s experience. She said the key to success in being involved in the community, nit just for networking purposes, but to improve it.

“It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you,” said McIlroy.

McIlroy held a leadership position for two consecutive terms as president of the Coral Gables Business Improvement District, and has also served as a retail advisory board member of the Kelley A. Bergstrom Center of Real Estate Studies at University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business Administration, and as a mentor in the Women of Tomorrow Mentor and Scholarship Program. She’s currently a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers. 

For fun, McIlroy said she likes to work.

“Because I find all aspects of my work fun, including the work I do for my company and the work I do for my community,” she said.

In her downtime, she enjoys traveling, planting and growing fruits and vegetables, and considering new real estate concepts from around the world to better enhance Terranova’s real estate portfolio.




Cheesecake Factory inks lease on Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road

THE REAL DEAL- February 22, 2022 BY KATHERINE KALLERGIS The Cheesecake Factory inked a lease on Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road in the former Sushi Samba space, The Real Deal has learned. The publicly traded Cheesecake Factory, based in Calabasas, California, plans to open this fall at 600 Lincoln Road, according to Terranova Corporation Chairman Stephen Bittel. The restaurant group signed a 20-year lease, with renewal options, for the 7,000-square-foot corner space. It’s expecting to secure a building permit soon for an extensive interior buildout and could open in the fall, he said. Second-generation restaurant spaces, meaning they have built out kitchens and grease traps, have been in high demand over the past year throughout the region. “After really a treacherous 2020 in the restaurant business, restaurants have experienced a remarkable recovery in markets like South Florida that have been wide open the whole time,” Bittel said. Sushi Samba closed in December 2019, just before the pandemic began. Terranova owns the property with Morgan Stanley’s Prime Property Fund. A Terranova affiliate paid $108.6 million for the property with two addresses at 600 Lincoln Road and 1630 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2014. The building was completed in 1931.

Bittel said the negotiations with Cheesecake Factory “took a significant amount of time.” He declined to disclose asking rent and final rent. Blatteis & Schnur represented the restaurant. “We all had needs to be met in the document, so this was not a quick deal,” Bittel said. Cheesecake Factory expects to lease outdoor space from the city of Miami Beach for outdoor dining in front of the restaurant, Bittel said. The restaurant, known for its expansive menu, could hire about 200 employees. Bittel said that retail leasing, led by restaurants, is up on Lincoln Road. “We’re returning it to the glory that it experienced before the convention center closed [while it was being renovated],” he said. The high street retail corridor has experienced significant vacancies in recent years due in part to high asking rents that only national tenants could afford, brokers and tenants say.

In 2020, the independent local book store chain Books & Books closed its Lincoln Road store after more than 30 years of a presence on the street. But since the short-lived lockdowns were lifted, there’s also been a surge in investment sales of properties surrounding Lincoln Road. Two office buildings north of Lincoln Road on Meridian Avenue recently sold for $27 million and nearly $50 million, respectively. In August, Witkoff bought the retail building at 1681 Lenox Avenue for $15.4 million. It’s leased to the restaurant Yard House, which is owned by Darden Restaurants.


Mindy McIlroy, President of TerraNova Corp.

Before Blaming Your Workplace, Look in the Mirror and Make Sure You’re Not the Problem


When anyone blames their workplace environment for getting in the way of their success, I often ask them to consider a possibility that most people have a hard time suggesting: “Look in the mirror first and make sure you’re not being your own worst enemy.” It’s always easier to go the politically correct route of automatically agreeing with anyone seeking to cry on our shoulders as they blame others for their career issues, but the fact is, there’s a likelihood that this approach may be doing them a huge disservice.

While there is no doubt that there are occasions when the environment does get in the way, and some women and men suffer all sorts of serious discrimination, bias and workplace challenges, a lot has already been written about those cases. This article is not related to those cases. Specifically, I want to share my personal experience and insights on the countless other cases that are reported on less frequently, a good number of which I’ve personally witnessed firsthand throughout my career. I’m speaking about perfectly qualified people who, for a variety of reasons, are the only thing standing in the way of their own progress and they blame others rather than look within themselves.

My life’s experience is a great case in point. I started my real estate career as the executive assistant to a man revered as one of the commercial real estate industry’s smartest and toughest businessmen. By virtue of my hard work, determination and desire to learn and grow professionally, I received multiple promotions over the years and today lead his company, which today has a $1 billion investment portfolio.

In my experience overseeing all day-to-day operations for Terranova’s diverse retail portfolio and personally completing over $1 billion in retail leasing transactions, and most recently as the company has transitioned to become an opportunistic alternative investment firm in dynamic industries as life sciences, technology, health care, petroleum and agriculture, I have seen and learned a lot. Most notably, I have acquired an in-depth understanding of how the attitudes we choose can determine our destinies. One person can walk into a room and dominate the room, while another similarly situated person can feel threatened and uncomfortable in that room. I am passionate about this topic out of my desire to help mentor and guide people, since there are so many good people not living at their full potential and not aware of the cause of the problem or how to fix it.

So, how did I achieve my leadership role? It wasn’t luck, and no one sprinkled magic dust on me. It was hard work, perseverance, grit, and focusing on the goal without getting emotional about any deal. It was about having poise under pressure and being ready to stand my ground, articulate my points and, when necessary, respectfully contradict even the most intimidating of personalities. And, notably, these allegedly tough executives usually ended up agreeing with me.

It’s unfortunate that today’s litigious workplace environment has made people so overly sensitive to these issues that discussing these topics can make us targets for allegations of everything from insensitivity to discrimination. Yet, despite the risk of all this, I will share some guidance that has taken me a lifetime to learn:

  • Find a good mentor. In my career, I’ve been fortunate to count on mentors such as Terranova’s CEO Stephen Bittel, as well as my predecessors Trish Blasi and Beth Azor, who were both Terranova presidents. Find a mentor who’s a warrior—someone who keeps it real, motivates you, and doesn’t only say what you want to hear. A good mentor will “say bad stuff to your face, and good stuff behind your back.” A good mentor will have proven ability to survive and thrive in the same corporate environments in which you are seeking to play.
  • Focus on the solution, not the problem. I don’t even like to use the word “problem,” because in my view, it’s just a “situation telling us what to do next.” Behind any obstacle there are opportunities, and it’s wise to take on the mindset of a hunter, focused on finding and seizing the bright spots in any environment.
  • Pay it forward. Whatever you are doing, whether you’re answering the phone or entering an elevator, make sure to understand who you’re dealing with, and what you can do to help them. Never hesitate to help anyone around you. I’ve found that life takes unexpected twists and turns, and people always give preferential treatment to those who always treated them well even from the infancy of their careers. This has always been a strong part of Terranova’s DNA, with Stephen leading by example by generously donating his personal time, talents and treasure to help our team and community.
  • Have the right mindset. As someone living with a disability (Parkinson’s), I know firsthand that mindset is everything. There are many days when I could have chosen to stay in bed with a victim mentality, feeling sorry for myself and blaming the world. Yet, I rose to the occasion and never let my condition stop me from getting stuff done. Indeed, the lens through which we choose to see the world determines our ability to properly identify and seize opportunities before us. Therefore, choose your lens carefully because it will determine your destiny. This also applies to your workplace in general—I’ve seen some people succeed in the same workplace that others have claimed was toxic. It’s the reason some people can work extremely well with one person, while others find that same person difficult or impossible to work with. It’s important to be comfortable feeling uncomfortable, because the road to personal growth and success requires it. Oftentimes, we have adverse reactions to people as a result of our own fears and insecurities, and in those cases, avoiding those situations we cause us to miss out on learning valuable lessons. Rather than run from situations that scare us, we should ask ourselves why we are having those reactions, and then run toward them and face them. Many times, that’s exactly where the best opportunities for growth and success are awaiting us!
  • Read! Stay on top of your industry’s trends but also read things that challenge and inspire you personally. Choose your reading carefully though. I’ve found many so-called self-help books come from a victim mentality and can do more harm than good. Never been a fan of phrases like “Girl Power,” which I find silly since we shouldn’t need to remind anyone that we are powerful or that our power is related to our gender. Focus on books that remind you of all the power you have to shape and determine your future. I’ve always appreciated practical business books like ”First, Break all the Rules,” and more recently, enjoyed reading “Untamed.”
  • Don’t take anything personally! The less emotion we have in business, the better. In fact, in any confrontation or negotiation, the most emotional party tends to lose. Leave your ego at the door and focus on working collaboratively to get the job done. If you haven’t already, you must read “The Four Agreements!”
  • Come from passion, not fear. When we come from passion, we are tapping into our highest energy vibration, and we are focusing our efforts on achieving our goals rather than protecting ourselves from imaginary demons. I often compare it to riding a bike—keep your gaze fixed steadily on the path where you “do” want to go rather than on the obstacles or distractions along the road. If you stare at the obstacles, you’ll steer your bike straight into them!
  • Be ready for confrontation. Confrontations are often necessary to get to the next stage of any relationship. It’s never comfortable or pleasant, but you have to do it. Get comfortable being uncomfortable and facing tough conversations from a place of faith that everything will work out as it should, since you are doing your best and coming from a place of power rather than weakness.

Again, I’m not suggesting that anyone should ignore situations of legitimate discrimination or wrongdoing. I’m merely suggesting that we always ask ourselves, before drawing any conclusions, whether we are seeing things through a clear lens and not mischaracterizing situations or missing opportunities due to our own limiting beliefs. Indeed, when we operate from a place of power rather than fear, and when we respond rather than react, we put ourselves in the best position to achieve our goals.