As 2023 drew to a close, Continental Properties marked a pivotal moment with the retirement announcement of Gerry Severson, Vice Chairman, marking the end of his remarkable 33-year career with Continental. From his roots in real estate to emerging as a central figure in retail development, Gerry's journey was synonymous with Continental's growth. We reflect on his pivotal role, acknowledge the legacy he leaves, and how he has shaped the essence of our organization.
Gerry’s journey in real estate development began in 1974 when he entered the field as an independent commercial real estate broker with Layman-Todd Realty in Mankato, Minnesota. Before joining Continental, Gerry played key roles in various aspects of the real estate industry. Notably, he was responsible for leasing, marketing, management, and development at the Balcor-American Express Company in Skokie, Illinois, Bramlea, Ltd. at the US office in Houston, Texas, and Centres, Inc. of Brookfield, Wisconsin. These rich and diverse experiences laid the foundation for Gerry's later success, showcasing his expertise and leadership across different facets of the real estate landscape.
Gerry developed a reputation as a leading dealmaker in the retail development business in Wisconsin and was known as one of the top partners for Kmart in the country. After crossing paths with Continental’s founder and CEO, Jim Schloemer, Gerry joined Continental in 1990 as Executive Vice President and “has been a pillar of Continental’s stability, growth, and the foundation that we all have to build on,” according to Jim.
Achievements and Milestones
Gerry's impact on Continental is marked by a series of achievements. One of his major contributions was the creation and expansion of the Retail Development Platform at Continental, where he nurtured the Retail Group from a small team in 1990 to six dynamic teams with up to six members each by 2010. Gerry played a crucial role in sustaining a volume of retail developments, propelling Continental to become one of the largest retail developers in the country, notably for powerhouse brands like Kmart and Kohl’s. His assistance in developing the team concept, a format still integral to Continental’s operations today, enables the company to achieve the necessary volume for continued growth in the multifamily housing space.
Gerry’s passion and personal history with sports allowed him to be a great team player and coach to all team members at Continental. His guidance and mentorship have helped many individuals, leaving a lasting impact on their professional paths.
“We’re a team-oriented business,” said Dan Minahan, President. “And Gerry has always been the consummate team player.”
“Gerry Severson is a leader, a mentor, a coach, a friend, and a first-class storyteller. He built relationships for himself and Continental for over 30 years and helped this business grow to what it is today,” said Steve Wagner, SVP of Acquisitions.
Gerry was the proprietor of his blog “Severspeaks,” where he provided a daily weather report and timely updates on local sports in Wisconsin. This distinctive touch extended to his voicemail message, which he regularly updated with the latest weather conditions and Wisconsin sports scores. Many colleagues called Gerry’s phone each day, not only for communication but to hear his renowned daily message.
Passion for Culture
Fueled by his deep commitment to the organization's culture, Gerry played a large role in developing and implementing the Continental Creed in 1999. The Continental Creed is a foundational statement for who we are as an organization and still strongly serves as the core of our culture today.
In what Gerry notes as his semi-retirement phase, he plans to assist Continental in disposing of excess land, leasing vacant spaces, and supporting multifamily teams with surplus land adjacent to new developments. This ensures that his wealth of experience and expertise will continue to play a role in the company's ongoing success.
Outside of Continental, Gerry actively engages with juveniles in Arizona State facilities and Maricopa County jails, offering guidance and support to help them navigate the challenges they will face upon release. He has also expanded his involvement with several parishes in the Archdiocese of Phoenix and a retreat center. Each week, he lends his support to pastors and retreat directors, assisting with various tasks to contribute to the community's well-being. Gerry's post-retirement endeavors truly exemplify a continued commitment to service, mentorship, and community involvement.
In recognizing Gerry, we honor the profound impact he leaves on Continental. Gerry’s expertise, skills, and leadership have been instrumental in shaping Continental into the organization it is today and will have a lasting impact on our culture and success. Gerry encapsulates this transformative journey, stating, “I’m very proud to see how we’ve grown and how we’ve evolved without giving up very specific things that I think are important to our credibility as a company, including integrity and honesty. I found a home thirty-three plus years ago, and it didn't take me long to figure out I never wanted to leave."