Driving force behind Gardner Tanenbaum

Driving force behind Gardner Tanenbaum

From Journal Record

Photo by Kathryn McNutt, Journal Record

When the 20-story Citizens Tower was purchased in 2004 for redevelopment into high-rise luxury condominiums, the news sparked an aspiration in Cindy Murillo.­

“I decided, I don’t know how, I don’t know when but I’m going to become involved with this company,” she said.­

The company was Oklahoma City-based Gardner Tanenbaum Holdings – which has developed more than $1.2 billion worth of multifamily, commercial and industrial properties worldwide – and today, Murillo, 52, is the chief operating officer.­

“Gardner Tanenbaum’s success is largely built upon Cindy Murillo’s leadership skills, strategic thinking, and financial acumen,” CEO Richard “Dick” Tanenbaum said. “She has a deep understanding of the real estate industry which makes her an expert at project management, risk assessment and operation efficiency. Cindy’s communication skills, both internally with our team and externally with our stakeholders, are exceptional.”­

It all started with that spark 20 years ago. ­

“I got introduced to the family and, through a series of interviews, I became involved in the project management at The Classen luxury tower,” Murillo said. “I stayed on as the property manager after the project was completed (February 2007) and leased out the building and managed the building and all of that.”­

In December 2007, she went to work for an international development company providing housing development and renovation services on military installations across the country.­

“I was on 16 planes a month. I was traveling 20 days out of the month. Not glamorous but a lot of fun. I wouldn’t change that education for anything,” Murillo said.­

“It was an opportunity for me to get a different type of education about the development and residential multifamily industry. It provided an opportunity for me to enhance my skill set,” she said.­

“Meanwhile, I always knew if I had the opportunity to come back and work with the Tanenbaum group again I would,” she said. “I had such a great experience with them the first time.”­

About six years into her job tearing down and rebuilding military housing, Murillo found herself on an airplane with Dick and Glenna Tanenbaum who were vacation-bound. ­

“I was going to one of my sites in California and I just knew that was the opportunity. I knew at that time I had learned enough to where I could come back in a potentially different capacity,” she said. “About a month later we made a deal.”­

She returned as vice president of multifamily in 2013. “They were building one and operating three. I was able to use my skills in building 4,000 units across the country and apply that here. The difference was I could go home and sleep in my bed at night,” Murillo said.­

“The great thing about Gardner Tanenbaum is you’re not restricted to being placed in a lane or doing your own specific job. If you can contribute and you have shown results, you’re able to take your skill set and apply that to various projects.”­

A current project – the renovation of two historic downtown office buildings into The Harlow luxury apartments – has given her another new skill. Working with Joanna McSpadden, the city’s economic development program manager, she has learned all about tax increment financing, “something new to put in the toolbox.”­

The project, on track to open in summer of 2025, has been approved for up to $4.2 million in TIF funding as well as a historic tax credit. “It takes all creative financing to make this kind of thing happen,” Murillo said. ­

“At Gardner Tanenbaum, you work hard, you play hard, but we just get it done as an organization. There’s not a lot of corporate red tape,” she said. “You just have to have a can-do mentality.”­

Murillo leads the development team, not only on the front end of development and construction projects but also the operational aspects of the business and “keeping the profitability going.”­

“It’s just about connecting the dots,” she said. That involves weekly calls with Tanenbaum and his children, principals Becky Tanenbaum Mallace and Stephen Tanenbaum. ­

The family are pioneers full of innovative ideas, Murillo said. “I’ve just been allowed the opportunity to be able to help carry out those ideas.”­

“I could be doing this anywhere and I choose to do this here at Gardner Tanenbaum. I love it,” she said. “I’m not restricted on the things that I do. It’s an environment where ideas are appreciated and encouraged … and that creativity is key.”­