Meet Violette Deschamps - our property manager

Posted on Tue, 04/01/2014 - 12:00pm

By Lori Ziesmer

Violette DeschampsMalibu East is one of the largest high-rise buildings on Sheridan Road, containing more than 867,000 square feet of space in the residential tower. Including the parking garage and the Captain’s Walk mall, the building encompasses close to one million square feet of space needing to be maintained and managed. We have been fortunate to have dedicated boards of directors over the years to oversee and plan for the long-term upkeep of our building.

Many of us take for granted the day-to-day operation of a building of this size. Things don’t get done on their own. Imagine the disarray if we did not have a seasoned and dedicated property manager to provide professional and accurate advice and guidance on issues involving repairs, renovation, upgrades, maintenance, accounts payable and receivable, insurance, budgets, contracts and compliance with all state and local laws pertaining to condominiums, plus overseeing the 20-plus employees on the Malibu East staff as well as the garage operations? We are fortunate to have hired a person with all these skills, plus a background in architecture and conflict resolution, in our Certified Property Manager® Violette Deschamps (pronounced VEE-oh-let deh SHAHM).

Violette was born in the Cantons de l’Est, an agricultural region in Quebec located in the eastern part of Canada. She is the oldest of seven children. French is her native language; she learned English later as an adult. She grew up in St. Eustache, a town of 40,000 people and an off-island suburb of Montreal in western Quebec, on the shores of the Riviere des Mille-Ȋles. At age 18, Violette left for Montreal, where she studied architecture at the Université de Montréal. Her career as an architect spanned more than two decades.

Violette had an architectural firm with three other partners in Montreal. The company specialized in social and institutional design and construction. Her specialty was in residential projects. Violette focused on creating living environments for people with physical and mental impairments. She created livable and functional spaces for wheelchair-bound residents, as well as designing for many other types of needs. Some of her designs ranged from adapted showers large enough for two to three persons, so that a disabled person could receive proper assistance in the shower, to community rooms for social services that could be used by doctors, social workers, etc.

She remembers fondly a comment from a resident of a building she designed, who told her that she had not been able to walk before Violette worked on her living space. Violette installed handrails throughout the quarters, motivating the resident to walk around while holding on to the rails and therefore gaining her autonomy back. She is also very proud that all of her projects came within two to three percent of the allocated budgets.

At age 40 and looking for a new challenge, Violette took classes in negotiation and arbitration. She gained experience in conflict resolution and became a commercial mediator within the building industry. She was a member of BOMA Canada (Building Owners and Management Association). BOMA is a reputable American network of professionals involved in building ownership, management, development and leasing. They are a great source of education on management, building codes, legislation and technology development. Violette took all the management courses and training available to her through BOMA. She also managed a new condominium association in Montreal (a few years before leaving for the United States) while the property was being transferred from the developer to the association.

Violette’s sense of adventure brought her to the United States in 1999. She first settled in Alabama. She was looking for a property manager position. Her English was not great at this point in her life, and she was unable to find a position in the industry. With no prior waitressing experience, Violette convinced the owner of a high-end French restaurant that she would be a perfect addition to his staff. She was hired for the position. When she left the restaurant, where she had worked approximately six months, she was about to be promoted to assistant manager.

After brief stops in Buffalo Grove, Ill., and De Pere, Wis., located near Green Bay, Violette arrived in Chicago in 2001. She took a position in leasing with Lincoln Properties. Looking for additional challenges, she worked in lease abstraction, overseeing documents for a national restaurant chain. Violette climbed the ladder toward property management in Chicago. Her first management position was with Wolin Levin at 860 N. Lake Shore Drive as the assistant manager.

One of Violette’s most unusual positions was managing the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago, an industrial incubator in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor of Chicago. Spanning portions of Humboldt Park, West Town, East Garfield Park and Near West Side communities, the Kinzie Industrial Corridor is a modern industrial and distribution center serving the long-term needs of the area. Prior to her arrival at ICNC, Violette’s incubator had four property managers in the previous 12 months. She took a month to understand the problems of the property and then made a presentation to the board, stating why she should be their next property manager. There were 20 business owners sitting on the board at the presentation. After hearing her speak on what she considered to be the top five problems of the property and their resolutions, the board conferred and offered Violette their full support as the property manager.

The Kinzie Corridor is protected by the City of Chicago, and no retail or residential businesses can come into the area. The corridor consists solely of industrial and manufacturing businesses. Violette stayed five years at ICNC. She replaced the windows and the roof of the building. She used her architectural skills and knowledge to break down large unoccupied spaces and designed them into smaller spaces that fit the needs of future start-up tenants. She would then oversee the build-out of each new space for the new tenants once a lease had been signed. When she made the decision to leave ICNC, she had achieved her professional goals and the building was 99% occupied. She also had resolved all the safety and environmental issues that had plagued the buildings before her arrival.

The remainder of Violette’s professional career has been spent in the Chicago residential property arena. She spent three years with Draper and Kramer at Newport Condominiums on South Lake Shore Drive and then at the 3950 N. Lake Shore Drive property. She joined Sudler Property Management in 2009. Her first property with Sudler was the Hemingway House, located in Lincoln Park on North Clark Street. Violette has been the property manager at Malibu East Condominium since November 2012.

Violette is a Certified Property Manager® with the Institute of Real Estate Management since 2004, CMCA® (certified manager of community associations) since 2010, and a Licensed Community Manager with the State since 2012.

For those not familiar with the steps to become a Certified Property Manager®, each applicant must pass seven required courses given by IREM, including marketing, human resources, asset management and ethics; complete a management plan on a subject building; pass the CPM certification exam; and have three professional references with recommendations. This is a difficult title to acquire and takes several years to achieve. My research found that only 70% of all residential property managers are currently certified by IREM either as a Certified Property Manager or an Accredited Residential Manager.

With the number of special projects the Malibu East Board of Directors has planned over the next several years, we should all feel confident in Violette’s capabilities to manage them. She is involved in getting each request for proposal sent out to vendors being considered for projects and organizing them to present to the Board. With her background in architecture and construction, she is extremely capable of explaining structural/technical issues on the various projects. She enjoys project work and is happy to be working on multiple opportunities in addition to the day-to-day operation. Currently our Board is working on upgrading the elevators, with the construction work to potentially begin later this year, along with the remodeling of the inside of the elevator cabs. TV and Internet wiring upgrades are also being worked on by the Board, so it appears Violette will be busy managing projects for the foreseeable future.

In her spare time Violette enjoys traveling. She recently returned from a trip to Costa Rica. She enjoys going back to Montreal to see her brothers, sisters and friends. She likes everything about New York, and she hopes someday to go to Singapore. Favorite restaurants include Ras Dashen, two blocks from Malibu East on Broadway, which serves Ethiopian food, and Chez Joël Bistro Français on Taylor Street in Little Italy. Violette also enjoys sewing, photography and roller blading. An interesting fact is that she has never owned a television and prefers to learn about current events in the world by reading the newspaper or listening to the radio.

Violette brings a wonderful French Canadian flavor to our building. I had never met her before she graciously spent 90 minutes with me so I could interview her for this article. I asked her what we could do to make her job easier. She asked that if we see or hear something that does not appear to be right, to report it to the Management Office. When the Management Office sends out requests for information, please be proactive and kindly respond. For example, if you have not updated your contact information yet for 2014, please take a few minutes to do so. You might be saving yourself a big headache, as I did when my hot water heater burst and I was able to be called at work, because my contact information had been updated on file.

I feel extremely confident in Violette’s abilities to be the property manager of our condominium association. Knowing that someone with her intelligence, attention to detail and years of experience in the industry is watching out for all of us assures me that Malibu East will continue to be the caliber of building that we can all be proud to call our home.