John Cissel, hello. What is your title?
I’m President of Development. Technically President of Core Development, LLC. I’m actually of President of a number of these entities that we’ve created. And then I’m officers in some of the companies.
What do you actually do at Core?
My main focus is to lead all land development efforts from entitlement to assembly of all professional teams –design, due diligence, engineering, infrastructure, coordinating of the sources and uses, financial. All things development — so all the outward-facing community relationships, political relationships, professional relationships, team building. And then all the internal mechanisms of development, our project managers, architects, designers, including things like marketing, branding, strategy around the development of our land. Development can mean existing buildings. Sometimes we buy existing buildings and we adaptively reuse them. Sometimes it’s raw land, and re-entitlement or re-envisioning. It also involves challenges like the environmental, or resilience, or even sustainability — all the modern realities of development, the codes, the regulations, the zoning, like net carbon zero.
John, what did you do before Core?
Before Core I was CEO of a company called Visioneering Studios, in Irvine, California. Irvine was our headquarters, and we had studios in Charlotte, Nashville, Denver. A couple others. I was with Visioneering for approximately three years. It still exists. There were three distinctive companies, and I think at one time the peak was over 60 people. It was a development, design, and design-build company. We were licensed in like 40 state for construction and 42 states for design.
I come at this from a unique perspective. I started my first real estate job really in 1982, so it’s been almost 40 years now, and I’ve done almost everything, from brokerage to construction. I had my builder’s license and done a lot of building, development, and then also represented a number of the industry focuses over the years, the internet and dot-com era. I did projects in 112 cities in 100 countries, all over the world and the United States, ranging from New York to London to Paris and San Francisco. And that really brought together my expertise of land use, development, valuation, brokerage, project management. And then eventually I had the role as CEO of the design build firm. So I’ve come at this industry with all different focuses. And what’s exciting about my opportunity here at Core is that I really can bring all of these experiences into transforming, with Dave Pogorelc [Core’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer] and the team, these parts of Boston where we’ve begun to do building and development, namely in South Boston.
And where did you grow up?
I grew up in Chicago, in Naperville, Illinois. The first time I came to New England was when I came to college in 1980 and learned what a frappe was, and realized that the Celtics, the Bruins, the Patriots and the Red Sox — if I didn’t become a fan I’d have a very hard life here. So I grew to love all of the sports teams, and I met my wife here, and her family is from New England, so we became rooted here, and this is where I raised my family. I’ve been married for 39 years and have four adult kids, and they all grew up in the New England, the Boston area. I went from being a Cubs fan to being a Sox fan, and back in that day both were really depressing. Eighty-six years and 103 years, isn’t it something like that?
Where did you go to school?
I went to Gordon College on the North Shore of the Boston area. I originally thought I was going to go into the ministry. My undergrad was in Biblical ancient studies and Hebrew and Greek. And then, though I didn’t graduate, I went on to Gordon-Conwell seminary. Of course that’s logical, eh? It takes you right into real estate. A circuitous route.
Where do you live now?
We live right in the Back Bay here. I love living in the city, walking to work. I can take the bus over to South Boston. Five years ago we got an apartment here in the Back Bay, and then we moved here permanently when I became President of the company. It’s been 2 ½ years. We lived in California for eight years.
What do you do to have fun or outside work?
Golf has always been real passion of mine. I’ve played since I was 8 years old. At one point in my life I was the coach of a high school team for 10 years, and had a number my students go on to college and join the PGA. In California I was a USGA official for tournaments and rules. So golf has always been a great recreational part of my life. I love it. Other than that I travel. My wife and I, because of my extensive work, have been really fortunate to travel all over and do projects in so many different cities and countries. I still love going back and visiting — the history and architecture. The urban planning of those cities fascinates me, from the ultramodern like Abu Dhabi to the ancient Salzburg outer walls with a restaurant from 1200 that still exists. I love both. It fascinates me.
Is there anything new in your life?
I became a grandfather in the last year. That’s been really exciting for my wife and me. I’ve also helped my kids who live here in New England start a business that is really thriving. They were named the Number One new coffee shop in Massachusetts, by Food and Wine, in their first six months. We did a lot of DYI projects. We tiled, we did construction, we helped them put together a lease and finance package. And that was a real joy, using some of my expertise. And they have a father in law who is an amazing carpenter and built everything. So that was something new.