Erin Lavin Cabonargi leaves Sterling Bay to start 2 new firms

Erin Lavin Cabonargi and Downtown Chicago (Credit: iStock)

Erin Lavin Cabonargi left her senior perch at Sterling Bay to start her own development and consulting firms at the crossroads of private investment and public policy.

Cabonargi launched Hibernian Advisors and Hibernian Real Estate Development in February, she wrote in an email to The Real Deal. The former will help manage real estate investors’ portfolios, and the latter will advise government agencies on long-range development plans.

Both firms will focus on driving more women into leadership positions at every stage of planning and construction, she added.

During her three years as Sterling Bay’s director of construction and then director of development, Cabonargi oversaw one of the most aggressive build-out periods undertaken by any single Chicago developer in recent memory.

Her tenure overlapped with the firm’s completion and sale of the 10-story Google offices at 1K Fulton, the opening of McDonald’s Fulton Market corporate headquarters and its land purchase and early planning for the 53-acre Lincoln Yards super-development.

Before that, Cabonargi worked a seven-year stint as director of the city’s Public Building Commission, which oversees the construction of schools and other taxpayer-backed projects.

Cabonargi pointed to an executive order signed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel last year mandating the inclusion of women- and minority-owned businesses in city construction projects, writing the new policy opened “tremendous opportunities” for women-led companies like hers.

Hibernian Advisors will consult Sterling Bay on Lincoln Yards and the company’s expanding web of projects in Fulton Market, keeping a tether between Cabonargi and the developments she helped direct. Hibernian will work especially closely with the company on its development of the new West Loop Chicago Public Library across from the McDonald’s building, Cabonargi said.

Sterling Bay has spent nearly $2 billion since last year beefing up its Chicago portfolio, most recently by picking up two more properties in Fulton Market.

A spokesperson for Sterling Bay wrote in an email the company’s leaders “look forward to working with [Cabonargi] on future endeavors.”

Cabonargi’s husband, Michael Cabonargi, was elected in 2011 to the Cook County Board of Review.

Sterling Bay in July hired Howard Blair as director of construction.

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