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“On occasion, when we run into an architect who feels they can’t solve something, I’ll get my papers out and do it myself.” Joelyn Gropp, AVP, Real Estate & Facilities Development

Portrait: Ryan Bates


oelyn Gropp understands the importance of building strong foundations. She trained as an architect at Carnegie Mellon and launched her professional career in the field. Although she’s now assistant vice president of real estate and facilities development at NorthBay Healthcare System (a nonprofit organization based in California), Gropp’s career began at Ratcliff Architects, where she specialized in healthcare, institutional, and educational facilities. It was during her time with Ratcliff when she chose to make healthcare her sole focus. Even now, the architecture background comes in handy—particularly when hiring architects and contractors for NorthBay’s various real estate projects. “It’s helpful to be able to understand the quality of what we’re getting,” Gropp says. “On occasion, when we run into an architect who feels they can’t solve something, I’ll get my papers out and do it myself.” A more important by-product of her time as an architect, however, might be her ability to communicate. Gropp says she can explain architectural details in layman’s terms to executives and others outside her department. She also knows how to ensure that the architect and contractor stay on the same page throughout a project. “Often, architects are seen as these high-minded designers who have their heads in clouds, and the contractor is the practical one,” she says. “You really need to make them a team by making sure they respect what each brings to the table.” Before taking the NorthBay job in 2003, Gropp spent four years as the regional facilities

planning and construction manager at Catholic Healthcare West, and two years as the principal architect at CPMC Sutter Health. At NorthBay, however, she had to build a new facility development department from scratch. “We were growing as a system and really starting to build new buildings from the ground up,” she says. “It seemed like we needed to have a department that would put standards and a system together for delivering these buildings. We started talking about a department, and people got used to hearing about it.” To start, Gropp compiled a list of prequalified contractors and architects. She also took

OCT | NOV | DEC 2016


American Builders Quarterly #63  
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