The Doers

Meet the Doers of JJK Places

OUR TEAM

In lieu of conventional profesional bios we asked our staff members to answer a series of questions about themselves. Here are the results of those questionnaires that reveal our team’s unique passions.

Will Kralovec

Official title: President and Managing Partner

Unofficial title: “Philosopher-in-Chief”

Favorite quote:

“Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.” ~ Mark Twain

How I contribute to JJK Places’ success:
The creation of JJK Places as a unique Denver based social impact “public benefit corporation” is the culmination of 17-year journey that began with the decision to move to Denver back in 2003. This company is the perfect vehicle for collectively utilizing nearly every facet of my three decades of multi-disciplined real estate, community development, urban planning, investment underwriting, and economic development experience and education.

JJK Places is a direct extension of my long-long interest in manmade built-environment that I have possessed since I was a kid, when I originally wanted to be an architect to design the world’s next great skyscrapers in my hometown of Chicago.

I founded JJK Places on the simple, yet relatively unorthodox idea that real estate and the built-environment can be wield as tool to increase community, opportunity, and social equity, especially in urban areas and historically underserved neighborhoods. My life-long desire to help people live better lives is now interweaved with my passion for the creation of the built-environment—ultimately and simply put, to help “level the playing field” so that everyone has access to opportunity.

Past experiences that are most relevant to my current work:
If there’s one single aspect of my background that is a contributing factor to JJK Places’ future success, it is the diversity of my professional and educational experiences in multiple sectors of the private, public, and nonprofit worlds. This offers me keen insights into the priorities of organizations in each of these sectors, thereby more effectively bridging the goals of the three sectors through JJK Place’s work and mission.

My professional background includes three decades of working in a variety of functions within real estate development, finance, economic development, urban planning, affordable housing, community development, and asset acquisition underwriting. During my career I have been involved in over $5.1 billion worth of real estate investment transactions, consulting assignments, and development projects in nearly every property type and large urban location across the country.

During the first half of my career, I was immersed in the for-profit sector, where I concentrated primarily in the finance and project management aspects of real estate development, investment acquisitions, due diligence, evaluating capital structures, and negotiating.

For the latter half of my career, during the last 15+ years, I have worked primarily in socially conscious real estate—which includes affordable housing, transit oriented development (TOD), nonprofit owned and occupied commercial space, and community properties. I expanded my professional expertise working within both the nonprofit sector and municipal government. The commonality of all these experiences was the goal of creating “social good” through intentional property development, urban planning, and community development. Such efforts have included work in city planning and site design, community engagement, land use policy planning, entitlements and zoning efforts, economic development, and attempting to address civic issues related to social equity, food and health justice, and community benefits for marginalized urban neighborhoods.

My formal education:
To further my career interests and capabilities, I earned my second and third master’s degrees in mid-career: one in Urban & Regional Planning and the other in Urban Design, both from the University of Colorado Denver. This education supplemented my prior MBA in Finance earned at the beginning of my career from Cornell University. My undergraduate degree is from the University of Vermont, in History with minors in Political Science and Economics.

People always used to ask me what benefit a history degree is in the business world. I would respond back that it is very relevant to business: it teaches one how to do research, write coherently, and especially think critically about new issues, challenges, and unforeseen events. These are all capabilities that have served me well throughout my three decade long business and real estate career.

My life education:
If we live correctly, I believe life can teach us far more than formal education ever can. In spite of holding three master’s degrees, I still value life experience, and a person who has learned valuable lessons from their unique life journey.

My parents held strongly in the notion that life experiences were one of the best teachers a person could have. This formed their innate belief that travel was every bit as important for a child’s education as school was. We therefore, from a young impressionable age, were exposed to a wide diversity of people, regions, cities, cultures, and local histories. It set in motion the start of a life-long curiosity and desire to satisfy my inquisitive nature through continuous learning. It also instilled an acceptance and appreciation for people from different backgrounds, foreign lands, and ethnicities. These personal character traits have served me well over the years, especially during the last two decades of work where I had one foot in the private sector and the other in a combination of the public, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors.

It could be said the work “Places” resonates so strongly with me because of my passion, started early in life, of visiting unique places. As an adult, I don’t just visit new places, but rather I seek to study them in order to understand how places and their built-environments impact people and surrounding communities. It is today one of the elements of real estate that interests me most: how to design and sustain spaces and places so that they can positively impact people’s well-being, promote more human interaction, and lead to greater opportunities. This in turn isI believe the spaces we regularly occupy should not just house and office us, but should be healthy and joyful places to occupy.

My ultimate goal to accomplish at JJK Places:
I personally view myself more as an opportunity developer than as simply a real estate developer. The why behind this is quite simple: what I aim to accomplish through my work is summed up as our company Vision Statement. It states our vision is to ultimately “eliminate the barriers to possibilities.” I want to work towards the day in Denver when all people can have unimpeded access to possibilities—that is, access to opportunities that can take them as far as their hard work, wits, and strategic thinking will allow them to go. No person should be restricted in their life simply by the zip code they grew up in, the hue of their skin, their religious convictions, their sexual orientation or gender identification, their physical or psychological handicaps, their age, or their national heritage.

And that is the fundamental raison d’etre for why JJK Places was created.

Favorite free time activity:
Reading, traveling, and learning. Yes, that’s three…but all three are related to my curious temperament!
I dream about…
The future of “public good entrepreneurship”—that day when we as a society will prioritize and put more resources into creating public good—like education, housing, health and wellness, and fresh food production and distribution—than we currently put into polluting our oceans, churning out unwarranted armaments of war, and increasing the demand for hollow consumerism and materialism.

On a less serious note, I also dream about having more free time to paint and write—my two Zen activities, whenever I get to indulge in them! Give me a paint brush, canvas, and easel—or a pen and notebook, and a quiet space—and I am as content as a bird flying through the sky!

Daniel Kela Baker

Official title: CFO/COO

Unofficial title: “Air Traffic Controller”

Favorite quote:

“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

How I contribute to JJK Places’ success:
I was lucky to have had parents who were very business orientated and instilled much of their work philosophy into me.

My mother was an executive in corporate banking, and my father practiced a structured work environment in the criminal justice field, and later parlayed that into a very successful corporate investment company in which he used his entrepreneurial expertise to launch two very successful large IPO’s on the Hawai’ian Islands back in the early 1980s.

Pulling from both my mother’s financial operations mindset and my father’s entrepreneurial spirit, I have used these to help maneuver several past companies and start-up enterprises to reach levels of success in far shorter periods of time than anyone had expected.

Of course, a large measure of such success has also be due to structuring and managing a strong team environment. Without a team that works well together, no company can reach ultimate success. My past strengths in financial and operational oversight of companies honed from many years of working for a diversity of hotel/lodging and real estate-related companies has now garnered me the nickname “Air Traffic Controller” at JJK Places. It is a distinction I wear with honor.

Past experiences that are most relevant to my current work:
I have been the “Air Traffic Controller” for three past start-up/early growth companies. Each was nurtured from the ground up, and later were passed on to larger competitors (i.e., sold for very handsome amounts) so that each larger competitor could expand their book of business in their respective fields.

In all three companies, as well as during my prior career in the hospitality industry, I have held various levels of responsibility in the financial and operations functions of companies. My diverse background is well suited for start-up companies, as I have handled anything from hiring and HR issues, to setting up accounting systems from scratch, to teaching employees software applications, to marketing and re-branding approaches. I also have strong background experience in raising capital, handling investor relations, and tax accounting.

My formal education:
I like to believe my best “formal education” has still always been through that infamous “School of Hard Knocks.”

When young I was blessed with the opportunity of attending private schools in Hawai’i from grade school through graduate school. I attended The Kamehameha Schools in Honolulu, Hawai’i and then continued my education in San Francisco at Saint Mary’s College of California. Afterwards, I attended Chaminade University, where my two areas of primary focus were in Finance and International Business, culminating with earning my MBA.

My life education:
My out of school education has been filled with lessons of love, living, family, determination, and hardship and loss. Through all of these I like to believe that I have learned from the greatest teacher I could have ever asked for…LIFE.

I have learned that failures, setbacks and loss only help to build a stronger and more determined foundation in a person. So, while some may shy away from failure, and lack the capability to rebuild and to take chances, I actually welcome opportunities like that! They build character and they add dimension to people (and of course forehead wrinkles too!).

My life’s education comes full circle: “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger”

My ultimate goal to accomplish at JJK Places:
I am the consummate company caretaker, teacher and team builder and will continue to take on these roles so that the vision of our company Founder, Will Kralovec can be realized, and with it the phrase “Eliminating barriers to possibilities” can become the reality, instead of an exception, with our work at JJK Places.
Favorite free time activity:
I enjoy DIY projects and working on my cars during my free time. I actually like to stay busy. Even with my “down time,” I like being busy painting or fixing things around my home or for friends. A true favorite past time for me is actually cleaning and detailing cars—I love to see the before and then the after results…I find it very rewarding for me.
I dream about…
Building companies from the ground up and expanding them to become benchmark model companies within their industry. HONESTLY, I’m not kidding, this is what I frequently dream about!

Dave Sevick

Official title: Marketing & Branding Consultant

Unofficial title: “Message Guru”

Favorite quote:

“Success is a ladder that cannot be climbed with your hands in your pockets.” — Mark Caine

How I contribute to JJK Places’ success:

One of my strengths in marketing and communications is seeing the big picture and figuring out ways of messaging that picture of image.  Working closely with the Founder and President of JJK Places, I help contribute to the company’s marketing, external communications, and media relations efforts.  I act as a part-time staff member and consultant, bringing more than 25 years of marketing, communications, and public relations experience to our team, with particular expertise in the marketing and brand development of nonprofit and socially conscious mission-driven entities.

Past experiences that are most relevant to my current work:

My past communications strategies and marketing campaigns have been instrumental in growing small nonprofit organizations, helping them realize unprecedented success and expansion.  I also am apt at fundraising, grant writing, event planning, and even writing Seussian-style poetry (you’ll need to ask me about the poetry thing!)

I was born and raised in Michigan, and spent the first six years of my professional career as an on-air radio personality in Marquette, Flint, Lansing, and Detroit. Being on radio taught me how to deal with a diversity of individuals, but also taught me how to get a message across to a wide spectrum of people and populations. 

I once owned my own marketing and communications firm which specialized in fast-track marketing for start-up companies. Several years later I served as Director of Marketing and Communications at Tennyson Center for Children for 10 years. Following that I was the Vice-President of Marketing & Development at Firefly Autism, Colorado’s leading treatment center for children and families living with autism spectrum disorder.  Currently I serve as Director of Development and Communications at Western States Cancer Research (formerly Colorado Cancer Research Program)

I was a recent national finalist for the honor of Nonprofit Marketing Professional of the Year from the American Marketing Association. Additionally, I have received numerous other regional accolades for my innovative marketing work.

My formal education:

I received my Bachelor Degree in Graphic Design/Communications from Northern Michigan University and attended graduate school at Michigan State University.

My life education:

I like to believe that my true education started the day I walked out of college with my degree.  The world and life ever since have been my best educators.  Incrementally I perhaps learned the most in the shortest period of time being a radio personality directly out of college. It’s a fast-paced job, requiring quick thinking on one’s feet, a positive cheerful attitude at all times, and a lot of stress and pressures to always be delivering 100 percent to my clients, the public listeners.  It figuratively took me from Communications 101 to 990 in the space of a few short years.  My tenure at my various radio jobs I think prepared me to take on any professional challenge my career could throw my way. And so far, so good!

My ultimate goal to accomplish at JJK Places:

My of my professional career has been devoted to mission-driven organizations.  As such, I feel strongly about the mission of JJK Places, and want to see it excel in accomplishing immense long-term impact.  My ultimate goal for the company is that it especially helps children find stability and security in their young lives, so that they can not only become good students in school, but can establish a solid foundation to go on to great success as adults.

Favorite free time activity:

Friends are my favorite free time activity, well, friends and time spent together, whether that be in the mountains, out for a good dinner, or to a concert or other entertainment in Denver. People and the experiences we share with them comprise the highlights of our journey in life.

I dream about…

A future world where major diseases are conquered, prejudice is educated into oblivion, and all people have the abilities and tools to manifest success from their God-given talents and their hard work efforts.

Critter Thompson

Official title: Biophilic Design & Ecological Site Planning Staff Consultant
and
Consultant – Community Visioning & Visual Communications, and Geospatial Analysis (GIS)

Unofficial title: Protector of Nature / Crafter of Visualization”

Favorite quote:

“I took a walk in the woods, and I came out taller than the trees.” —Henry David Thoreau

 

How I contribute to JJK Places’ success:

JJK Places is a big adherent to biophilic design, the concept of connecting humans in buildings to the natural environment by significantly actual nature and vegetation, natural materials, natural lighting and ventilation, representations of nature, and views of outside nature into the design and finishes of the built-environment in ways that elicit emotional attachment of occupants to physical spaces and places. This concept is based on humans’ inherent connection to nature, and the innate inclination humans have to feel refreshed, inspired, productive, healthy, and more at peace in nature. For this work, I am JJK Places’ Biophilic Design & Ecological Site Planning Staff Consultant. In this role I utilize my expertise and years of experience being a practitioner of biophilic design principles – experience that goes all the way back to working with one of the two original founders of the biophilia field while attending college. 

Additionally, I integrate unique and advanced geospatial analysis and visualization techniques into JJK Places’ community engagement and planning processes.  I have spent over 20 years doing such work, and have collaborated with a number of the best-known site planning and urban design consulting firms in the country. I bring such experience to JJK Places and its projects.

 

Past experiences that are most relevant to my current work:

For the last several years I have had my own consulting firm, Critter Thompson Consulting. This company is an independent, Colorado-based firm specializing in urban placemaking, biophilic design, geospatial analysis, and visualization of future projects working especially with communities.  My current work is intended to support multi-disciplinary design and planning teams which are working to achieve a more sustainable future for cities, communities, and individuals.

For three years I also was a part of the team at PlaceMatters (now the Radian | PlaceMatters organization) as Program Director.  PlaceMatters was as a local non-profit organization that was a kind of think tank for civic engagement in the urban planning process (their staff and expertise has now been incorporated into Radian’s own community engagement practice).

I began my career over 20 years ago by starting a boutique consulting firm focused on geospatial analysis and other GIS work. I particularly used my expertise to advance projects involving urban placemaking.  Over the years I have developed a unique specialized focus on innovative ways to use geospatial tools and its analysis techniques to create favorable and understandable site and project planning descriptions that have a high probability of being embraced by all those involved and affected by a project’s outcomes.  As result of the innovative work I have done, I have been frequently asked to give presentations and lectures on my geospatial analysis and visual communication techniques to professionals and students of design, planning and public health programs. 

My background also includes extensive professional and personal experience in the sustainable design and regional planning communities with a focus on integrating biophilic design principles and ecological design into real estate development and site design process. As a Systems Ecologist at the Mithun firm in Seattle, a national leader in sustainable architectural and site design, I worked to integrate biophilic design as a core element into their architectural practice. I also was involved in nationally recognized projects working on solving sustainability issues related to energy efficiency, public health, local food production, as well as urban placemaking, and social equity. One of these projects on which I worked was Denver Housing Authority’s redevelopment of their South Lincoln Homes housing complex into the now acclaimed and award-wining $197 million Mariposa District located near RTD’s 10th and Osage transit light rail station. 

At the beginning of my career I was Research Consultant to the University of Washington, where I co-founded and was Research Director of the Decision Commons project. This innovative project was a research effort to develop visualization and analysis tools that would promote greater community engagement and lead to more resilient development of our cities and regions.

My formal education:

I have a Master of Environmental Science from Yale University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in environmental Studies from Middlebury College. Early in my master’s education, I worked as a research assistant for Stephen R. Kellert, one of the two fathers of the biophilia discipline. Over the years, I continued to work closely with Professor Kellert, supporting research and advancing the integration of biophilic design thinking into the building design and site planning industry.

 

My life education:

I have been fortunate to have worked closely with one of the two visionaries responsible for the biophilic design movement, Dr. Stephen Kellert, as well as work on a number of very innovative projects while associated with Mithun in Seattle.  One such project at Mithun envisioned a new living of urban living model.  The Center for Urban Agriculture combined urban living with cutting-edge sustainability, and a vertical agricultural landscape.  The 21-story structure was designed to use the vertical agriculture for educational and research uses around urban food technologies and food economics. This project instilled in me the perspective of always pushing the limits of what is normal and conventional in the design and planning fields – never stop seeking new ways of doing something is one of my person mantras since this early experience in my career.

Nature has been one of my primary souses of knowledge, temperament, and inspiration.  Since a young age I have spent considerable time in natural surrounds around the country—they have always been a source of rejuvenation and creativity. Nature is the ultimate master designer—I have learned over the years there are endless facets of design that can be pulled from nature.

 

My ultimate goal to accomplish at JJK Places:

I would like to help place JJK Places at the forefront of the biophilic design movement—as both practitioner and promoter of this important concept.  Upon initial explanation of biophilic design, many immediately view it as just a form of fancy albeit organic finishes for a building interior.  However, when one delves into the principles of biophilia and its outcomes on humans, only then does one become aware of its effective on heightened employee productivity, job satisfaction, more creative and collaborative staff, less absenteeism from work due to health and wellness issues, and over all, work spaces that are energetic and joyful to be an occupant of.

 

Favorite free time activity:

Anything outdoors.  My wife and family get out to nature and the mountains whenever we are able, even if only for an afternoon hike. I attended college in Vermont, and still long to get back there whenever I can—there is nothing better than a fall leaf-watching excursion through the Green Mountains of Vermont!

 

I dream about…

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and world peace.  Hey, like I said, I went to college in Vermont, home state of Ben & Jerry. And well, the world peace part should be pretty self-explanatory! 

I do have vivid dreams.  After all I have spent considerable time over my career imagining visualization techniques for public/community audiences. So I think vividly!

 

Haley Becker

Official title: Manager of Communications

Unofficial title: “Social Impact Town Crier”

Favorite quote:

“I am a simple Buddhist monk, no more, no less.” ~ The Fourteenth Dalai Lama

How I contribute to JJK Places’ success:
Being in charge of JJK Places’ communications and social media functions, I am responsible for a large part of our external messaging, whether that be overseeing JJK’s online presence, drafting press releases or maintaining investor and client communications.
Past experiences that are most relevant to my current work:
Possessing a diversity of experiences doing community work and public outreach, as well as working within government systems to achieve socially conscious outcomes, I believe JJK Places offers me a broad canvas to express and implement my ideas of achieving public good.

I previously have done work for Denver’s Grow Haus, Meals on Wheels, and worked as a brand ambassador for multiple small local businesses. While attending CU Boulder, I was the Chair of Community Outreach for Global Brigades, a nonprofit health and sustainable development organization that works in Central American and West African countries. This organization works with student volunteers from North American and European Universities, and matches them with local staff to help work towards reducing social and economic inequalities in local communities.

Over multiple years through Global Brigades, I have spent time in Nicaragua working directly with rural mountainous communities addressing issues of public health, clean water access, and economic development. I also lived in Sweden where I was afforded the opportunity to study both their health care system and municipal sustainability programs. Additionally, I worked with the U.S. House of Representative’s 6th Congressional District to help draft and pass several bills involving issues related to the environment, healthcare, education, and public infrastructure.

My formal education:
I attended the University of Colorado at Boulder where I received my Bachelor’s degree in Integrative Physiology with a Certificate in Public Health. One of my core interests in the field of public health is seeking ways to address the systemic root causes of many health ailments rather than just repeatedly treating their symptoms. At JJK Places, I use this background to help contribute to the conceptual design of projects to make them healthier and more sustainable through spaces and design that help promote wellness and livability.
My life education:
Life has taught me to find the silver linings. Life has taught me how important the people are. Life has taught me that clichés are cheesy and, yet, are often universal truths. Everything that happens in life is worth taking a lesson from, especially the traumatic and unexpected. I strive to seek out and take all those lessons to better myself and the world around me.
My ultimate goal to accomplish at JJK Places:
As a Denver native, I am very passionate about maintaining the cultural integrity of diverse populations and using it to further social justice within the city. I therefore would like to have a dramatic impact on furthering social justice in the City and County of Denver.
Favorite free time activity:
Cooking is number one!

There are so many practices I love to be a part of. I am an avid skier and gain so much joy from instructing new learners at Eldora on the weekends. I crave the practice yoga for my own mental, physical and emotional balance. I adore the creative outlet of playing the bass. However, cooking is my favorite activity. I grew up with home cooked dinners from my dad with my family sitting at the dinner table together. This has made dinner time an important ritual for me. Cooking allows me to be creative, to bring people together and simply to fulfill my basic need for good nourishment.

I dream about…
Balance for the world, myself and ones around me.

Rich Finley

Under Revision