April 21, 2020
(Front Porch) Coffee Break! Adapting to Change with Amelia Wehunt
By: Leslee Oliver
With coffee shops closed and so many of our staff working from home, I was really starting to miss being able to deliver Coffee Break stories. I knew I had to get creative in order to continue them, especially knowing there are staff actively working on client projects and continuing to be innovative. So today, I introduce you to what I’m calling Front Porch Coffee Break! Sure, we couldn’t meet in a well-designed coffee shop and drink out of their fancy mugs, but with the weather warming up and coffee shop drive thru windows still operating, I was able to conduct an interview from a safe distance and still keep it personable.
So, let me introduce you to the very first front porch coffee break participant, Amelia Wehunt! I’m sure the name sounds familiar to you. Amelia leads Timmons Group’s Urban Practice, actively helps lead Commercial Coffee Richmond, and serves as President of Richmond’s Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) chapter. Amelia and I met at her house (which just sold!) and talked about working from home, balancing work life with parenting, and how she is pressing on with CREW initiatives all while continuing to deliver top notch services to clients.
Q. I know a lot has changed within the last four weeks for everyone. How are you? Tell me about what’s going on in your world.
Overall things are good. There are definitely vertical points of stress, but I think there’s more good that’s come from this than bad. My family and I are getting adjusted to working from home while balancing being principal, teacher, mom and dad. We are also getting ready to move at the end of this month, so we have been focused on packing and move-related things. Another positive is the amount of time spent outdoors with the kids during lunch hours. They need to burn energy and I’ve definitely exceeded my step count because of it.
Q. Wow! Did you say move? Tell me more about this process, especially with everything else you are juggling.
We are moving back to the City in the Near West End. We were casually looking and didn’t even have a realtor at first, but everything fell into place. I really believe in our urban practice, our urban work, the redevelopment happening in the City, and being a part of the City community. Moving back to the City has always been a goal and priority for me and our family. I am so excited to be making it happen.
Q. While we are on the subject of everything you’re juggling, do you have any advice to offer for someone trying to manage parenting and working from home?
My kids are 3 and 5 and there’s a point during the day when they really need my support. I can usually get a productive block of time in the morning up until 11:30, but then I try to take an extended lunch hour to help the kids get something to eat and then get outside with them. My advice would be to spend some extended time with them in the middle of the day if you can. My lunch hours outside really help us to reset and prepare for the afternoon so that I can get another productive block of time in.
Also, in the same way that communication is really important with our clients, it is equally important in our household too. We have six people in our house, which includes my in-laws who live with us, so communication is essential among the four adults and the children. Thankfully, I also have flexibility with great teammates who will help me out if something major happens and I need them. What I love about where we work is the fact that we prioritized work/life balance before COVID-19. It’s part of our firm values and it hasn’t changed even though we are in a different situation.
Q. What projects are you continuing to work on?
Our firm is multi-disciplinary, so we are able to work on a variety of project types. Our urban practice is also unique in that we support both public and private client types. We’re continuing to stay steady and work on a lot of cool, urban projects and are using this time to help clients get ducks in a row and be prepared to submit and move forward. We have a few residential projects in the works as housing is still a need and essential service, regardless of a pandemic. Other projects include a cool pool retrofit project that will move forward to at least get to the design level.
Q. What’s your advice for continuing to deliver top notch service to our clients?
I think it’s really all about doubling down on communication and continuing to strive to understand where our clients are coming from and what their goals are. Once we know this, we can better understand how we can plug in to help them meet their goals. This doesn’t always correspond to a new proposal or fee adjustment and that’s ok. It’s more about being a resource and equipping them with the tools and information they need in order to help them be successful. These principles apply regardless of the client type.
Q. As CREW Richmond President for 2020, I’ve noticed you aren’t slowing down. How are you pressing forward to ensure that CREW still has a successful year?
It’s the same systematic approach that we’ve already talked about regarding communication. It’s just applying it to CREW Richmond. Our mission is to advance women globally in the field of commercial real estate. Even though how we deliver programs, content and support to members looks different right now, our mission and values remain the same. We are excited that our first virtual program happened successfully in April thanks to our speakers who were willing to totally take their topic virtually. We also continue to look for creative ways to carry out our mission and provide value to our members as we continue to move through the rest of the year. We hope to be able to move back to in person events later in the year, but are taking it one month at a time. It’s also our 30th anniversary year so we’ve been planning an event to celebrate that. We aren’t comfortable moving ahead with our annual summer social event in June, so we are going to combine a philanthropy component as part of our 30th celebration.
Q. What are you looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to seeing all my colleagues in person again. In some ways communication with my team has improved because we have to be so intentional about checking in each day and using our cameras during Zoom calls, but I miss the personal connection of another human being in the same room. I am also interested to see how workplace life and environments change. How will the way we deliver services change because of this, for the better? I think video conferencing has made a big leap, in addition to the ability to successfully work remotely.
Amelia is a Senior Project Manager specializing in site plan and utility design services for projects in and for urban areas. Much of her work, in addition to overseeing the design and preparation of construction plans, involves stakeholder coordination and work sessions, representation at public meetings, and providing construction support services. She is a licensed professional engineer in Virginia, and completed her Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering degree at the University of Virginia in 2007
She has worked on a variety of projects including redevelopment plans, urban infill site plans, large commercial and industrial site plans, mixed-used projects, stormwater master planning for site scale and locality scale projects, as well as stormwater regulatory compliance work. This includes work for local governments, private entities, as well as industrial and institutional users. Amelia’s breadth of experience demonstrates her abilities to solve complex civil engineering problems and provide innovative solutions for her clients.