Thinking Inside the Box
Greg Zimmerman ’83 develops the retail landscape
by Tony Moore
January 24, 2013
At a 2012 Ball St. football game with his wife, Mira, Greg Zimmerman '83 sports a Dickinson cap.
"In a lot of ways, I look at my decision to go to Dickinson as
the best I've ever made," says Greg Zimmerman '83, citing his broad
liberal-arts education as the secret to his success. Today he is
senior vice president of Big Box Development at Simon Property
Group, the world's largest real estate company, a position he finds
both challenging and enjoyable.
Working with large-format retailers such as Dick's Sporting
Goods, Barnes & Noble and Whole Foods and theatres such as AMC
and Regal, Zimmerman shepherds retail development every step of the
way—from finding the tenants, negotiating the deals, helping to
design the space and working with Simon's construction department to making sure the market knows the
retailers are coming. "We take the deals from cradle to grave," he
Doing a little of everything
Zimmerman's path began far beyond the confines of the shopping mall, at
Dickinson. "I'm a real believer in a liberal-arts education and the
environment in which Dickinson provides it," he says. "And I took advantage of everything the college
offers: the small size, so I got to know my professors; I was in
student government, in a fraternity, I studied abroad, played
varsity baseball. I got to do a little of everything."
Doing a little of everything has carried over extensively to
his professional career. "No two days are ever the same," he says
of his day-to-day duties, which involve Simon's 170
regional malls throughout the United States. "You need to think on
your feet, and you need to anticipate and solve problems.
You need to understand finance, retail, construction and law, and
you need to have great interpersonal skills. It's a challenge,
because you're always dealing with millions of dollars."
Clinging to broadness
After graduating from Dickinson with a history degree, Zimmerman
went to law school at the University of Pennsylvania and landed a
job with a big law firm. By 1994, he was looking for a new
challenge, and he soon joined The Rouse Company, a national real
estate developer. In 1999, after Rouse purchased The Howard
Hughes Corporation (the developer for what remained of the estate
of Howard Hughes), Zimmerman moved to Las Vegas, where he merged
the two companies' legal departments. Once the merger was complete,
Rouse asked Zimmerman to move to the business side and build shopping centers.
When Zimmerman, a Harrisburg native and lifelong Penn State fan,
isn't looking at a new commercial space to develop, he and his wife,
Mira, who works for the NCAA, like to travel and attend Big Ten
Penn State fan or not, he remains a loyal Dickinson supporter.
Asked how often he finds that his education influences his career,
he is quick to answer: "I don't want to be trite about it, but the
answer is every day. I learned a lot in law school, but
I put 80 to 90 percent of my skill set down to Dickinson. What I
like to tell people is that in college they trained me to think
broadly, and then in law school they trained me to think narrowly
again. I try to cling to the broadness."