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Laurie Sobel, former chief operation officer for Tempe, AZ-based Business Integration Group, just joined CB Richard Ellis as director of mapping services. The job includes oversight for all financial and operational aspects of the company’s national mapping center in Tempe, AZ. Comprised of 45 mappers, programmers and geographic information systems professionals, CBRE’s mapping center produces about 54,000 custom maps, tools and data presentations a year for CBRE professionals and their clients. Sobel’s duties will include managing the overall production of the mapping center, overseeing enhancements and services, coordinating with other departments the utilization of mapping center resources, and managing quality control and mapping standards. GlobeSt.com talks to her about her new position and how technology is changing map making.

GlobeSt.com: Is the CBRE Mapping Center unique in commercial real estate?

Sobel:: Yes, I believe it is a unique approach that only CB Richard Ellis has at this time. The Mapping Center is able to provide standardized mapping services to our 100+ real estate offices across the nation from one centralized location, which produces a consistently high standard product.

GlobeSt.com: When and why was it established?

Sobel: The Mapping Center was started in 1999. The strategy was that a centralized service center dedicated to mapping services would increase productivity of the mapping professionals and produce a consistent, high quality product for CBRE professionals. It provides CBRE with an efficient way to leverage state of the art technology solutions and data sources.

GlobeSt.com: What is the benefit of a commercial real estate firm having a centralized mapping facility?

Sobel: The benefits of having this centralized mapping service are many. The systems and processes we have implemented allow us to better manage all mapping projects and our mapping professionals. A centralized platform embraces a team approach amongst our mapping professionals, allows for knowledge sharing, workload management, consistent and ongoing training. It provides an atmosphere of collaboration and encourages innovation between the mapping professionals, ultimately enhancing our product.

GlobeSt.com: One of the tools the Mapping Center developed is FastMap. Can you tell me about FastMap and the ways CBRE employees use this tool?

Sobel: Fast Map is one of the many self-service tools available to CBRE professionals. It’s an online map builder that allows users to generate street, aerial, photo and demographic maps in seconds. It utilizes the technologies and data licensed by the Mapping Center. CBRE employees use this tool to self generate maps “on the fly” as they need them.

GlobeSt.com: How has technology transformed map making in the past few years?

Sobel: More exposure to the GIS/Mapping technologies has produced enhancements in the type of data and information available to the GIS/Mapping field. For instance, we can obtain parcel maps and data, which were not available previously. This will allow us to produce maps showing parcel boundaries and display pertinent information about the parcel.

GlobeSt.com: Where is the science of GIS taking map making?

Sobel: As more mapping tools are made available to the public there is more awareness of the use and technological advancements of maps. This pushes the Mapping Center to provide even higher quality products that are more analytical and data rich and go beyond the simple tools that are available in the general marketplace. A recent development in this area is satellite and aerial imagery.

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