Senior Vice President / Design & Construction
It was William Shakespeare who said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” And it was Debra Velez’s passion for theater that led her to a career in construction management. Interestingly, she sees a lot of similarities between stage design and interior design.
Debra joined KDC in 2014 with more than 15 years of experience specializing in tenant improvements. She excels at planning and facilitating the design and construction implementation for the interior environment as well as move integration, utilizing strategic leadership and critical thinking skills to troubleshoot and improve delivery, process orientation and vendor management.
Though Debra has worked on a number of high-profile projects including State Farm, JP Morgan, Liberty Mutual, and Baylor Scott & White, she didn’t always dream of working for a developer like KDC. In fact, she grew up thinking that she was destined for the stage. A native of Illinois, she sang and danced her way into a performing arts scholarship.
Whenever I’m working on a project, I think about what these people need to play their parts—what they need in their environment to do their jobs. In that sense, our environment is our stage.
While attending Millikin University, Debra participated in a number of theater productions, and that’s when she realized she was more passionate about the design and construction of the stage itself rather than being on stage. After switching her major, she graduated with a BFA in Theater Design and Production and immediately began working, splitting her time between the fall season with the Milwaukee Opera Theater and the summer Shakespearean circuit.
After a brief stint at the Illinois Institute of Art to hone her interior design skills, Debra landed her first job in the construction industry—signing on with an architecture and engineering firm to focus on pharmaceutical and biotech clients. From there, she took positions with Midwest-based retailers, helping them expand their store footprint and establish new operations/distribution centers, before making the leap to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois.
Debra’s director position in BCBS’s design and development group brought her into KDC’s sphere. (KDC developed BCBS’s Texas headquarters in Richardson—two office towers totaling more than 1 million square feet). During that time, Debra worked closely with KDC’s top executives, and the firm eventually recruited her to tackle its biggest project to-date—the development of State Farm’s regional headquarters hub at CityLine. She eagerly made the move from Chicago to Dallas-Fort Worth with her husband, Robert, and newborn son, Joseph.
Of all the projects Debra has worked on, she ranks State Farm as the most meaningful. “That project began a relationship with a developer I’ve always admired,” she says. “I’m still having pinch-myself moments that I get to work and a group of people so smart and supportive and kind.”