Fern Barrueta, Pioneering D.C. Office Broker, Dies At 80

J. Fernando “Fern” Barrueta, a legend in the D.C. brokerage industry who was known for his work advancing education opportunities for the Latino community, died Sunday at home, surrounded by his four children. He was 80.


Courtesy of Colliers

J. Fernando “Fern” Barrueta

“The world without him today is a little less funny, and it is missing a special kind of love that carried with it a hopeful expectation for us to be and do better,” his son, Anthony Barrueta, wrote in a LinkedIn post Sunday. “He leaves a big hole, but he taught us all how to fill some of it by looking out for each other.” 

Barrueta was most recently an executive vice president for Colliers International, representing educational institutions and corporate and nonprofit office users out of the D.C. office. He joined the brokerage in 2012 after leaving the business in 2001 to serve as president of the Hispanic College Fund for a decade.

“Fern was not only an icon in the industry, he was also our dear friend who touched so many lives with his kindness, generosity and wit,” Colliers Executive Managing Director Matt Gannon said in a statement. “While everyone who knew Fern will miss him deeply, here at Colliers we also feel honored and blessed to have the opportunity to know him and love him. Our hearts are with Fern’s family.”

Born in 1943, Barrueta moved from El Paso, Texas, to D.C. with a scholarship to study at Georgetown University. He got his first job in commercial real estate in 1971 at Studley before moving five years later to Smithy Braedon Co.

In 1986, he founded Barrueta & Associates, which went on to become the largest Latino-owned commercial real estate firm in the country. The firm merged with Carey Winston Co. in 1996, and Barrueta became the executive vice chairman. Carey Winston Co. was acquired by Transwestern in 1998. 

In 2001, he took a leap and left Transwestern and the brokerage business to become president of the Hispanic College Fund, a national organization aimed at improving academic opportunities for Latino youths.

“It just seemed to me to be a frightening thing, but the right thing to do,” he told The Washington Post at the time.

Barrueta was committed to giving young people “on the bubble” the same opportunity he had to achieve success, his son wrote on LinkedIn.

Washingtonian magazine named him one of its Washingtonians of the Year in 2003. 

“There is no better investment than helping youth learn how to be successful,” he told the magazine.

Tributes from the real estate community flowed in following news of Barrueta’s death, with industry pros paying homage to his gregarious nature and commitment to lifting up his community.  

“[Barrueta] always had a laugh ready under the surface,” Savills North America Vice Chairman Adam Singer wrote in a LinkedIn post Monday. “Always understood the impact and necessity of community service. Brought people into the business who have paid it forward for the last 30 years.”

Barrueta served on the boards of the Latino Student Fund and Building Hope. He was a founder of the Greater Washington Commercial Association of Realtors, the Washington DC Economic Partnership and the Franklin Square Association, according to his his bio on Colliers’ website. During his career, he represented tenants like The Washington Post, Verizon, the Investment Company Institute, Edison Electric Institute and the National Association of Realtors.

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