MASTER MIND: Zaya Younan thinks about real estate differently than the rest of us.
photography by Dallas Morning News/Nathan Hunsinger
Within five years, dallas’ commercial real estate market will outperform New York’s and Los Angeles’. That is Zaya Younan’s gamble, and he has invested more than $1 billion in office space to see it pay off. His company, Younan Properties, is now the largest landowner in town, with close to 8 million square feet in commercial real estate, including downtown’s 50-story, neon-capped Thanksgiving Tower. Younan is aiming to be the biggest office landlord in the state in a year and the largest in the country within five. “Bottom line: Zaya Younan knows a lot, about a lot,” says Sarah Payne, a senior associate at Stream Realty who also leases space at Thanksgiving Tower.

Younan Properties is a privately held firm based in LA. It has been in operation for only five years and has holdings in real estate markets across the nation. The company and its investors have a reputation for whipping inefficient buildings into shape. “We come from an engineering background,” Younan says. “We try to understand the personalities of our buildings.” Every building is different, and tailoring every function, from janitorial services to climate control, helps buildings save money and increases profit, he says. The strategy worked in California. Younan-owned buildings there sold on average at an 80 percent profit. In July Younan put its first Dallas properties for sale, five towers in North Dallas near Central Expressway. Younan hopes to sell the towers within the next few months.

Younan, who was born in Iran, wants to move the headquarters to Dallas, where he already lives most of the year. “I love downtown, the transformation that it’s undergoing,” he says. It’s a transformation that is, in part, his own doing.