Riis Christensen: Top Titans of Tenancy

Riis Christensen

I’ve been getting a little nostalgic lately. Maybe it’s from the Just for Men and Polident fumes, or perhaps it’s because I just used my new walker to cross the 30-year mark as a tenant rep in Dallas. In any case, some recent changes in legendary leasing personnel on signature projects have caused me to look back over those three decades, and I’ve drawn an inescapable conclusion: Some brokers and the buildings they’ve leased for so long will always be indelibly intertwined. I’ve realized that I can’t think of certain buildings without synonymously thinking of the guys and gals that got up every morning, year after year, and busted their butts to lease them.

There is no doubt that the Trammell Crows, John Eulichs, and Mack Pogues of the development world had the vision, cash (sometimes), and cajones to build what now consists of more than 300 million square feet of office projects that span North Texas. Their contributions cannot be underestimated—nor can the contributions of scores of owners, tenants, property managers, investors, lenders, contractors, architects, attorneys, vendors, and brokers who also had an important role in the process.

But what absolutely can’t be overlooked are the people that made millions of phone calls, did tens of thousands of tours, replied to too many 30-page RFPs, got yelled at by an owner or tenant rep once or twice, saw their share of midnight moves, did yet another owner conference call, leasing report, or what-if financial run; ground it out in the endless whereases and heretofore of lease negotiations, patiently pored over plans and punch lists—and all the while assured antsy tenant reps that the check really was in the mail.

Arguably, these agency leasing folks are the ones who created the real value in these projects. The relationships they forged and the leases that they made turned empty shells into living, breathing environments where people, careers and companies were nurtured, where salaries, net worth, and market cap were earned and sometimes lost, and where a significant sea of humanity spent most of its waking hours.

These associations may be senior citizen ink blots to a newer generation, and perhaps I’m dating myself (note to newer generation: this isn’t inappropriate), but these “Top Titans of Tenancy” come immediately to mind:

No. 1—David Quisenberry: Lincoln Center (25 years). Lincoln Center just doesn’t seem to be the same without Quis holding court at Sam’s shoe shine stand and calling out to everyone by their first names. Honorable mentions go to Don Bingaman (10 years) and to David Reed (8 years) there as well.

No. 2—John Zogg: The Crescent (24 years). What a great run at this Uptown icon. When John started leasing the project in 1988, none of us knew there was an “Uptown!” Honorable Mention goes to Tony Click (8 years) for his duty there.

No. 3—Kirby White: Fountain Place (23 years). Kirby convinced hundreds of tenants that a heavy rain wouldn’t pour off the building and wash them down Ross Avenue. He also downplayed fountain maintenance as a significant operating expense. And, most important, Kirby quietly taught Limbo lessons for 23 years for Fountain Place tenants so they could get to their credenzas!

No. 4—Mark Dickenson: Williams Square (20 years). Mark might be the real king of Las Colinas!

No. 5—Duane Henley: Park West (20 years). Duane couples this impressive stint at PW with 14 years at CityPlace. Those projects both have driving ranges in close proximity. So is that how he got the Bushwood tips 2 handicap?

No. 6—John Waller: 1-4 Forest Plaza (13.5 years). A handshake with John was (and still is) as good as a 30-page lease!

No. 7—Blaine Hale: Lincoln Plaza (13 years). Have you ever been to Dakota’s when Blaine wasn’t there having lunch with a tenant or broker? How does he stay so thin?

No. 8—Kim Brooks: Pacific Center (13 years). A true Titan of the Tollway.  Go across the street and see her $2.8 million makeover—of Providence Towers!

No. 9—Scott Walker: Berkshire Court (12.5 years). Scott will still do the Doak Heisman pose for you on a tour, provided that you have a qualified prospect.

No. 10—Matt Hurlbut: Three Forest Plaza and MacArthur Plaza (12 years). Not only can the “doctor” still lease you nice space in Park Central, but he can also diagnose and heal your iPhone/iPad issues while you tour.

No. 11—Don Dowell: Comerica Tower (10+ years). What a run. And what a genuinely great guy. Don, I’ve heard they’re nuking your ice rink at Plaza of the Americas. Too late for agency leasing vs. tenant rep holiday hockey game?

No. 12—Eric Rutledge: The Colonnade (9.75 years). Thanks for bringing solid core doors, lever hardware and parabolic lighting to the ‘burbs.  And the putting holes cored out in your old leasing office were a nice touch!

No. 13—Robert Powell: Churchill Tower (9 years). Robert has my vote for the Kindler-Gentler Building Rep Award.

No. 14—Mike Silliman: Solana (8 years). Mike convinced Fortune 500 types to lease space at Solana by pointing out that his development was actually the closest to California—both in design and location.

Hats off to all of these Top Titans of Tenancy—and to the ones that I may have neglected to mention. These are the associations that come immediately to my chronologically-challenged mind. What are yours?

Riis Christensen is a nostalgic and aging tenant rep at Transwestern, and probably on his way to Luby’s. Contact him at [email protected]


  • lichty

    Leaving off your old Wilcox mates??? Bitter that you never won the hallway putting championship? Buddy Tompkins is the best at leasing up buildings owned by Germans, Canadians and even Okies.

  • Rob Pipkin

    Great article Riis. Well done.

  • Love ithe humor!It certainly helps alll of us get through the tough days !I would have rounded out the list with Kim Butler at 15 …a true pioneer for women in the industry .. as a professional I dont think there is anybody sharper or more complete as a real estate leasing agent in the metroplex or perhaps Texas.i look forward to reading more articles in the future …you have a knack for the written letter .

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