Once in a while, you come across a commercial real estate player who seems to transcend classification. That’s the case with Michael Ablon of PegasusAblon. As part of its Commercial Real Estate Awards program, D CEO created the Pioneer Award to honor his achievements as a “placemaker” in Dallas—most readily apparent in his redevelopment of the Dallas Design District.
Ablon and partner Lionstone Investments purchased 40 acres in the district from Crow Holdings in 2007. Their vision? To create a new model for redevelopment in Dallas. Instead of scrapping old buildings, Ablon focused on improving existing structures. When it came to new leases, he had one firm rule: Only local tenants—no chains.
“We were able to breathe new life into a historic area while raising the sea level of the entire neighborhood—not just our properties,” he says.
In seven years, Ablon and his partners increased the value of the district by nearly $500 million. Redevelopment spurred the growth of more than 200 businesses in an area that had been in decline. More than 1,300 new multifamily units were added, and 500,000 square feet of commercial space was revitalized with new restaurant, retail, art, and design tenants. It all increased the value of the Design District TIF area by more than 88 percent over the base year.
Last November, Ablon and Lionstone sold their stake in the Design District to Dunhill Partners. “I am most appreciative of the fact that I got to work with a piece of Dallas,” Ablon says. “I was born here. This is where I live. I love this city, and getting to work on such a special neighborhood was pretty fun.”