When J.C. Penney offered up 240 acres of land surrounding its corporate campus in Plano for development, no one imagined the profound impact it would have. No one except, perhaps, for Fehmi Karahan.
The developer who showed North Texas how suburban-urban is done with The Shops of Legacy and Legacy Town Center, Karahan is not afraid to think big. In college, he read a book by the Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, who advised, “Never start a business, a battle, or a love relationship, if the fear of losing is greater than the belief of winning.” The advice has stuck with him all these years and become a guiding principle. “I don’t start anything with fear,” he says.
For years, he watched from his office in Legacy as growth migrated north. He had talked with various Penney executives about developing its land, but a deal never came to fruition. When the retailer ran into financial woes, though, it decided to open up bidding to five suitors: Lincoln Property Co., Trammell Crow Co., Forest City, Hines, and Karahan. Sizing up the competition, Karahan brought in reinforcements: urban multifamily pioneer Robert Shaw and corporate office leader KDC.
On Feb. 4, 2014, the trio announced their partnership—dubbed Team Legacy—and their winning bid to develop Legacy West.
They kicked things off in a big way, winning a corporate headquarters for FedEx Office and a new 2 million-square-foot North American base for Toyota Motor North America, which had considered more than 100 other options nationwide. Those stamps of approval led to a dizzying array of announcements: Liberty Mutual and JPMorgan Chase (1 million square feet each), a 24-story luxury condo tower and 30-story multifamily high-rise, a 300-room hotel, a 14-story multitenant office building, 127 single-family homes, and Legacy West Urban Village—355,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and 320,000 square feet of boutique office space, with 800 apartments.
Legacy West is one of the largest new projects in North America—one whose brand-name tenants and development velocity are unmatched. The Team Legacy partners thought it would take seven to 10 years to complete development of the project, but it’s on track for completion in just three years.
Karahan says he’s looking forward to the day when others will be able to see his vision come to life: “They’ll look at the skyline of Legacy West and say, ‘This is real.’ It’s going to be absolutely incredible.”