Reunion Tower in Dallas (Michael Samples)

Real Estate

Scovell Taps Successors at Woodbine Development

Woodbine’s first project—Reunion Tower and Hyatt Regency Dallas at Reunion—changed the city's skyline.

It has been 43 years since John Scovell co-founded Woodbine Development Corp. After more than four decades, he figured it’s time to let someone else take the helm.

Scovell has named Les J. Melcher president of the Dallas-based development company, and Ian James “Jim” Cihak chief operating officer and chief financial officer. He also appointed his sons, King Scovell and Dupree Scovell, as managing partners. King will serve as chief development officer in Dallas; Dupree will serve as chief investment officer and work out of Los Angeles.

Melcher joined Woodbine in 1997 and most recently was chief investment officer. Cihak, who joined in 1984, has served as senior vice president, controller, and treasurer.

King joined the company in 2007 after five years at Irving-based multifamily developer JPI. Dupree opened the L.A. office of Woodbine in 2011, after five years at Trammell Crow Co. of Dallas, where he focused on office, industrial, and retail/mixed-use development. Their father is not walking away from operation; he will remain actively involved as chairman.

Scovell said he has always considered development to be a team sport. “While it has been a privilege to lead this company for nearly 44 years, it is time for a quarterback change, and the next generation is well equipped to take Woodbine to the next level,” he said. “It will be exciting for me to work alongside them as we move forward while honoring the formula that got us this far—have good partners!”

He and Dallas oil icon Ray Hunt founded Woodbine in 1973. Today the company has offices in Phoenix and Los Angeles, and its portfolio is valued at nearly $1 billion. During the past five years it has developed in 14 states, going as far west as Oregon and as far east as Washington, D.C.

Closer to home, Woodbine’s signature project, of course, is the one that launched it: Reunion Tower and Hyatt Regency Dallas at Reunion. The development, which opened in 1978, was one of the country’s first private-public partnerships.

Scovell was 26 at the time of its development. Had he been “older, wiser, and smarter,” he said, the project might never have happened. “We didn’t know you couldn’t do that,” he said. “We didn’t know you shouldn’t attempt to build a project where you must deal with railroads, municipalities, preservationists and highways—all in a market that hadn’t built a new downtown hotel in 10 years. Youth was a big advantage, as was having a partner like Ray Hunt and the absolute trust he put in me and our team.”

The project changed the Dallas skyline with a significant landmark, and gave Dallas the first downtown hotel it had seen in more than a decade. The success of Reunion led to other major hospitality properties, including Hyatt Hill Country Resort in San Antonio, La Cantera Resort in San Antonio, and Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa near Austin. More recently, Woodbine has focused on the limited, select, and full-service categories for Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, and partnerships with boutique and independent operators like Kimpton and Provenance Hotel Group.

“As the times have changed and the appetite of capital has changed, we’ve shifted from playing home-run derby to small ball,” Scovell said. The company’s acquisition platform, which has been focused on repositioning independent and lifestyle hotels, has been a success, too, he added.

To date, Woodbine has developed more than 7,000 hotel rooms, completed three historical renovation projects, 20 master-plan developments, 4.3 million square feet of office space, and more than 1 million square feet of special-event venues—along with numerous spa, golf, and fitness developments.

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