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Commercial Real Estate

CRE Opinion: TREC’s 30th FightNight Reinforces Community Commitment

TREC has adopted the mantra “Build the City You’ve Imagined,” and our members are not afraid of going to great lengths to imagine a world-class city.

In 1989, a small group of local influencers established FightNight, an evening featuring professional boxing, fancy fare and libations, casino gaming, Vegas-style diversions, and networking opportunities. Event founders Jeff Swope, Bob Kaminski, Jesse Pruit, Neal Sleeper, Steve Crosson and Steve Means envisioned the first FightNight as a way to raise funds from the commercial real estate community to invest in policy initiatives that have since become the fuel of Dallas’ growth. The party, which was attended by 880 guests, also raised the spirits of a business community that was experiencing some of the most challenging years that Dallas, and Texas, have ever known.

Little did these influencers know that thirty years later, FightNight would grow into one of the largest philanthropic events in North Texas, attracting more than 1,400 guests annually and raising more than $26 million since its inception. When The Real Estate Council (TREC) gathers to celebrate FightNight 30 at the Hilton Anatole on Thursday, April 26, 2018, the guest list will still include many of the same names that attended the inaugural party.

While reflecting on its 30th anniversary, it’s become clear that FightNight turned out to be much more than a party to increase morale during a dark time. It signaled a turning point for the way that Dallas’ commercial real estate professionals started working together to evoke positive transformations in our communities, and we began to approach things differently than any other market in the country.

One year after the inaugural FightNight took place, TREC was born. The first Board of Directors included notable leaders who have remained active in the industry, such as Ross Perot, Jr., Neal Sleeper, Will Mundinger II, Steve Crosson, and Jeff Swope. These movers and shakers saw the benefits of having a locally based organization to represent the interests of the real estate sector in economic development initiatives.

Today, TREC represents more than 2,000 members and 600 companies. Our members have helped transform North Texas into a premier business destination, and this reputation has enticed some of the world’s biggest real estate companies, such as Cushman & Wakefield, CBRE, and JLL, to build a significant presence in Dallas. These companies have, in turn, attracted world-class engineering firms, architects, and construction companies. Our TREC developer members understand that securing large corporations, like Toyota or Amazon, will also bring legions of smaller companies to the region, and they’re on the frontlines to work with economic development professionals to attract even greater opportunities. After all, our members are actively engaged in creating North Texas’ image. They know how to share our region’s vision with relocating companies in a way that makes top prospects want to be here.

As TREC works with members to fulfill our mission, we are always mindful of the need to prepare future generations of leaders not only within our industry, but in our country. We support the ongoing work and outreach of our member companies by engaging their employees in meaningful leadership development programs, which has attracted upcoming generations within longstanding real estate families. It’s been heartwarming to see these young professionals share the same passion that their parents and grandparents show for our city and region, and it’s exciting to help foster their desire to serve our community through TREC.

As time has passed, TREC’s growing leadership base expanded its vision and vigorously pursued strategies to ensure a vibrant future for our region through robust community investment. We created TREC Foundation in 1994 to manage our community grants and overall philanthropic efforts, and TREC Community Fund was created in 2012 to help provide access to capital for commercial real estate projects benefitting low-income communities. Along the way, TREC members have supplemented our financial investments in community projects with time commitments totaling thousands of hours annually.

Through TREC Foundation, funds raised during FightNight and from TREC’s annual Giving Gala have supported countless community programs that are sparking positive changes across our city. Just consider how Klyde Warren Park changed the dynamic in downtown Dallas. TREC provided the seed funding for a park feasibility study and staff support during the early stages of construction. We also helped form the Woodall Rodgers Foundation and provided professional support for the public funding.

This year marks in shift in the way that TREC Foundation approaches philanthropy. Proceeds from FightNight will benefit the Dallas Catalyst Project, a new, three-year initiative to invest more than $1 million in grants and pro-bono professional services work within the Forest Revitalization District in Southern Dallas. The project, which is a partnership between St. Philip’s School and Community Center, CitySquare, and Cornerstone Baptist Church, intends to improve the streetscape and neighborhood in the Forest District. The work includes the renovation of the historic façade of the iconic Forest Theater, retail space owned by St. Philips School, and landscaping and public space around Cornerstone Church and along Martin Luther King Boulevard. It also involves creating an innovative communal space under the I-45 bridge.

The issues that were important to our city 30 years ago are still challenging our community today. That’s why TREC adopted the mantra “Build the City You’ve Imagined,” and our members are not afraid of going to great lengths to imagine a world-class city. TREC regularly engages in policies affecting our overall quality of life, including affordable housing, transportation, mobility, and the environment. We have become so invested in these discussions that it’s not unusual for more than 50 members—representing every age and commercial real estate sector—to attend a public policy meeting at our office and discuss the latest research or best practices that will benefit all citizens. They discuss and debate how public transportation can more efficiently provide reliable transportation options for workers to access the employment opportunities available in our city’s amazing new developments and job centers. They work on campaigns to support city councilmen and school board trustees who share our vision for the city. And, they volunteer in the community by planting gardens, stocking and maintaining food pantries, or taking part in a myriad of projects that may not get widespread attention—but are critically important to the individuals who benefit from them.

Our commitment was firmly planted 30 years ago, and we’re nowhere close to being out of big ideas. As we celebrate how far we’ve come with this milestone FightNight, we remain as committed as ever to collaborating with our city to have a meaningful impact on improving the lives of every family through the collective impact of our members.

Linda McMahon is the president and CEO of The Real Estate Council.