Commercial Real Estate

Meet the Finalists: Developers From Provident Realty, Bright Realty, Cawley Partners, Presidium, and JPI

Five of the region’s most active developers weigh in on pandemic innovations, finding new opportunities, and what’s ahead.

On April 28, D CEO will announce the winners of its ninth annual Commercial Real Estate Awards program. Leading up to the event, we’re featuring all 83 finalists (51 projects and deals and 32 professionals), category by category. Today, we’re sharing excerpts from interviews with the five Developer of the Year honorees.  

Leon Backes 

Provident Realty Advisors 

WHY DEVELOPMENT: I was in business school at the University of Missouri and had taken a real estate course as an elective. A young developer came to speak for career day and explained how he had just developed a grocery-anchored shopping center. Listening to him was like a lightbulb going off for me. From then on I knew I wanted to pursue commercial real estate as a career. If I had slept in that day instead of going to class, there’s no telling what I’d be doing today!  

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT IT: “The creativity that goes into the entire development process is challenging and fun. As developers, we get to imagine not only how projects will perform financially, but also how people will live and work in the environments we create. After having been in the business for a while, it is sometimes interesting to drive down the road and count all the deals I’ve been involved in. Those experiences also help me remember that the developments we create will be here long after we are gone.         

LESSONS LEARNED: During the 1980s and early 90s, Texas experienced the biggest boom and bust cycle it had ever seen. This was early in my career and it was a very crazy time. It gave me lots of lessons on how people can get caught up in the exuberance of a boom cycle and ignore the fundamentals and the risk. It also gave me the experience of what happens when things go wrong and how to manage workouts. Looking back on it now, I feel fortunate to have gone through it—but I really don’t care to ever experience it again! 

2020 HIGHLIGHTS: I am really proud of how the Provident team pulled together to work through the crazy challenges of 2020. We have had challenges before, but never a global pandemic. Our team rose to the occasion and not only survived but managed to thrive. Our construction group, Provident General Contractors, was recently recognized by SMU as the third-fastest-growing company in the DFW area. We opened our Prairie Ridge masterplanned community in June, and by the year’s end, our homebuilders had closed on more than 240 lots. Our multifamily group was able to start several new apartment projects; we also launched our first two singlefamily rental communities (ParcHaus). Finally, our industrial group started a 550,000-square-foot project in Roanoke and closed on a 60-acre development in Plano.  We finished our first industrial development ahead of schedule and fully leased the project during the pandemic. We continued to transact several multifamily, land, and retail sales, and we even closed the purchase of an extendedstay hotel. Most groups came to a standstill from April through the fall. The fact we were able to accomplish so much during this time frame speaks volumes to the hard work, dedication, and wherewithal of our company. 

LOOKING AHEAD: “With the development and increased availability of COVID vaccines, we can now see the end of the pandemic. I think this will unleash a huge wave of pent-up demand as things return to normal. This will be a big boom for all types of real estate. I’m excited to be in the best market in the country and that we have a great team that’s ready to capitalize on these opportunities as they occur. Specifically, we have been working hard to develop platforms across industrial, single-family rental communities, and extendedstay hotels, all of which have seen increased demand. I believe we are poised to create a lot of opportunities in the marketplace and continue to promote a culture and product of which we can all be proud.”  

Chris Bright 

Bright Realty 

WHY DEVELOPMENT: I like the process of designing and creating things.  

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT IT: Seeing the culmination of the project, how the design and construction challenges ended up in a final product. 

LESSONS LEARNED: “I’ve learned that the only constant is change. What worked and was successful in the past is not necessarily the right answer for the future. 

2020 HIGHLIGHTS: I am most proud about how the Bright Realty team was able to accomplish and finish things in the very challenging environment of 2020. I work with great people. 

LOOKING AHEAD: “I’m excited about moving past the struggles of 2020 and returning to some level of normalcy, even if it is a different normal than what it was before. The future is always exciting, as it gives us opportunities to learn, grow, and adapt. 

Bill Cawley 

Cawley Partners 

WHY DEVELOPMENT: My best friend and role model in my life was my father, who was in the business. Dad and I were very closereal estate was always my only choice. was totally committed to being a real estate developer. I think that commitment is one of the reasons I made it through the early years. 

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT IT: “The relationships are what makes what we do special—from the deal side to the service side to construction and property management. The relationships we gain at all levels of the process make working with and serving your friends rewarding. When your clients like you and your team members, it makes everything easier.  

LESSONS LEARNED: Focus on the clients’ needs, and everything else will take care of itself. Having a servant heart with a total focus on the client allows you to overcome any obstacles you run into. Whenever something goes wrongand it willif all parties know you care, relationships strengthen.” 

2020 HIGHLIGHTS: “I am most proud of our ability to stay positive as a team. We focused on helping the clients that needed relief, without being predatory. The team’s goal was to let all know they were valued and come up with a mutually beneficial solution. After 90 days of COVID shutdown, we decided to focus on the future. This allowed us to stay positive and actually get quite a bit accomplished. We chose to not let the pandemic define uswe moved forward and had a very productive year. 

LOOKING AHEAD: I am excited to be in such a pro-business city like Dallaswith the best team of people around me in my career. I have never been more positive about the opportunities in front of us, as well as the incredible team who are along for the ride.”  

John Griggs 

Presidium 

WHY DEVELOPMENT: After finishing law school and practicing law in L.A. and the Bay Area for several years, working for entrepreneurial clients mostly in technology, it became clear to me that I was much more suited to being an entrepreneur myself. In 2003, while continuing to practice law, I founded Presidium and took the plunge, buying a bunch of fourplexes in Arizona. I quickly realized that real estate was my true calling and poured my energy into learning the multifamily business at rapid speed.  

After initial success buying and then selling in Arizona, I recognized an untapped market in Texas and purchased Presidium’s first Dallas property in 2005. In a leap of faith, my business partner, Cross Moceri, and I decided to both leave our legal careers in 2005 and move to Texas to further develop Presidium as our core business. Since then, Presidium has grown from a two-man operation to almost 300 team members and more than 80 assets under management, valued in excess of $2.5 billion. 

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT IT: What I enjoy the most about what I do is being able to make an impact by growing both the firm and the significance Presidium has on its communities, community members, partners, and employees. Cross and I have a deeprooted passion for community improvement, which serves as a driving force behind Presidium’s culture. When we are looking at developments, we are always thinking about how our projects will enhance the local community, and we welcome input from various stakeholders in the communities where we are active. 

LESSONS LEARNED: Relating to commercial real estate specifically, I believe the biggest lesson I’ve learned is how important it is for a developer to have the ability to see an end product and value of the property. There will be challenges that arise at any site, but a good developer will see the value of the land and the surrounding areas. 

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned in general is how important it is to work hard, be honest, and dive deep into the field you’re pursuing. Your team and investors will look to you to become the expertto know the next move and how to operate. Be that expert and know more about your space than anyone else. That’s what your stakeholders want, and it’s ultimately what will make you successful. 

2020 HIGHLIGHTS: In the last few years, development has become a critical focus of Presidium, along with acquiring, renovating, and managing existing assets. This required a new focus, a lot of our own capital, and the buildout of a whole new department of professionals. After a lot of hard work and investment, we saw the fruits of our efforts paying off in 2020. We now have delivered or are under construction on over 3,000 units in Texas and Florida, and we plan to break ground on another 2,000 this year. We are also programming a couple of large and highly impactful master-planned communities that will deliver over the next decade. We have built a top-tier group of professionals and are performing at the top of our game.   

Obviously, 2020 wasn’t easy on anyone due to COVID-19. Above all else, I wanted to make sure that my team and their families feel safe and taken care of during this time of distress. My team’s health is a top priority. We’ve reimagined our workspaces and our communities to make them as safe as possible. But we are steadfast in believing that the demand for quality housing in growth markets like Dallas will remain strong in the long term, so we remain undeterred in our core mission.   

This challenge is like none other in the last 100 years, so there’s really no playbook. It takes being actively engaged every day to understand the health and economic impacts of what we’re facing, on both a macro and a micro-level. This pandemic requires critical thinking on many levels and constant assessment of rapidly changing conditions. It’s an intellectual and business situation that requires bringing all your experiences and disciplines to bear.  

LOOKING AHEAD: “I am excited to continue seizing opportunities to further develop and positively impact our communities across North Texas and beyond. In the 15 years, I’ve been here, Dallas-Fort Worth has evolved to become a true Tier 1 metropolitan area, and then I believe we are entering a super-cycle of growth for the region that will continue to improve and transform it for decades to come.   

Further, I look forward to taking Presidium to new heights by cultivating, developing, and revitalizing communities throughout the nation with new and renovated housing opportunities, as well as mixed-use and retail developments.  

Brad Taylor 

JPI 

WHY DEVELOPMENT: “I was introduced to the commercial real estate industry early on. My father was a multifamily architect, and I grew up walking job sites and accompanying him during inspections. I ended up working for him throughout high school and college, where I gained additional experience and exposure to construction and design. Eventually, I learned my personality and talents were better suited to development and decided to pursue that line of work, which was one of the best career decisions I’ve made. Now, my son also works in the multifamily industry, so it truly is a shared family passion. 

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT IT: The people and the culture at JPI. It’s an honor to work alongside some of the most talented individuals in the industry, each of whom embodies character, integrity, teamwork, and a commitment to excellence. This is my fourth decade at JPI, and every day, I consider myself lucky to be a part of this team. 

LESSONS LEARNED: Commitment to people and culture is the key to success. Throughout the years, JPI has reached landmark milestones and achievements because we invest in our associates and encourage them to achieve their professional and personal goals. When people are the priority, success follows. At JPI, we call this formula our secret sauce.’” 

2020 HIGHLIGHTS: “Although 2020 was undoubtedly one of the most challenging years to date, I have been inspired by JPI’s commitment to teamwork and collaboration in the midst of the storm. Across the company, associates of all levels stepped into new roles and embraced servant leadership to ensure we navigated each roadblock with strategic decision-making and a dedication to excellence and safety. Although we look forward to the continued rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine and for our economy to be in a growth phase again, 2020 unlocked talent and innovation that we will continue to embrace in 2021 and beyond. 

LOOKING AHEAD: “This year will certainly be a recovery year for industries everywhere, but the long-term growth outlook for the DFW multifamily sector is positive. As our region continues to experience population and job growth as predicted, the need for housing of all types will increase. JPI is prepared to meet this demand with our best-in-class communities, including an affordable housing product line that we look forward to rolling out later this year.   

All in all, the multifamily industry is expected to see major changes throughout the next 10 years, and we’re ready to forge the path ahead with innovation and creativity. JPI is growing tomorrow’s industry leaders today, and we have great expectations for our future in DFW and beyond. 

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