The $100 million Discovery District will connect AT&T’s six-building office campus in downtown Dallas. Courtesy of AT&T

Commercial Real Estate

The Winners of D CEO’s 2019 Commercial Real Estate Awards

As the region continues its rapid evolution, these projects, transactions, and industry pros are leading the way.

It wasn’t just the volume of entries that made judging this year’s Commercial Real Estate Awards program such a challenge; it was the caliber of the nominations and the impact the deals and developments are destined to have on our region. Any number of nominees deemed finalists this year could have walked away with the top prize in the past, and there are worthy entries that didn’t even make the finalist cut. It is an absolute testament to the strength and vibrancy of the North Texas commercial real estate market that D CEO editors had such a difficult time of things. But, after the debates ended and the dust settled, we selected winners in 16 categories, from Community Impact to Executive of the Year. They’re profiled below.

 

The $100 million Discovery District will connect AT&T’s six-building office campus in down- town Dallas.

AT&T Discovery District

Community Impact Deal of the Year

AT&T could have moved its global headquarters to a sparkling new tower in Uptown or the Arts Districts or any of the suburban markets. Instead, it decided to double-down on its commitment to Dallas’ urban core, renewing its lease and in May 2018 kicking off construction of a $100 million Discovery District.

The “urban tech campus” will be a showcase for new technology and innovation and bring much-needed green space, common space, and restaurants and retail space to the core—and help pull Dallas’ center of gravity south. The district will connect AT&T’s six-building campus and “tie together and bring new life and vibrancy to one of the busiest parts of downtown,” says Kourtny Garrett, CEO of Downtown Dallas Inc. AT&T’s investment in the livability and vigor of Dallas’ urban core will be felt for generations.

Craig Hall

Craig Hall — Hall Group

Pioneer Award

Visionary Craig Hall, who marked his 50th year in business in 2018, has had a profound impact on the local market and the commercial real estate industry itself. He was the first developer to plant a stake in Frisco, bringing an office park to what’s now one of the most active and successful commercial markets in the country. And he didn’t just put up monolithic buildings; he pioneered the use of art, walking trails, green space, and other amenities that have become must-haves today.

Hall also patiently waited for the highest-and-best use of land he owned in the Dallas Arts District, where he built a striking office tower and now has a new hotel and condominium project underway. He takes it all in stride and says he’s just a man who enjoys his work. “I like creating environments, art, and sharing that with people in public projects,” he says.

Beyond providing substantial capital for Klyde Warren Park and supporting arts and nonprofit endeavors, Hall also invests in new technologies—and the people developing them. To celebrate his five decades in business (he made his first real estate buy at the age of 18), Hall and his wife Kathryn pledged to provide $1 million in grants through their foundation, to help nonprofit partners invest in and support entrepreneurs.

Thirty-One Gifts

Best Industrial Lease

Toward the end of 2018, direct-selling company Thirty-One Gifts announced plans to move its national distribution center from Central Ohio to Flower Mound. And just like that, it became one of the city’s largest employers, with the anticipated creation of 650 jobs. The company is taking occupancy of a 651,000-square-foot building in the Lakeside Business District, at 951 Garden Ridge Blvd. CBRE’s Ryan Keiser and Alex Frei represented the company in lease negotiations with landlord Prologis. Cindy Monroe, CEO of Thirty-One Gifts, said in an announcement that moving the company’s distribution hub to North Texas puts operations closer to areas of significant growth potential in the Southwest and Mexico.

Finalists: PPG Architectural Finishes, Tellworks

Kohler

Kohler

Best New Industrial Project

With its central location and large, fast-growing population, Dallas-Fort Worth is one of the hottest industrial markets in the country. So, standing out in a mega-market like North Texas isn’t easy. It’s even more difficult in a year like 2018, which saw a number of impressive new projects. But a new development from Prologis near Polk Street and Danieldale Road in DeSoto, south of Dallas, was quickly snapped up by fixtures giant Kohler—all 1.3 million square feet of it. The move will bring more than 100 jobs to the city of DeSoto, says J. Holmes Davis IV, who represented Kohler in its acquisition. “It ranks near the top, if not at the top, of all industrial deals in Dallas-Fort Worth for 2018,” he says.

Finalists: DFW Commerce Center, SouthLink, Synergy Crossing/Dematic

PGA of America

PGA of America

Best Relocation

Frisco is on a roll. The city added another all-star company to its roster in late 2018, when PGA of America announced plans to move its headquarters to Frisco from Palm Beach County, Florida. The PGA will anchor a 600-acre, mixed-use development with an initial investment of $500 million. Along with a 100,000-square-foot headquarters, the campus will include two championship courses, a short course, a 127,000-square-foot conference center, retail village, parks, and a 500-room Omni resort. It will sit just south of U.S. 380 at Rockhill Parkway and Legacy Drive, within a 2,500 project masterplanned by Hunt Realty. The PGA is partnering with the city of Frisco, Frisco ISD, and Omni Stillwater Woods, a joint venture led by Omni Hotels & Resorts, Stillwater Capital, and Woods Capital. It plans to bring 26 championships to Frisco between 2023 and 2034, including, potentially, the Ryder Cup. The new campus is expected to have an economic impact of more than $2.5 billion over the next 20 years

Finalists: DJO Global, Steward Health Care Systems

Jim Cooksey — Newmark Knight Frank

Commercial Real Estate Executive of the Year

A few years back, Jim Cooksey began thinking about the next evolution of his real estate firm. A pioneer in corporate-focused services, the co-founder of Dallas-based Jackson & Cooksey Inc. had a long list of loyal clients after nearly four decades in the business. He wanted to make sure there was a plan in place for those clients, as well as his 70+ brokers, where the average tenure among senior professionals is 20 years. Cooksey found what he was looking for in Newmark Knight Frank. The sale closed in July 2018, after three years of courtship and negotiations. Six months into things, Cooksey, vice chairman and president of tenant representation, says he’s certain he made the right choice. “Every broker in the company made the transition with me, and that’s unheard of in this business,” he says.

Finalists: Chad Cook, Quadrant Investment Properties, Holt Lunsford, Holt Lunsford Commercial

Dan Noble – HKS Inc.

Excellence in Architecture and Design

Now in its 80th year, Dallas-based HKS Inc. has left an indelible fingerprint on the city. By far the largest firm in the region, CEO Dan Noble considers HKS to be the home team, and wants to do what he can to make Dallas even better. “We’ve got so much history here; we started here,” he says. “We’ve got the horsepower, we’ve got the desire, we’ve got the tools, we’ve got the wherewithal to do more—and I’d like to do that.” That desire was put into action last year, when HKS played an instrumental role in Dallas’ bid for Amazon’s HQ2. It was the linchpin that united the three undeveloped sites, casting the vision HQ2 could have on the region and aiding the e-commerce giant in understanding what Dallas had to offer. HKS also received a host of local, national, and international awards for its work in 2018, including three awards from the AIA in Dallas and Fort Worth, as well as an IIDA award for global excellence. Noble isn’t content to rest on the laurels. “Through limitless thinking, we will be the most influential firm in our industry,” he says.

Finalists: 5G Studios, led by Scott Lowe; BOKA Powell, led by Don Powell; Merriman Anderson Architects, led by Jerry Merriman

Nokia

Best Office Lease

The biggest office lease in one of the region’s biggest and buzziest mixed-use developments, the new Nokia North American headquarters at Billingsley Co.’s Cypress Waters adds veracity to an already compelling narrative: Tech companies love North Texas. Clocking in at 350,000 square feet, Nokia’s new campus encompasses two buildings that embrace a new waterside retail hub called The Sound. ¶ The lease was brokered by Randy Cooper, Craig Wilson, Chad Tsitovich, Scott Goldman, and Chris Wood of Cushman & Wakefield, along with Marijke Lantz of Billingsley Co. Lucy Billingsley says along with the usual things that bring a tenant to the table, the waterside retail and other amenities were major factors in Nokia’s decision to settle down at Cypress Waters. “The real estate industry has changed,” Billingsley says. “Buildings are easy. But what makes it remarkable is pulling together all of those other attributes. … What’s the place that’s not your office and not your home but you love? That’s what we want to create.”

Finalists: DexYP, Samsung, Signify Health

The Union Dallas

The Union

Best New Mixed-Use Development

RED Development’s much-anticipated mixed-use project, The Union, made its office tower debut in November and bagged the year’s biggest Uptown lease: a 100,000 square-foot-plus commitment from Salesforce, bringing the 420,000-square-foot tower to more than 90 percent leased. A second, 309-unit apartment tower from StreetLights Residential will open by the end of the first quarter of 2019, as will a Tom Thumb urban grocer and multiple restaurant concepts. Mike Ebert, managing partner at Phoenix-based RED, says The Union will serve as an amplifier and unifier in Uptown and help Dallas attract more major-label companies like Salesforce and USAA. “What’s neat about Uptown is it’s the one place in the state—and one of the few in the country—where those kind of tenants aggregate,” Ebert says. “It’s what we think makes it awfully special.”

Finalists: Bishop North, The Epic

Cambria Hotel and 1900 Pacific Residencecs

Best Redevelopment

This beautiful pair of historic downtown towers underwent a three-and-a-half-year transformation courtesy of owner John Kirtland, who selected Merriman Anderson Architects to bring his vision to life. It was an exceptional choice; MAA founder Jerry Merriman has a penchant for taking on gnarly rehab projects, and the results speak for themselves. Built in 1933, the Tower Petroleum office building that once housed Tower Theatre has been transformed into a 177/180-room Cambria Hotel. The adjacent Corrigan Tower, built in 1950, is now 1900 Pacific Residences, with 150/220 apartment units and a new rooftop pool and deck. Together, they’ve brought a new vitality to what was a dormant area of downtown. Merriman recalls the day Kirtland stepped into his office excited about coming up with the winning bid to buy the towers. “We knew he had something special,” Merriman says.

Finalists: Dallas High School, The Luminary, Trammell Crow Center

Hunt Realty Investments’ Fields

Best Land Deal

In that famous line from Gone With the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara’s father tells her, “Land is the only thing in the world worth workin’ for, worth fightin’ for, worth dyin’ for. Because it’s the only thing that lasts.” Those words have been taken to heart by Dallas developers and investors, as they vie to control parcels in the path of progress. Hunt Realty Investments walked away with last year’s biggest prize: 2,544 acres on the northern edge of Frisco, with significant footage along the Dallas North Tollway, Preston Road, and U.S. 380. Hunt acquired the coveted land from the estate of Bert Fields Jr., in partnership with Trevor Rees-Jones’ Chief Partners and mixed-use guru Fehmi Karahan. In announcing the midyear buy, Hunt President Chris Kleinert said, “We see extraordinary development potential for the site.” That may have been an understatement, as within just a few months, Hunt and its capital partners sold about 600 acres of the tract for a new PGA of America headquarters campus.

Finalists: Interstate Crossing

Fred Perpall, Beck Group

Excellence in Construction and Engineering

The Beck Group has played a significant role in shaping the North Texas region ever since moving its headquarters to Dallas from Houston in 1924. Today, the company’s influence extends throughout North America. Last year was another strong one for Beck, with local projects ranging from a new Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Frisco to Pacific Plaza in downtown Dallas. And, the company announced a big move of its own: a headquarters relocation from Ross Avenue to about 82,000 square feet in Thanksgiving Tower in the city’s center. CEO Fred Perpall, who recently was named chairman of the Dallas Citizens Council, says he’s proud of Beck’s involvement in redeveloping downtown: “A strong urban core will help our region thrive.”

Finalists: Balfour Beatty, led by Eric Krueger , Jacobs Engineering, led by Steven Demetriou , MYCON Construction, led by Charlie Myers

Lucy Billingsley

Lucy Billingsley — Billingsley Co.

Developer of the Year

Last year was a whopper for Billingsley Co. It built large campuses for huge corporate tenants like Amerisource Bergen, Nokia, and Brinker International. It launched a retail concept called The Shacks at Austin Ranch. It completed several apartment projects, including Sloane Street, The Hudson, and The Brickyard. And it made significant progress on its soon-to-open lakefront retail project, The Sound at Cypress Waters. Still, when asked about her proudest achievement, company co-founder Lucy Billingsley says: “the next deal.” This “go get ’em” attitude typifies the developer and the company she leads. But, 2019 is a new year, and with eyes forward, Billingsley is already hungry for the next big win. “We, by and large, stay scared,” Billingsley says. “I find when we’re motivated out fear of failure, we think a little bit more deeply and pay attention to so many details.”

Finalists: Kaizen Development Partners, led by Derrick Evers, Nick Summerville, and Lee White; Oaxaca Interests, led by Brent Jackson

Living Spaces Furniture

Best Retail Lease

There’s a lot of homebuying and homebuilding going on in Dallas-Fort Worth. And all those residents need to furnish their houses. Living Spaces wanted to get in on the action and targeted North Texas for expansion. It just needed to find the right location for a retail and distribution center, and it tapped JLL’s Mark Newman and Clay Smith to help. As things turned out JLL industrial brokers Craig Jones, Terry Darrow, and Randy Touchstone had a potential solution: an 858,500-square-foot facility in Grand Prairie previously occupied by Restoration Hardware. It was a perfect fit. Living Spaces’ expansive new store totals 150,000 square feet. It’s using the remaining 700,000 square feet or so for distribution.

Finalists: The Crescent Retail, The Sound at Cypress Waters

Cityplace Tower

Cityplace Tower

Best Commercial Property Sale

The capital markets team of Creighton Stark, Chris Boyd, and Jihane Boury at Colliers International engineered an under-the-radar sale of the 1.35 million-square-foot Cityplace Tower in Dallas, representing both the buyer, Highland Capital Management, and the seller, a joint-venture partnership between Parmenter and Angelo, Gordon & Co. The result was the single largest office deal, by dollar amount, in the southwestern United States last year. Highland Capital (which also acquired Plano’s high-profile former EDS campus in 2018) is planning significant upgrades and amenity additions at the iconic Cityplace. “It has the strong potential to catalyze growth and revitalization projects on the east side of Central Expressway, helping to merge it with the more upscale Uptown area,” Stark says.

Finalists: Former EDS Campus, Collin Creek Mall, Dart/Solo Cup, XTO Energy Properties

 

Mercedez-Benz Financial Services

Mercedes-Benz Financial Services

Best New Office Project

When it opens this spring, Mercedes Benz-Financial Services’ new 200,000-square-foot build-to-suit will sit at the southern edge of AllianceTexas, Hillwood’s massive mixed-use development in North Fort Worth. Knowing that the project would serve as a visual gateway to Alliance, Hillwood was intent on making it a gem to behold. “It’s a site that we held off developing for quite a while because we were waiting for the right user, and Mercedes-Benz is the right user,” says Steve Aldrich, senior vice president at Hillwood. ¶ Great care was taken to knit the campus into the surrounding landscape, ensuring that no parking or roads would come between the building and a nearby water feature, and incorporating glass to maximize the views and natural light. “The goal was to send the message to our employees that they work for a company that cares about them—that is committed to offering a working environment where they can thrive,” says Chris Kaefer, vice president of credit operations for Mercedes-Benz Financial Services. “To us, the new building provides an opportunity to show our employees how much we value them.”

Finalists: Offices at The Realm, The Offices Two at Frisco Station, WatchGuard Video Headquarters

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