A slow return to office be damned. Regent Properties CEO Eric Fleiss is bullish on opportunities in the Dallas office market. He is so confident, he established a second headquarters here last September and moved his family from Los Angeles to call Big D home. “I may have a freshly minted Texas driver’s license, but our company has been doing business in Texas for more than 25 years,” he says.
Fleiss developed his no-nonsense bravado growing up in New York City. At 22, he began his career pitching tech assets and business plans to senior leaders at Walt Disney Co. As part of a selective leadership program at the company, Fleiss gained admission into Harvard Business School to pursue his MBA. It was during his time in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he was first introduced to—and gained an appreciation for—commercial real estate. “I think I was the only kid born in NYC who didn’t know commercial real estate was a possible career path until business school,” Fleiss jokes.
After dabbling in retail and shopping center operations at Sydney, Australia-based Westfield Corp., Fleiss joined Regent Properties in 2005 as a partner with an ownership stake in the firm. At the time, the company had three employees. Under Fleiss’ stewardship as managing director, it has grown to nine offices and 94 employees.
Regent boasts $4 billion in assets under management and more than 26 million square feet of commercial space in its portfolio. It’s an operator and fund manager with retail, residential, and office holdings concentrated in Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Denver, Austin, Houston, and Dallas. In 2016, Regent purchased a technology park in Plano that once housed Texas Instruments and turned it into a campus that’s now home to Samsung, Peloton Interactive, and Freddie Mac. The $300 million Legacy Central offers about 1 million square feet in four buildings and, on an 85-acre site, plenty of room to grow. “It’s one of our best-performing properties across our entire portfolio,” Fleiss says.
Another top performer for Regent is Trammell Crow Center, which it acquired in March. Although the terms of the sale of the 50-story, 1.2-million-square-foot property were not disclosed, insiders say the iconic Dallas Arts District tower fetched a hefty $600 million price tag.
“We have strong convictions on what works for commercial property investment,” Fleiss says. “Trophy properties like Trammell Crow Center will continue to do well, despite all of the conversations around work-from-home. Our investment team looks at high profile, well-located Class AA office space as huge opportunities.”
The acquisition was part of Fleiss’ strategy to buy office assets throughout the Sun Belt in the next two years. As some institutional investors look to exit office markets in a post-pandemic and work-from-home world, Fleiss says it is his firm’s opportunity to swoop in and buy.
“I think there is a lot of noise out there right now when it comes to office investment,” Fleiss says. “What we’re seeing in the market—particularly at the high end—is the option to buy top-notch assets at what we think are great prices. A pandemic followed by inflation and then a credit crunch; we think this is the perfect time to be putting the pedal to the metal.”
And what about—as some in the industry are projecting—a possible recession? “The intrinsic growth of the Dallas market, coupled with relocations to North Texas, which we don’t think will slow any time soon, is the winning formula we’re willing to hedge our bets on,” Fleiss says.