From Tiny Acorns, Mighty Oaks Do Grow

Sitting in a boring business meeting in 1975, my mind began to wander. How to lease up the new two-story office building I had just completed on Richmond Avenue? Then the idea came: I’d plant a little grove of trees in the long, dull esplanade that lay in front of the building to make it more inviting.

So that’s what we did, my partner John Kirksey and I, with shovels and some young pine and oak trees.

The newspaper did a story on this mini grove, and I was contacted by the late attorney and civic leader Carroll Shaddock, who saw the story and whose organization Billboards, Ltd., was well on the way to reducing Houston’s scourge of tall signs from 15,000 to 1,500, a project which took many years and much hard work.

Carroll was fascinated by the idea of planting trees on a barren Houston street, and he was looking to give birth to an organization focused on adding something to the city, in addition to taking something away (i.e., the billboards). It was noted that although Houston does not have beautiful mountain ranges or other topographical features, it DOES have a climate that can grow luxurious trees, creating neighborhoods like those found in and around Rice University and the Museum District.

Carroll asked me to serve on the board of directors of his redirected organization, and Billboards, Ltd., became Scenic Houston.  Also on the board were numerous other civic leaders from branches of city government and private citizens who wanted our city to be more attractive. I was a member of this board for over 30 years.

Carroll and the young organizations identified candidates for city council and mayor, and took them to lunch before before the elections to tell them about the various efforts on billboards and trees and ask for their support. Most of the candidates got on board with the beautification goals before they were elected and supported them ongoing after they began to serve.

Trees For Houston, a new organization specifically dedicated to planting and maintaining thousands of street trees was spun off, financed by private and corporate contributions.  Trees were not just planted willy nilly and forgotten, but instead, long thoroughfares on all sides of the city were chosen and green corridors were planted to as to make a statement on a given street. Provisions were made for watering trucks to see the young trees through their early months while they were getting established.

Kirby Drive and Broadway from the Gulf Freeway to Hobby Airport are just two of many thoroughfares which have been enhanced by the efforts of Trees For Houston.

In the meantime, various projects by Scenic Houston, including specifications for walkable streets and parks—“Streetscapes”—were being noticed by other Texas cities, and they came to Houston for guidance in setting up their own programs. Scenic Texas was formed, which now encompasses towns and cities across the state. Instead of being the state poster child for haphazard no-zoning growth, Houston’s reputation slowly began to change.

Individual Houstonians, with dreams, energy and money have made a difference.  Other world cities such as Paris, Vienna, Manhattan, and elsewhere, which are known for their open spaces, broad avenues, wooded parks and tree-lined esplanades, must also have been the result of individual citizens, years-or centuries-ago, who dreamed large. Houston and other Texas cities are following their lead, starting with dreams like tiny acorns.

And not only did our building lease up, but over time, other property owners the length of Richmond Avenue have planted this long throughfare with thousands and decorated it with urban sculpture. 

Our original grove was at 6009 Richmond Avenue. Go see it and imagine it without one tree, as it was in 1975.


About the Author: Ray Hankamer is a retired hotel and office building developer, who as general partner of Southwest Inns, Ltd., operated at the peak 14 hotels and five suburban office buildings, mostly located in the Greater Houston market.

Beck Group Names new leader of Austin office

The Beck Group promoted Ryan Therrell to lead the architecture and construction firm’s Austin office. Therrell succeeds Matt Williamson, who served as regional director for over two decades.

Before his promotion, Therrell was Beck’s director of client services. He was vital to the firm’s growth, helping it win many of Austin’s most high-profile architecture and construction projects.

A few notable design-build projects he’s responsible for include:

  • RiverSouth, the first development in the South Central Waterfront District
  • The new Texas Bankers Association building in Downtown Austin
  • Alto at 924 E 7th Street
  • 600 W 5th 

Therrell was integral to Beck winning the design of the Dell Jewish Community Center expansion and multiple construction projects at Dell Children’s Medical Center.

The Austin native recently established Beck’s Special Projects Group, which focuses on tenant improvement and asset repositioning. It recently won the Texas Permanent School Fund’s tenant improvement project, which begins construction this spring.

MMG acquires Independence Commercial Advisors

MMG Real Estate Advisors (MMG), a multifamily investment sales brokerage firm, announces the acquisition of Independence Commercial Advisors. Based in Texas, the boutique brokerage was founded in 2020 by industry veterans J. Michael Watson and J. Michael Moffitt with a focus on Texas private capital and institutional multifamily and self-storage brokerage.

With the mission of helping clients create and preserve wealth, Independence Commercial Advisors has garnered a reputation for integrity and client success in the multifamily space. “We’ve always seen ourselves as true advisors to our clients, and that is clearly a shared value with the team at MMG,” Mike Moffitt said. “We were highly impressed with the resources MMG has assembled and even more impressed with the collaborative team the firm has amassed, with each member bringing their collective knowledge to bear for the greater good.”

As part of the transaction, MMG has added eight investment sales advisors to the firm’s rapidly growing national roster with offices now in San Antonio, Austin, Houston, and Dallas. Managing Directors Mike Watson & Mike Moffitt join the firm, along with Senior Directors Mark Diebold, Nicholas Ling, Josh Murphy and Richard Mireles and Associate Advisors Tyler Salter and Alex Thompson. In addition, Senior Project Manager Evelyn Pinner has joined MMG’s growing operations team from Independence.

Mike Watson has been a market leader in the central and south Texas commercial real estate markets for over 20 years. He started his career in commercial real estate in the Austin office of Marcus & Millichap specializing in multifamily investment sales and later in executive management of many of the firms’ regions. He was the No. 1 producing agent for the Austin and San Antonio regions, routinely recognized as one of the state’s “Top 10 Producers,” and received numerous national sales awards. Over the course of his career, Mike has led the sales and marketing efforts for more than $3 billion in investment sales and financing transactions.

With over 30 years of experience, Mike Moffitt has personally represented buyers and sellers in the sale of multifamily, retail, office, industrial, hospitality and self-storage assets throughout Texas. In 2010, he joined Marcus & Millichap where he climbed the ranks before being named first vice president of Investments in 2017. During his tenure, Mike was a National Achievement, Sales Recognition, and Platinum Award winner. Over the years, Mike has been instrumental in helping family-owned private offices, regional syndicators, and individual private clients to form acquisition and disposition strategies.

Sales of Medical Office Properties, Though Healthy, Trail Behind Last Year’s Levels

After a stellar 2015, investment sales volumes and construction activity in the medical office sectorare showing a healthy pace. But whether 2016 will top last year’s activity levels may just be a matter of politics.

In the 12 months spanning from July 2015 to June 2016, 665 healthcare properties representing more than 40.4 million sq. ft. of space were sold nationally, according to medical real estate information company Revista Med. The total dollar volume came to $12.24 billion. At this point last year, that figure stood at $13.7 billion.

Read more at National Real Estate Investor

Dallas Midtown’s 20-acre focal point begins to take shape

The proposed centerpiece of the Dallas Midtown evolution will be unveiled at a town hall meeting next week.

This 20-acre focal point will tie in the rest of Dallas Midtown and could be a big draw to investors, developers and companies, said Bruce Bradford, president and CEO of the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce .

Read more at Dallas Business Journal.

Two Houston universities rank among top schools in the world

A couple of Houston schools landed on a list of the world’s best universities.

Rice University and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Centerreceived a nod in the Shanghai Ranking’s Academic Ranking of World Universities yearly list, according to Times Higher Education. ShanghaiRanking Consultancy has published the list annually since 2013 and ranks about 500 schools

Read more at Houston Business Journal.