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Houston - Real Estate
Hines' new multifamily high-rise, The Preston (Credit: Hines)

How Hines Is Keeping Its Commitment to Innovation and Quality During the Pandemic

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Last August, Gerald Hines passed away peacefully at the age of 95, surrounded by his family at their estate in Aspen. Few men have changed the skylines of cities around the globe more. 

Hines founded the company that bears his name, Hines Interests Limited Partnership, in 1957, growing it from a one man operation to 4,800 employees active in 225 cities across the globe. 

Gerald Hines brought to commercial real estate a philosophy that was surprisingly “techie.” Early in his career he set out to prove world class architecture and excellent engineering were the two founding principles of commercial success in real estate. Buildings weren’t just commodities, if you built them well enough, they became landmarks. Hines’ first landmark was One Shell Plaza in Houston, completed in 1971, at the time the tallest in Texas, casting its shadow over Houston City Hall. Over the next few decades, Hines built dozens more landmarks on five continents, working with legendary architects like Frank Gehry, I.M. Pei, Phillip Johnson, Cesar Pelli, Jon Pickard, Arthur Gensler, and many more. Hines made quality a selling point and a central part of its brand. He famously convinced Shell executives to anchor his new Houston skyscraper after showing them a set of bronze door handles and promising them the rest of the building would be just as high quality. 

As his company grew he supported a company culture that supported free thought and gave autonomy to local offices. “We’re able to source and identify opportunities and respond to the communities we live in, [which is] very different than some of our competitors that operate on a totally centralized basis,” said James C. Buie, Executive Vice President. The privately held company has now developed, redeveloped or acquired 1,393 properties, totaling over 459 million square feet. 

We’re able to source and identify opportunities and respond to the communities we live in, [which is] very different than some of our competitors that operate on a totally centralized basis.

James C. Buie, Hines Executive Vice President

Today, Gerald’s son Jeff helms the firm, leading it into uncharted waters. While developing high-quality offices around the world is still the firm’s bread and butter, new endeavors are expanding the scope of Hines as the firm surges ahead with construction and development. Decades of work has engendered Hines’ with a level of trust and demand for its projects that few developers enjoy. This has helped them branch out to almost every property type.

The industrial sector has been lucrative for Hines both as a merchant developer and manager, though it’s been a struggle for Hines to bring its signature style of architecture to the world of industrial real estate. There simply isn’t the same market among industrial tenants for aesthetics as there is for office. Hines has however attempted to carry over its engineering expertise. The firm’s industrial development portfolio now spans more than 45 million square feet with an additional 8 million square feet on the way. The firm’s latest industrial park is a 97-acre project in Bartow County, Georgia, outside Atlanta. 

New multifamily developments have given Hines’ the opportunity to bring its vision of quality to families. A few short years ago Hines’ made headlines by entering the multifamily market with a few small mid-level developments. To date, Hines has developed or acquired 63 properties totaling nearly 20,000 units. Work is underway on The Preston, soon to be Hines’ flagship multifamily development. The 46-story tower, part of a development that also includes construction of a 47-story office tower, will be the tallest residential tower in Downtown Houston. Designed by Munoz + Albin Architecture & Planning and the Mayfield and Ragni Studio, The Preston promises to be another jewel in Houston’s crown. 

“We are excited to kick off construction on our most impressive residential community to date,” said Kevin Batchelor, senior managing director, Hines. “With its world-class architecture, balance of amenities and services, and irreplaceable location in downtown’s new urban core, Block 42 (now The Preston) will set a new standard for high-rise living in Houston.”

Most of Hines’ work in the multifamily space has been as a merchant developer, cashing in on projects not long after completion and rent stabilization. As the multifamily side of Hines’ business has grown, the firm is finally moving into multifamily management of its luxury towers, urban mid-rises and traditional garden-style apartments. Dubbed Willowick Residential, after  Hines’ first multifamily residential building in Houston’s River Oaks area,

“Rooted in the expertise of our regional offices, our growing and successful multifamily division has expanded for-rent apartment development activity throughout the United States,” said Jeff Hines, president and CEO of Hines.

There’s practically nothing Hines hasn’t developed. Some of the world’s largest malls, stadiums, theaters, hotels, master planned communities, condos, senior living and tallest buildings have been brought from the page to the physical world by the international firm. With the ability to develop anything, anywhere, there’s always opportunities to be had. A diverse portfolio of projects across the entire globe has distributed risk for the private enterprise. Growing up around Houston’s oil and gas industry, Hines’ figured out how to ride boom and busts early. Hines weather Houston’s oil crash in the 70s, then again in 2013, relying on equity partners and a flight to quality to fight the tide. 

2020 was a year of challenges, even for those businesses still making money. Hines’ diverse portfolio has buoyed Hines among the turbulent waves. If Hines’ can maintain its signature quality amid a rapidly expanding development pipeline, the pandemic will prove to be yet another chapter in the firm’s storied history.

Associate Editor
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