To ensure delivery, please add to your address book
Sign Up for Free! | Forward to a Friend
If you don't see images, click here to view
Story Ideas  •  Events  
Real Estate Bisnow
Legal BisnowWomen BisnowTech BisnowAssociation BisnowNYC Real Estate
November 26, 2007


Sponsor Update:  Our friends at Total Engineering have won several new sitework projects including Tyser Tower at U. Maryland’s Byrd Stadium with Clark Construction and FDA Building One in Silver Spring with Grunley Construction, among others. Congrats, guys!

As a spry 84-year-old, West*Group founder Jerry Halpin seems like a mix of Billy the Kid, Forrest Gump, and King Midas:  a modern day cowboy who’s had his finger in a lot of things, most of which turn into money.  Over the last 40 years, West*Group has developed over 13M SF of office, retail, and residential and holds the title as largest single land owner in Tysons with 142 acres.  We dropped by to catch up with the self-made mogul last week:  This Wednesday, he’ll be honored with ULI’s Lifetime Achievement Award at dinner for 700 at the National Building Museum. 

After being rejected from the Marines for bad eyesight, Jerry got his start in construction during WWII as a Navy Seabee. (Motto: “We build, we fight!”) In fact, after 63 years, he just got back from revisiting Kwajalein Atoll, where his construction battalion spent 7 months before heading to Guam.  Never one to sit on the sidelines, Jerry recalled bribing pilots to take him along on bombing missions with cat’s eye quartz he found on the beach.  Postwar, the Scranton, PA native was anxious to get back to college, so despite acceptances to Harvard and Penn, he went quickly to Syracuse.  Besides being an econ major and working full time for Retail Credit (now Halifax), he made his first foray into real estate:  buying two old houses, fixing them up, and collecting rent from 30 boarders.

After graduating, and a stint at Georgetown Law, Jerry went to work for the Atlantic Research Company–inventors of solid fuel for nuclear warheads–and to whose missile Jerry points on his boardroom wall; he got the job after a few winning rounds of poker with the company boss.  But how’d he go from nukes to real estate?  While at Atlantic, he was in charge of M&A and looked at real estate investments.  In 1960 he left and formed Commonwealth Capital which developed the 700k SF Landmark Center in Alexandria.

Jerry says “people are always looking for the West family behind West*Group” even though the company started in 1962 when he and Tom Nicholson, Rudolph Seeley, and Charlie Ewing bought the Storm and Ulfelder dairy farms and turned them into the West*Gate Office Park. Their strategy was buying on the Beltway between the two airports. After a while there were so many Wests—West*Gate, West*Park, West*Land, etc.—they decided to lump them all together as the West*Group.  Speaking of which, after falling in love with the real West during his honeymoon in 1950, Jerry now spends a lot of time at his family ranch in Jackson Hole where he says he finds grizzly prints like the one above.  The serial entrepreneur also developed Indian Springs Ranch there; chairs Western Interiors & Design magazine; and founded both recycling company World Resources and Green Sea, a venture looking into alternative carbon capture.

The Irish wit hasn’t escaped Jerry:  He introduced us to the office mascot, “Old Jerry,” and we jumped two feet when he flipped on barking dog sound effects from a speaker outside his office door.  As for the future of Tysons, he’d like to help move it away from being a suburban office park to a quasi-urban destination.  West*Group plans eventually to demolish all its Class B office buildings and rebuild with a focus on residential and high-density mixed-use.  Jerry will no doubt accomplish that in his next 40 years.

Reznick Group
Total Engineering
Cardinal Bank
Advertise with Bisnow
CONTACT EDITORIAL                             CONTACT ADVERTISING                              CONTACT GENERAL INFO

This newsletter is a journalistic news source which accepts no payment for featured interviews. It is supported by conventional advertisers clearly identified in the right hand column. You have been selected to receive it either through prior contact or professional association. If you have received it in error, please accept our apologies and unsubscribe at bottom of the newsletter. © 2007, Bisnow on Business, Inc., 1700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 400 Washington, DC 20006. All rights reserved.

 | Subscribe
 |  Forward to a Friend