The Strength Of DFW Will Keep Hines Developing During The Pandemic
The Dallas-Fort Worth office market's absorption rate is already down to negative 3.4M SF for the year, based on new research from Younger Partners, so Hines Managing Director Ben Brewer could be sweating the condition of the capital markets and investor appetite for new developments in office, multifamily and mixed-use.
But he isn't. Brewer said in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Hines has 21 projects underway across five asset types in the Metroplex, and another two undisclosed developments in the works.
Finding capital for construction may be a problem in some markets and for some asset types in the midst of the pandemic and commercial real estate is wallowing in uncertainty about its future, but Hines is still betting on Dallas-Fort Worth in a big way.
"We want to lean forward and still be cautious and smart about how we approach things," Brewer said.
That has included looking at individual neighborhoods that may be more stable bets for investment. Brewer identified Uptown Dallas as one example, saying it has performed well over the last 15 years. The firm is also looking at demographics, and it is reassured by the immigration of 130,000 new Metroplex residents each year, according to Census Bureau data, and the steady stream of corporate relocations the DFW area has enjoyed for years.
Add that all up, and Brewer said he isn't worried about Hines having the wingspan to take on new projects in the coming five years or finding capital partners willing to bet on the area's demographics. The firm's partnership model allows it to take on those risks with money from all sides justifying each play in DFW.
"At Hines, we are always looking to be thought leaders and partners with our various capital groups, so whenever we do something, it is a group decision," Brewer said.
Among the projects in the works, Hines, in partnership with Westdale Real Estate Investment and Management and Ivanhoé Cambridge, is developing the 16-story mixed-use The Stack building, which features 15K SF of retail and 200K SF of office in Deep Ellum. Other big-spend projects include the 39-story The Victor residential tower outside of Downtown Dallas, which opens in December, and the 23-story Victory Center office destination in Victory Park.
Brewer admits developers and capital providers may operate differently over the next five to six years — and even switch their product focus away from density in office and residential projects — but Hines intends to keep developing.
The firm did have to switch up its design focus a bit since the onset of the pandemic, shifting its interior building materials and layouts to be more welcoming to office workers after the coronavirus.
"On The Stack, we really rolled up our sleeves and got the team together and did about three weeks of whiteboarding and came up with a strategy that we felt we could give to our tenants, and that was to have a frictionless or touchless path from your car all the way up to your office space, so that deals with a lot of different touchpoints," Brewer said.