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Q&A With Highland Park Village Owner Ray Washburne

It’s hard to pin down Charter Holdings CEO Ray Washburne for 10 minutes. Constantly on the go, neither he, nor his deals, stop. We grabbed him for a quick phone call to ask him a handful of questions about what’s on his agenda.


Bisnow: Ray, you wear a lot of hats as the co-founder of MCrowd Restaurant Group (which created Mi Cocina and Taco Diner) and as the CEO of your real estate investment company, Charter Holdings.

Ray: We own the oldest and first shopping center in the US: the 250k SF Highland Park Village. I’m also the co-founder of Taco Diner and Mi Cocina. We have 46 restaurants and we own the Katy Trail Icehouse. We have retail, office, industrial properties and single-family developments throughout Texas, Colorado and Louisiana. 

Bisnow: How did you get your start in business?

Ray: I started as a kid doing different businesses and paid my way through college (at SMU) and brokering my way through deals. 

Bisnow: What’s next on your business agenda? 

Ray: I’m always on the lookout for new things to invest in. It really depends on what becomes available. We’re in a booming economy in DFW; things are pretty fully priced. There’s no particular area that has more opportunities than another. We’re looking for something that becomes available for some reason.


Bisnow: Since acquiring Highland Park Village in 2009 for a record-setting $164M, you’ve been changing up tenancy by bringing in new and one-of-a-kind luxury retailers, as well as not renewing some of the stalwarts like Patrizio’s? What are you plans for the center?

Ray: Continuing the evolution

Bisnow: What's the best thing about the Metroplex?

Ray: I think our job growth is tremendous. 

Bisnow: What's the worst thing?

Ray: There are two things: the public school system and the need to grow our transportation network.

Bisnow: What's your favorite dish? 

Ray: The El Ray at Mi Cocina (It’s a choice of one cheese, chicken, beef or spinach enchilada; pork or sweet corn tamale; seasoned ground beef and shredded chicken on either corn or flour tortilla or hard shell taco; served with Spanish rice, refried beans served with chips and salsa, chili con queso, and Rico salad with Tex-Mex dressing.)


Bisnow: Tell us about your family.

Ray: Well, there is always something going on in our house with my wife, Heather, (pictured, with Ray) and our three kids. It’s wonderful to watch them grow and there’s never a dull moment.

Bisnow: What’s motivates you to work harder?

Ray: The thrill and satisfaction of solving problems.

Bisnow: What would you like people to know about you?

Ray: I’m a creative guy. I enjoy inserting creativity into all of my projects.

Bisnow: Ray shared his professional bio with us. So, here’s some background info you may not know about Ray.

Ray facts: He was the national finance chairman for Chris Christie for President and previously for the Federal PAC Leadership Matters for America. He served two years as the finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, co-chairman of Texas for Mitt Romney, and as the national finance chairman for Tim Pawlenty for President. Ray served as an adjunct professor at the SMU Cox School of Business. Ongoing involvement and board memberships include the World Presidents’ Organization, Veritex Bank, The Real Estate Council, International Council of Shopping Centers, Urban Land Institute, SMU O’Neil Center Advisory Board, SMU Tower Center and Baylor Health Care System Foundation.