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Legends Of Multifamily, Office Construction: Developers Are Now Event Planners

The Allen Morris Co.'s W. Allen Morris, Westdale Asset Management's Dennis Trimarchi, Billingsley Co.'s Lucy Billingsley, Westdale Asset Management's Joseph Beard, Bay Mountain Capital's Will Dyer

Commercial real estate legends Billingsley Co. partner Lucy Billingsley and The Allen Morris Co. CEO W. Allen Morris had an unconventional message for office and multifamily developers at Bisnow’s Deep Ellum event in Dallas Wednesday: You are no longer just builders. You must create communities that inspire, encourage and make life easier for office and apartment tenants. 

That can mean planning special activities or helping millennials give up their cars in search of a more gas-free existence.

“We are becoming much more of an events company than a real estate company,” Billingsley said during a panel discussion in Deep Ellum’s new office tower, The Epic, developed by Westdale and KDC.

The paradigm has definitely shifted to where developers are having to think about what their multifamily or office products can actually do for tenants, she said.

A yoga studio, a coffee bar, a certain restaurant, Uber and Lyft lanes, or an easy walking path to a nearby work space can make the difference in the lives of tenants.

Petros PACE Finance's Dustin Gabriel, Billingsley Co.'s Sumner Billingsley, KDC Development Vice President Greg Trimarchi, Allen Morris Co. Executive Vice President Spencer Morris and Westdale Asset Management Development associate PJ Beard

Billingsley Co. Vice President Sumner Billingsley said decisions as granular as determining whether a specific building or community will host Wine Wednesdays or host a musical group may now be part of developing a multifamily or office concept.

“We are taking on a lot more of the programming and building the community,” Sumner Billingsley said.

This quick evolution of the developer’s role prompted Billingsley to start its own events company, she said.

Walkability and transportation ease for residents are a key area of focus for Morris, since millennials are less attached to cars than past generations were.

Effective mixed-use development is now about fostering a situation where “you create a total environment for people for living, working, playing and celebrating,” he said. 

Today's developers also must focus their efforts on curating the right retail for specific locations, Morris said, adding that “creating a sense of space is where you create value.”