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Hines Vet Ready To Make His Mark 'On A Clean Sheet Of Paper' As Rockefeller Group Heads Southwest

Rockefeller Group is for the first time expanding its development, ownership and operating business into Texas, led by a Houstonian with 19 years of development experience.

New York-based Rockefeller, whose projects underway include a 61-story mixed-use tower in Atlanta, hired Philip Croker, a former senior managing director at Hines, to lead its new Southwest region. As a senior managing director for Rockefeller, Croker will handle real estate developments and operations in the Southwest, specifically Texas and Arizona, according to a news release.

Philip Croker

Arizona is an established market for Rockefeller, but Texas is new territory for the group. Croker told Bisnow that this is an exciting, rare opportunity for him to come in and start conducting business in a region “with a clean sheet of paper.” 

“The ability to create a team and hire a team and launch an investment strategy without any overhanging things from a previous regime is really intriguing,” Croker said. “You rarely see that kind of opportunity to have only a forward-looking view on the market.” 

Croker previously helped open and develop a team for Hines’ Austin office. During his 19 years with Hines, Croker contributed to the development of 609 Main at TexasTexas Tower and T3 Eastside

Croker is working for Rockefeller from a coworking space in Downtown Houston, but he plans to move to a more permanent location after building up the Southwest team, he said. A team is already in place in Phoenix, but there is a plan to have “boots on the ground” in Houston and Dallas.

“Texas continues to see strong demographic and corporate growth in all of the major cities, and those trends point towards ongoing opportunities in all sectors of commercial real estate, especially industrial and residential, and is a strong fit for us as we continue to expand our U.S. platform,” Tom Weeks, Rockefeller Group executive vice president and head of development, said in the news release.  

In his new role, Croker plans to focus on projects in the major metropolitan areas of Texas, including Austin, San Antonio, Houston and DFW, he said. Considering Texas’ consistent population growth, Croker said he foresees opportunities in living initiatives and distribution.

Though there are significant pipelines of multifamily and industrial deliveries, both are slowing, he said.

“My view is that once these deliveries happen, there's not a lot coming behind it, because it's just a very difficult market to be launching new developments in,” Croker said. “Our goal is to fill that pipeline void that we can see coming because people have an inability to focus on future development right now.”

Office will be less of a focus, he said. Houston vacancy hit an all-time high last quarter amid a statewide slump. And while Rockefeller is familiar with working on large-scale projects like the Atlanta tower and a 200K SF office and retail building in Denver, Croker said projects in Texas will start “on a scale of development that we can get our hands around.” 

“My career at Hines was largely very tall, very complicated developments, and they’re hard,” he said. “I think it would be slightly irresponsible to come out of the box with a team I frankly don’t know [and start with large projects]. … I’d rather incrementally get there.” 

Rockefeller is expanding in other regions throughout the country, said Brian Mahoney, assistant vice president of corporate communications for Rockefeller Group. In the last five years, Rockefeller opened offices in Washington, D.C., and Denver, he said. This week, it expanded its West region to include Seattle.

“I've been here 19 years, and it's definitely the most growth I've seen,” Mahoney said. “Houston has been a target for us for a while, so it’s terrific to have Mr. Croker.”