Up Close with Steve West
Granite’s next big move in Houston will probably be a value-add or redevelopment opportunity, director of leasing Steve West tells us. That’d be pretty nice for him—his existing portfolio doesn’t have much space available for him to lease.
We snapped Steve in Granite's office at Briarpark Green. It’s where he closed his all-time favorite deals. Granite developed Briarpark all spec, which was nerve-racking. But then Steve’s team signed back-to-back-to-back deals with Paragon Offshore, JGC America and Friede & Goldman for several floors apiece. It solidified leasing on the building, which reached 99% occupancy within nine months of delivery. Granite invests all cash (whether in development or acquisitions), so it’s looking for opportunities in Houston now, Steve says. So far nothing exciting has presented itself, but no one should be surprised if it snaps up a value-add building or redevelopment opportunity.
Steve started out in new home sales but switched to tenant rep office leasing in the early ‘80s because he didn’t want to work weekends anymore. (He had just gotten married and started having kids, and he never got to see them.) He worked at Hank Dickerson & Co for a few years and then in 1985, he did a deal with Paragon Group and met Scott Martin. He and Doug Knauss brought Steve on board at Paragon to handle its first third-party gig, leasing 1415 Louisiana. (Now it’s known as Wedge Tower; back then they called it the Tootsie Roll Building.)
Leasing that building was one of his hardest assignments, and Steve (here with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and only grandchild) tells us signing Exxon to 200k SF there was the most difficult deal of his career. The location was great (catty-corner to Exxon’s HQ at 800 Bell), but he had to relocate a half dozen tenants and give huge concessions to get Exxon on board. (It wasn’t uncommon to give two years free rent on a five-year deal back then, he says, and the Exxon deal topped that). But then Exxon renewed and made it all worthwhile. Steve believes renewals are the most valuable deals you can do, and they're his current focus; Granite’s Houston portfolio is over 90% leased, so now he’s mostly working hard to keep everyone in place.
One of Steve’s favorite things is entertaining people. He loves hosting broker events, including extreme racing in the Nevada desert and Baja, Mexico (he’s pictured here between Avison Young's Terry Holmes and CBRE's Kevin Saxe on one of those Baja trips—they got pulled over by the Federales there) and wine trips to the Hill Country. He’ll be taking some broker buddies on one of those next month.
Here’s Steve with his wife, three daughters and son. They’re spread all over the country, so Steve’s vacations these days are hopping between Colorado, Portland and Montana to visit his girls. (His son’s still in Houston.) One day, he’d love to go to Europe instead and cross-country ski. Back at home, he loves golfing and goes almost every week.