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Houston CRE Mourns 'The Mayor Of Houston Retail' Ed Wulfe

Wulfe & Co. founder Ed Wulfe, known as the Mayor of Retail in Houston, died Sunday at age 85, the company confirmed to Bisnow Monday. 

With more than 50 years of experience, the real estate legend built a legacy of hard work, commitment, innovation, and trying to improve and give back to the community. He transformed retail properties to revitalize underperforming neighborhoods such as Gulfgate Shopping Center and Meyerland Plaza Shopping Center. He also developed BLVD Place, one of the first mixed-use projects in Houston. 

He had a knack for finding solutions to problems, said Jonathan Brinsden, the president of Midway, which built CityCentre, Houston's first mixed-use project.  

"There was never an opponent he wasn't willing to face," he said. "He loved to take on a challenge." 

Wulfe & Co. Chairman, CEO and founder Ed Wulfe

In 1985, Wulfe founded Wulfe & Co., a full-service commercial real estate company specializing in retail development, property management, leasing and sales, after spending 17 years at Weingarten Realty. His projects were always at the forefront of shopping center redevelopment trends, Brinsden said. 

In the early 1990s, Wulfe & Co. renovated Meyerland Plaza Shopping Center. The project earned two Legacy Awards for Deals That Made a Difference in 1995 and 1996, according to the company's website

"Ed was a pioneer in transforming Houston’s built environment and open spaces, particularly through projects such as the redevelopment of Gulfgate Center," Urban Land Institute Houston Executive Director David Kim said. "We will always admire Ed’s unparalleled commitment to the city of Houston and its residents." 

The redevelopment of Gulfgate Center transformed a neighborhood in decline and provided needed employment opportunities and services for an underserved community.

The project earned a 2012 Development of Distinction Award from ULI Houston, an organization that explores ways to use mixed- and land-use to build a thriving city. Wulfe served as chairman of ULI Houston 2001, among numerous community board positions.

BLVD Place, the Whole Foods-anchored mixed-use project in Uptown Houston, elevated the corner of Post Oak and San Felipe when it was delivered in 2015. The project has furthered the appeal of a sought-after area in Houston, and new apartments and restaurants are underway. 

"Each project had its own individual characteristics and qualities, however, there was a common thread among the three," said Wulfe & Co. President Bob Sellingsloh, who worked with Wulfe for nearly 40 years. "In their own unique way, each project had a significant positive impact on the surrounding area, which was extremely important to Ed."

BLVD Place

Wulfe was a mentor to Brinsden and many others in the real estate industry.

Brinsden met Wulfe nearly 25 years ago while Brinsden was developing his first project, a shopping center in Northeast Houston. Later that year, the two spent time together at the International Council of Shopping Centers national convention in Las Vegas.

That was beginning of a long relationship, Brinsden said. In 2010, Wulfe requested that Brindsen become the chair of ULI Houston. Brinsden said he originally hesitated. 

"Don't think about it. Just say yes," Brindsen said. "That was Ed." 

Wulfe had a dual career: commercial real estate and an endless list of civic causes, according to his colleagues.

"Professionally, he was creative, a visionary, fiercely competitive and incredibly optimistic," said Wulfe Management President Taryn Sims, who worked with Wulfe for 22 years. "On the personal side, he had a great sense of humor and a huge heart, which is why many of the employees of Wulfe & Co. have worked for the firm for decades. Ed was a remarkable man and truly a one of a kind.”

"Mr. Wulfe was an inspiration to us all not only to work hard for our clients but to be involved in our community and to give back to the city we live in," Wulfe & Co. Senior Vice President Kristen Barker said. "He did so much for Houston and has had such an impact on this town. He will be sorely missed by us all." 

Wulfe served as chairman of the Mayor's Main Street Coalition since 1998 and co-chaired the $100M Parks Bond Issue Campaign in 2012. He also served as chairman of the Stadium Land Redevelopment Committee, co-chairman of the Broadway Scenic Enhancement Committee, chairman of the board and president of the Houston Symphony, a founding member of the Greater Houston Partnership's Quality of Life Committee and the Steering Committee of Houston's Quality of Life Coalition.

He was a member of the executive committees of the Greater Houston Partnership, the Symphony and Scenic Houston, and the past president of Holocaust Museum Houston. He also served on the boards of Trees for Houston, Uptown Houston, Texas Bowl, Holocaust Museum Houston, the Foundation of the Texas Heart Institution and the Methodist Hospital Center for Performing Arts Medicine. 

Wulfe was well-respected by those inside and outside the Houston real estate industry. 

"Ed Wulfe spent decades reshaping Houston into the city we know," Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a statement. "Even if you didn’t know his name, you saw and experienced the significant ways he made our city better. … We will remember Mr. Wulfe as a titan whose vision and energy helped Houston evolve. I will miss his friendship and wise counsel." 

"Anyone that knew Mr. Wulfe knows he was the hardest worker of anyone in the industry and was known very affectionately as the Mayor of Retail real estate here in Houston. His impact will be seen for a very long time but will be sorely missed," Edge Realty principal Josh Jacobs said. 

Wulfe is survived by his wife, Lorraine, and their six children and 10 grandchildren.