Up Close with Jack Matthews
Jack Matthews breathed new life into South Side on Lamar and revitalized Big D’s convention industry with the development of the Omni Dallas. But, he’s nowhere close to done with the city. Here's the latest on his to-do list.
The head of Matthews Southwest (showing us his Big D model in his office, we had to resist the urge to play Godzilla and/or Mothra) is in the planning stages now for a 200 to 300-unit apartment deal in the South Side project, which should start this spring. He’s already got the South Side on Lamar apartments, the 164-unit Belleview building with a targeted July 31 opening, and The Beat condos (for sale) are at 80% sold and picking up, he says. The offices at South Side on Lamar are close to full and the upscale NYLO hotel has been open for about 18 months. He started stockpiling the South Side land in ’88. Today, he owns 112 acres in South Dallas between South Side and the convention center.
Jack (here at the Omni Convention Center hotel opening in 2011) admits to being a risk-taker, but considers himself an intelligent gambler, who went against the common wisdom and ventured south of I-30. The values are here, he tells us. The land was priced low (and some still is) and when he had an appraisal done, one parcel was purchased at $8/foot. Just 300 yards away, the land was $30/foot. That was the history, but history is changing. (Just don't tell that to any high school kids studying for the AP History exam.) Jack’s theory: if we own enough of it, we can change that. To achieve his goals, he had to start with low land costs (the lower, the better, he says). “We generally create value around it,” he tells us.
One universal component of Jack’s projects: they’re mixed-use and typically include a hotel or residential component. The key, he says, is to let the market dictate what goes into the spaces. He’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of developer. His latest project in development is on the northwest corner of Hwy 380 and the North Dallas Tollway, the land is just beyond the Tollway’s current reach at the southern edge of the property in Prosper. The first phase will feature a mix of retail, office, and residential; essentially creating an urban place. He’s in no hurry to get it built, though. “We’re very patient… there is no year-end quota that we have to meet. We are very selective and will start with the right pieces,” he says.
The Canadian set up shop in Texas in ’87 bringing along his wife (dancing with him here) and four kids in ’94 (the kids are now adults and scattered across the US). From the age of 5, he was traveling with his dad to construction sites and learning the business. After grad school, he went to work in the family business and ultimately ventured into the development side (which, he says, was a better fit for him than construction). That experience gave him a huge advantage with development, too, he says. When he’s not working, he’s adopted a new hobby in the past year: road biking. A normal weekend includes bike rides of 24 and 17 miles, respectively.