Up Close With Jack Matthews
We like catching up with Canadians who are also doing big things south of the border. And it doesn't get bigger than Big D. Jack Matthews, who grew up in London, Ont., has been busy making his mark in the Dallas area (with the temperature differences, who could blame him?).
Jack is building a reputation as a formidable developer, in particular breathing new life into South Side on Lamar and revitalizing Big D's convention industry with the development of the Omni Dallas. He also just completed the 2M SF Bow office tower in Calgary, with residential and commercial development work in Vancouver on his to-do list (as well as the completion of a 600k SF warehouse in Toronto).
The Canadian set up shop in Texas in '87, bringing 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 development (which, he says, was a better fit for him than construction). He's adopted a new hobby in the past year: road biking. A normal weekend can include 17- or 24-mile rides
He spends half his time in Dallas, the other half in Canada. The head of Matthews Southwest (showing us his Big D model in his office; Lego has a future in selling kids on city planning) is in the beginning stages of a 200- to 300-unit apartment deal in the Dallas South Side project, which should start this spring. He's already got the South Side on Lamar apartments, the 164-unit Bellevue building with a targeted July 31 opening. He started stockpiling the South Side land in '88 and owns 112 acres today.
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 land was priced low (and some still is), and when he had an appraisal done, one parcel was purchased at $8/SF. Just 300 yards away, the land was $30/SF. (What magic happened in those 300 yards? Well, you wouldn't believe us if we told you.)
One universal component of Jack's projects: they're mixed-use and typically include a hotel or residential component. (Above is The Bow in Calgary.) The key, he says, is to let the market dictate what goes into the spaces. He's not a one-size-fits-all developer. His latest project in development is on the northwest corner of Hwy 380 and the North Dallas Tollway. The first phase will feature a mixture of retail, office, and residential, essentially creating an urban place.