Q&A With Granite CEO Michael Dardick & COO Greg Fuller: 25 Years
For 25 years, Granite Properties has been changing the real estate game. Since it began in 1991, the company has purchased and developed more than 20M SF of commercial real estate. Bisnow sat down with founder/CEO Michael Dardick and president/COO Greg Fuller to get to know the men behind the properties and see what's coming down the line for the firm.
Bisnow: Congratulations on Granite’s 25th anniversary. When you look back at the beginning of the company in 1991, how do you think you and the firm have changed?
Michael Dardick: Monumentally. We were in an executive suite with one person trying to get in the real estate business. Today we’re a collection of 165 or so people in five states and lots of different disciplines, so it's a much, much greater, more complicated and more capable firm than we probably thought about.
Bisnow: Granite has taken 2016 to re-evaluate the market. What's the strategy as we move into summer?
Greg Fuller: Well, as we move into summer I’d say the economy and the overall landscape is a little more uncertain so we’re cautious and trying to read the tea leaves as we move forward—like everyone else in the investment community.
Michael: I would add to that, Greg oversees our development teams and we’ve got $350M to $400M of development underway in various markets so we’re very focused on executing on the construction. Leasing at the ground level still seems to be great. I think Greg’s right, from the capital market standpoint it’s a little bit violent.
Bisnow: Granite recently acquired Factory SIX03. Where does that project stand now and do you have any other major projects in the works?
Greg: Factory SIX03 is under construction. It’s an older building, built in 1903, and we’re having to go through the demolition side of it to reconstruct what was there. We’re preserving all the historic value of the building, but still making it new and modern for the creative type of use. It will be a completely new building with new systems. The building has been dormant for the last 10 years so we’re trying to bring it back to life.
In addition to Factory SIX03, we have developments all over the country, including Denver and North Dallas where we just finished a 300k SF office building called Granite Park 5, with Granite Park 4 just prior to that. We’re building another 40k SF of retail amenity-type shops with restaurants to better serve this entire area. This area is just booming.
Michael: Also we just kicked off a 300k SF development in Southeast Denver, Granite Place at Village Center, which is really exciting.
Bisnow: Are you planning on entering any new markets?
Michael: I’d say currently no. At the moment we’re really filling out our existing markets. We have Denver to the point where we’ve got a really nice portfolio. Same thing in Atlanta. In Southern California, we’re still building out the footprint. Every year, we look at where we’re headed and where we’re going so we’ll certainly continue to look at new markets but right now we’re still focused on those markets.
Bisnow: Since you’re HQ’d in Dallas, what trends do you predict for Dallas and for Texas as a whole?
Greg: Texas as a whole, and Far North Dallas, did not experience the downturn to the same level that some parts of the country did and so we didn’t have as much to recover from. This is just a wonderful place to be, both Dallas and Texas in general.
Michael: We’ve created some urbanity in a place that was really the prairie. I think you’re seeing that in Uptown, Richardson, Preston Center, Legacy and I could go though Austin and Houston and say the same thing. I think from a real estate perspective, the city is really maturing, making it attractive to Millennials.
Bisnow: Have you noticed, not just in this market, that they’re incorporating more live/work/play spaces?
Greg: That’s what I think you’re seeing in the areas Michael just mentioned, the ability to have all of those amenities close to where you live. One reason being that the traffic is much greater than it used to be. People don’t want to have to commute an hour and half to work every day, but you still want all the amenities of a true urban experience.
Bisnow: On to the fun stuff! What is your favorite TV show?
Greg: Right now, it’s The Voice. The talent on that show it just incredible.
Michael: In addition to The Voice, which we both love, I would add Modern Family.
Bisnow: Favorite job pre-real estate?
Michael: I’d have to say lifeguarding.
Greg: Being a character at Six Flags. Every day I would dress up as a different Looney Tunes character. I’d walk around the park and do the kids' shows.
Michael: I was also a clown that blew up balloon animals.
Bisnow: Looking back on 25 years, what would you say is your biggest professional and personal achievement?
Michael: It’s undoubtably the ability to assemble a team of unbelievable people that have figured out how to create a culture to work in and make something even bigger than before. It’s been really fun and fascinating to see one plus one equal four in terms of people.
Greg: We have 165 people that have, over the last 25 years, created a great place to work. Because of that, we’ve been able to do great things in the building world that we’re all very proud of.
Michael: It’s funny that we’re in the very physical business of real estate, we buy and build. As a firm though, we think of ourselves as a people firm, so these buildings are just great wrappers that allow people to go on and live their lives. Everything that goes on inside the building is just as important as what it looks like.