Megadeal Makers


Arlington pulled the trigger on a new air-conditioned stadium for the Texas Rangers before other cities could blink. 

Toyota secretly showed interest in one of Plano’s most-sought-after properties for a new North American headquarters not long after the tract hit the market. 

Craig Hall waited more than 20 years to develop high-profile properties in the Arts District in Dallas. Additionally, in 1990, he had the foresight to buy 160 acres in Frisco for a master-planned office project decades before Jerry Jones moved the headquarters for the Dallas Cowboys across the street. 

All of these mega deals have a story behind them, whether it’s hard bargaining, tapping relationships, or just the patience to wait years to complete a vision. Sometimes, city officials don’t know who they are negotiating with until a deal is finalized. 

“Dallas is really on fire right now. It’s a great place to be in the real estate business,” said Hall, chairman and founder of the HALL Group. “We’re long-term holders, and we develop when the timing is right. You have to be kind of crazy and stay with them. A lot of things have to come together at the same time. But frankly, that’s what makes it fun.” 

True to Texas’ reputation, the dealmakers in Dallas-Fort Worth are larger-than-life figures and household names. The roster includes Ross Perot Jr., the mastermind behind AllianceTexas in Fort Worth; John Goff, whose influence extends all over Uptown Dallas; and Hall, a Michigan native whose portfolio extends from downtown Dallas to Frisco. 

Developers like Bill Cawley have shaped the landscape along the Dallas North Tollway. The vision of real estate moguls like Sam Ware and Harlan Crow will bring new life to decades-old buildings such as the former J.C. Penney headquarters in Plano and Old Parkland Hospital in Dallas. 

And it’s not just a men’s club, either. Women like Sabine Gaedeke Stener and Lucy Billingsley are shaping the employment centers of the future with major projects that include One Legacy West (Plano), 17Seventeen McKinney Tower (Uptown Dallas) and Cypress Waters (Coppell). 

The building boom that North Texas is experiencing means more deals are getting done now than in recent years, including speculative office buildings and warehouses. 

Hall has been at this a long time and he doesn’t think the region is overbuilding right now. 

“We need to be thoughtful and careful as a development community not to overbuild, and I don’t think we are at this point,” Hall said. “I think we’re building just what we need to build.” 

Here, we look at some of the biggest deals in North Texas and how they happened. 


Keeping AT&T 

For years, downtown Dallas became a ghost town after 5 p.m. as suburban flight pushed people farther north. Just in the last decade, that trend has reversed, with downtown Dallas growing from about 200 residents 10 years ago to 11,000 today and many more coming, said Kourtny Garrett, president and CEO of Downtown Dallas Inc.

As patient as he is, even Hall never expected it would take 20 years to develop the mixed-use HALL Arts development at Ross Avenue and Leonard Street. 

He kick-started the HALL Arts development with the 18-story KPMG Plaza at Hall Arts, which opened in 2015. The next phase will be HALL Arts Residences and HALL Arts Hotel, a $250-million, 25-story residential and hotel building. The development will add 44 luxury condominiums and 183 hotel rooms to the downtown mix. 

“Downtown is coming back as the urban parts of Dallas are doing well,” Hall said. 

The influx of young, educated residents back into downtown and Uptown helped Downtown Dallas Inc. grease the wheels for other big deals, including AT&T’s decision to keep its headquarters on Akard Street. 

“We were right at the table holding hands with them the entire way,” Garrett said. “They were interested in both their existing location and several others that were outside of downtown. They are trying to compete with tech talent, and what tech talent wants is urban living. They feel like this gave them a leg up. Our role was to reinforce those decisions.” 

The Dallas-based telecom will invest $100 million in expanding, renovating, and opening up its headquarters while adding 500 new jobs. 

A new job center 

As the metro area pushed northward, Plano began positioning itself, not as a bedroom community but as a job center. Much of that responsibility falls to the city’s biggest cheerleader, Sally Bane. 

As executive director of economic development, Bane takes pride in the fact that the city is a net importer of jobs. 

“We have more jobs than we have workforce population in the city,” Bane said. “Plano has a very long, solid history of attracting companies all the way back to 1985, when Frito Lay made the important decision to locate its North American headquarters in Legacy Business Park.” 

The completion of the Sam Rayburn Tollway a decade ago opened up prime land near the Dallas North Tollway to development. Long owned by J.C. Penney, the land sat vacant just waiting for the right project to come along. 

“There’s always been a lot of interest but the land was controlled by J.C. Penney. Until they made the decision to put that 240 acres into play all those inquiries never developed into much,” Bane said. “We had over the years some very interesting opportunities to put a project on that land.” 

FedEx Office moved first, putting its world headquarters at the corner of the appropriately named Headquarters and Legacy drives. 

Then the mysterious meetings with an unidentified company started in late 2013. It’s not uncommon for corporate representatives to come in asking questions without revealing the companies for whom they work, Bane said. 

Though Bane and the other economic development employees didn’t know the name of the interested party, everyone  worked tirelessly without getting much sleep. 

“We never had an obsessive desire to figure out who it is,” she said. “Our biggest focus is always satisfying the site requirements of the project.” 

They also knew that area business leaders had been contacted and asked what they liked about working in Plano. Additionally, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport executives visited with representatives from the mystery suitor. 

“You can’t underestimate how solid of a business community we have,” Garrett said. “It reinforces [a company’s] decision-making. They can see the other global investments that are here.”

Then came the big reveal. Plano had beat out 100 other cities across the nation as the new location for Toyota’s North American headquarters. 

“We were absolutely delighted that it was Toyota,” Bane said, also praising the support from the Plano City Council and city administration to help drive the corporation’s decision

The Japanese automaker began moving into the eight-building, 2.1-million-square-foot campus in May and ultimately will have 4,000 people working there, mostly transplants from California. 

The Toyota campus marked the largest new office delivery in the second quarter in Texas. For the third quarter in 2017, Plano’s Legacy Central, at 900,000 square feet, will be the largest and is revitalizing  the former Texas Instruments headquarters at Legacy Drive and U.S. 75. 


Silicon Valley comes to Alliance 

Fort Worth has had its share of mega deals, too. Tower cranes soar over the trees south of Dallas Fort Worth International Airport where American Airlines’ new $350 million headquarters is being built. 

Bell Helicopter is spending $235 million to expand its operations, too. 

City incentives were key to retaining these longtime Fort Worth staples. 

Then, there was another mysterious newcomer who came knocking. 

The unidentified company wanted to build a billion-dollar data center in the Alliance area of north Fort Worth. 

From the size of the project and the utility demands, it had to be one of the giant Silicon Valley companies, said Robert Sturns, economic development director for the city of Fort Worth. 

“They held everything close to the vest,” Sturns said. “We really weren’t sure who the company was the entire time we were negotiating. We knew it was a data center project.” 

Finally, it was revealed that the mystery suitor was none other than Facebook. 

“Having that name locate within Fort Worth was amazing because, obviously, Facebook has widespread appeal,” Sturns said. 


Arlington throws other cities a curve ball 

The Texas Rangers still had seven years left on its lease for Globe Life Park, but that didn’t stop endless sports debates about other cities courting the Major League Baseball team. 

Rumors swirled that Dallas could steal them away with an air-conditioned stadium near downtown Dallas. 

Arlington City Manager Trey Yelverton made sure that never happened by offering the Rangers a deal on a stadium with a retractable roof just south of the existing one. The surprise announcement came a year ago, and Arlington voters approved the city’s $500 million participation in November 2016. 

Construction on the Rangers new ballpark is just starting and is expected to be finished in time for the 2020 baseball season. 

“By moving ahead and building the facility now we’ll be able to have larger attendance and bring in more revenue,” Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams said. “We’ll be able to do year-round events with that retractable roof. And there are no questions about whether they are leaving or not.” 

In a separate but also critical deal, Arlington fulfilled its promise to bring entertainment, restaurants, and hotels within walking distance of the baseball stadium with Texas Live! The Cordish Cos. broke ground on the mixed-use project this summer, and it’s expected to be open in late summer 2018. 

“It’ll be a great opportunity for fans to come before and after games,” Williams said. “Even when there’s no games going on there, Texas Live! will have concerts and sports watch parties.”  

Much like the Dallas Cowboys deal a decade prior, the Rangers’ new stadium was all about relationships and reputation, Yelverton said. 

“Mayor [Robert] Cluck was here when the Cowboys Stadium came and he formed a relationship with [Cowboys owner] Mr. [Jerry] Jones to pursue that opportunity, much the same way that Mayor Williams did with the Rangers ownership and the Cordish Group,” he said.

It also helped that the Arlington mayor was a civil engineer who worked more than 20 years ago on the development of Globe Life Park, the Rangers’ current ballpark. 

Arlington has a proven track record with both teams of being able to execute these types of deals. 

“We were coming from a position of strength as it relates to the long-term relationship with the franchise,” Yelverton said. 


Partner at Billingsley Company

Real estate mogul Lucy Billingsley has been a fixture in Dallas since she founded Billingsley Company with husband Henry in 1978. She’s got her fingerprints on apartments, offices, retail, industrial, and master planned mixed-use projects. 

She’s perhaps best known for Cypress Waters in far northwest Dallas/Coppell and One Arts Plaza in the Arts District. Cypress Waters mixes offices, townhomes, and retail space. Major headquarters such as 7-Eleven have already opened headquarters in the development, with Brinker International and Signet Jewelers moving in next year. 

Billingsley also made a statement with the One Arts Plaza in the Arts District that lights up with an LED square every night. The building houses corporate offices, residences and retail space. 


CEO of Cawley Partners

Bill Cawley’s legacy can be seen by driving the Dallas North Tollway, where his Class A offices dominate the horizon. From North Dallas to Addison, he’s developed 1 million square feet of office space in the last decade alone. That includes the Fourteen 555 building on the Tollway, north of Interstate 635, that will be the new headquarters for Occidental Petroleum Corp. 

Over the course of his 30-year-career, Cawley has acquired or developed more than 12 million square feet of office space. 

The Chicago native’s Cawley Partners is based in Dallas. This year, D CEO Magazine named Cawley one of the most influential business leaders in North Texas.


Chairman and CEO of Crow Holdings

The son of legendary real estate magnate Trammell Crow, Harlan Crow carries on the real estate legacy. 

The private family business manages real estate, investments, and other capital. Crow has worked  at the firm since 1974 and became CEO in 1988. 

One of Crow’s biggest deals is the renovation of the Old Parkland Hospital on Oak Lawn Avenue in Dallas. Work is underway on transforming the century-old hospital into an exclusive office for Crow Holdings headquarters and other tenants who want to keep a low profile. 

Crow’s portfolio includes other Dallas landmarks such as the Anatole Hotel and the Dallas Market Center. 


Chairman & CEO of Crescent Real Estate Holdings

From the sparkling new McKinney & Olive tower to the newly remodeled Crescent, John Goff’s fingerprints are all over some of Uptown Dallas’ most exclusive addresses. 

The Fort Worth investor’s portfolio extends throughout North Texas and across the country, and includes  hotels, upscale condominiums, and resorts. 

Goff co-founded Crescent Real Estate Equities in the early 1990s and went public in 1994. Just 13 years later, the company had grown from $500 million to $6.5 billion in value. 

In 2009, Goff led a joint venture to buy his company back.


Chairman and founder of HALL Group

Craig Hall got into real estate at age 18 and has never looked back. He’s developed office towers, corporate campuses, hotels, and owns a California winery. 

He’s also an avid art collector.

The Michigan native moved to Dallas in the 1980s and thrived until the real estate crash of 1986. 

Most recently, he opened KPMG Tower at Hall Arts, an office building in the Arts District in downtown Dallas. Construction has started on the land next to it on a 25-story luxury condominium and hotel tower. 

Hall plans to continue building upward on a parking lot east of Chase Tower on Ross Avenue.


Chairman of Perot Companies and Hillwood

The man behind the booming AllianceTexas development in north Fort Worth has been closing megadeals in North Texas for more than three decades. 

His master plan for the 18,000-acre Alliance as a live, work, and play area includes the new Facebook data center, Alliance Town Center, Charles Schwab Corp.’s new campus at Circle T Ranch, plenty of single-family houses and apartments, Alliance Airport, and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe intermodal hub, just to name a few.  His Hillwood Properties also is behind the Frisco Station development in Frisco.

There’s even talk of Perot developing a 70-story skyscraper in downtown Dallas that could rival Bank of America tower, currently the tallest building in North Texas. 

Perot also invests in startup companies through the family fund. 


CEO of Gaedeke Group

German-born Sabine Gaedeke Stener has been involved with Dallas real estate deals  for more than 20 years. The Gaedeke Group mostly remodels existing buildings into Class A offices. 

One of the company’s largest projects to date is the One Legacy West building in the shadow of Toyota’s North American headquarters and other corporate headquarters in Plano. 

The 14-story tower is set up for multiple tenants, helping it stand out among the single-occupant buildings. Stener made inroads into  Uptown Dallas by snatching up the 17Seventeen McKinney tower in 2016. 


Managing partner and CEO of Dreien Opportunity Partners

Sam Ware takes an unconventional approach to real estate by targeting older properties that need some TLC. He brings offices and retail centers into the modern age and turns them around for a nice profit within two to four years. 

Now the Dallas-based developer is taking on some of the biggest projects yet. He paid $350 million for the J.C. Penney campus in Plano. The retailer sold the sprawling campus as it downsized its headquarters space and leased it back.  Ware is preparing the space for multiple tenants. Ware and his business partner, Jeff Blakeley, have finalized a sales-leaseback deal for the former Parkland Hospital campus along Harry Hines Boulevard in Dallas, and will repurpose the 1.4-million-square-foot property as an amenities-rich development called The District.