At 91, Gerald Hines sees his privately held global real estate investment, development and management company from the point of view of one who’s been there and done that.
Make that a lot of “there” and “that.” The Hines company has a presence in 192 cities in 20 countries.
Reflecting on his career, Hines shared with developers, brokers and other real estate industry professionals Monday night that his success came from identifying and pursuing opportunities, with a twist.
“We’ve always tried to do something that creates a point of difference in our projects,” he told 310 members and guests at a sold-out meeting of the Urban Land Institute North Florida at the Omni Jacksonville Hotel Downtown.
Hines, a graduate of Purdue University with a degree in mechanical engineering, founded the company in 1957 in Houston.
As founder and chairman, he also is a co-owner with his son Jeffrey. He sits on the executive committee, continues to participate in deal-making and advises the firm’s offices about architecture.
In North Florida, the Hines reach includes Palencia in St. Johns County and in Jacksonville, The Markets at Town Center and a mixed-use project along Gate Parkway, south of St. Johns Town Center.
Jacksonville-based developer Peter Rummell, chairman of RummellMunz and former global chair of ULI, led the interview with Hines.
When Rummell asked Hines about his current attitude, Hines said he was fairly comfortable with the world, although he had one concern.
“I’m a little concerned about Mr. Trump, where he is going to be taking us,” Hines said.
Hines said “hopefully he will have some very good advisers and will be in good hands.”
Rummell quickly summarized that as “guarded optimism” and the only other comment about new President Donald Trump was when he opened up the event to questions.
“We do not want to talk about Mr. Trump, but anything else is fair game,” Rummell said.
Hines told the group he started his career building warehouses then expanded his base, but always with a focus on quality materials.
He said the company’s reputation was built “brick by brick.”
As an honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Hines has a focus on design. It led to his support of the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design at the University of Houston.
Asked about trends, Hines said two were how society handles the automobile and how land in major cities was becoming more difficult to find for development.
The group also talked about trends in driving, such as autonomous automobiles, ride-sharing services such as Uber and organized transportation that could change the parking and commuting needs for residents and employees.
Rummell discussed The District, which he proposes on the Southbank. The project’s focus on healthy lifestyles is designed to bring generations together.
Hines then shared that his company plans a project in New York City for elderly residents with diminished mental capacity.
Designed for New York families who can afford it, rent will be $18,000 a month, a reflection of the cost of real estate there.
While Hines doesn’t see that price point being replicated in many places, he does see more housing being created for senior living.
He said his group is “quite positive and optimistic about Florida.”
He considers development to be less complicated in Jacksonville than in South Florida.
“In Jacksonville, you know pretty much where you stand,” he said.
The event also included a look at the annual Emerging Trends in Real Estate report researched and reported by the Urban Land Institute and the PwC advisory and tax services firm.
Metropolitan Jacksonville’s overall real estate prospects are looking generally good, it found.
Actually, they appear to be better than Palm Beach, Naples, Gainesville and Tallahassee, and a lot sunnier than Daytona Beach.
Those points were made clear on a map included with the 38th edition of the Emerging Trends in Real Estate report.
There was Jacksonville with a green dot — “generally good” — sharing that status with Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando and Tampa/St. Petersburg.
Cape Coral/Fort Myers/Naples along with Gainesville, Palm Beach and Tallahassee were scored with a yellow “fair” dot.
The only red dot, signifying “generally poor,” was for Deltona/Daytona Beach.
Overall, Jacksonville ranked No. 47 of 78 U.S. metro areas for the “Markets to Watch” for overall real estate prospects this year. Last year it was No. 53.
Topping the national list were Austin, at No. 1, and Dallas/Fort Worth at No. 2.
Last on the list was Buffalo, N.Y., preceded by Hartford, Conn., and Deltona/Daytona Beach.
“Neighborhood and niche are the way to look for investments in Jacksonville in 2017,” the report wrote in its analysis, citing a quote from a ULI focus group participant.
That means performance in the market likely varies significantly by location and product type.
For example, strong population growth supports housing growth, but difficulty in finding developable lots and enough qualified labor is holding back supply and possibly pushing prices that could cause market affordability to suffer, it said.
The plus side, it said, is the multifamily market continues to be solid.
The report said Jacksonville shares a number of characteristics with other secondary and tertiary markets in the survey.
Those markets tend to offer affordable business and living cost structures; economic and demographic growth that exceeds the national average; and steady real estate fundamentals.
While that creates an active local real estate market, the report said, it also is one that has difficulty attracting the attention of national real estate market participants.
There are bright spots.
“Jacksonville may have an advantage in reversing this trend due to the popularity of the region as a vacation and second-home mortgage market,” the report found.
Visitors and part-time residents can see the market up close, and that could help improve the perception of Jacksonville, it said.