The Recession of 2008 doesn’t conjure fond memories for the real estate community. Housing prices crashed, spending declined, and commercial projects stopped dead in their tracks.
The Real Estate Council provided a beacon of hope during that dark time as industry professionals rallied around Michele Wheeler, the first woman to chair the organization.
Wheeler, now the president and COO of Jackson-Shaw, says during that time there was a renewed focus within TREC to make the community better. One of the biggest focus areas was finishing Klyde Warren Park.
“People were really engaged in Dallas, and they wanted to be better together,” Wheeler says. “It was a tough time for business, but it was a great time for people to come together. It really was a great time to be chair.”
TREC represents more than 2,000 industry professionals from 600 companies, including bankers, brokers, developers, attorneys, and architects.
Wheeler credits TREC veterans who mentored her over the years to prepare her for the role. That includes Tony Dona, Will Cureton, Michael Dardick, Will Mundinger, Jeff Swope, Sue Ansel, and Linda Owen.
That downturn in the economy is clearly in the rearview mirror with North Texas building at a frantic pace to keep up with the influx of newcomers moving here.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges to overcome, particularly how to keep brick and mortar stores relevant in the age of e-commerce convenience.
“Technology and the immediacy that people want goods and services has changed,” Wheeler says. “You can have something shipped to your house the same day. It’s constantly evolving, and technology is a big part of that.”
Through it all, TREC remains a vital tool for networking, sharing best practices, and staying ahead of the curve.
Wheeler remains involved in TREC while also running the day-to-day operations at Jackson-Shaw in Dallas. The private real estate firm is building 2.5 million square feet of industrial multi-tenant warehouses across the country.
Wheeler, who has been in the real estate business since 1987, says she remembers when 300,000 square feet was considered a large warehouse. The rise of fulfillment centers has completely changed that market so now 1 million square feet under one roof is the norm, Wheeler says.
Closer to home, the focus has been on mixed-use development such as the Cascades development in The Colony.
The 110-acre development along the Sam Rayburn Tollway features restaurants, three hotels with conference space, commercial space, and more than 600 homes.
The Cascades is definitely a sign of the times with its live, work, and play theme that’s walkable for the residents and hotel guests who provide ever-present foot traffic.
“Those hotels originally would have been offices,” Wheeler says.
Jackson-Shaw is also developing the 218-room AC Hotel in downtown Fort Worth. The 15-story Marriott-branded hotel will take over an old parking lot next to the Kress Building at Main Street and West 5th Street.
Despite challenges with rising steel prices and labor shortages, it’s a great time to be in real estate in North Texas.
But Wheeler’s been on the real estate roller coaster for 31 years so she knows this current uptick won’t last forever.
“Where are we? This has been a long cycle for us,” she says. “We’re the place where businesses and talent want to come. We’ve seen job growth, and we’re very fortunate. We’ve had a really good run, but there’s a bit of caution.”
Wheeler is a Texas native who has been married to her husband Jeff for 27 years. They are long-time members of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano. She’s also active in the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Dallas and other volunteer organizations.