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Did You Hear? Colin Connolly’s New Job Follows an Old Path

A Daily Look at the Movers and Shakers in Commercial Real Estate
September 19, 2018

Colin Connolly is taking over one of Atlanta’s best-known real estate investment trusts.

Connolly has been named chief executive of Cousins Properties, and his primary mission will be a familiar one: Creating value through the development of, and investment in, prime office properties.

Cousins Properties, founded in 1958 by legendary developer Tom Cousins and his father Ike Cousins, is known for building and owning some of the top trophy office towers in the Southwest and Southeast, including Bank of America Plaza in Atlanta, the tallest in the South. In the 1990s and 2000s it dabbled in medical office and retail development before making a commitment to retrain its attention on trophy office assets.

When Connolly, who joined Cousins from Morgan Stanley in 2011, assumes the CEO position on Jan. 1, 2019, he will maintain that focus. Current CEO Larry Gellerstedt, 62, will transition to executive chairman in January.

“As we set about a strategy to reposition the company about seven years ago, we saw the best opportunity for Cousins and our shareholders was in the office space,” Connolly told CoStar News. “Ninety-nine percent of our [net operating income] is in the office sector, especially in trophy office.”

As such, Connolly and his team will continue to seek new development and investment opportunities in the Sun Belt. While Atlanta is Cousins’ largest market, the REIT also has a sizable presence in Austin, Texas, Tampa, Florida and Charlotte, North Carolina. “We continue to be very excited about Austin,” Connolly said. “We have a very long track record in that city.” Cousins is in the predevelopment stages of development of a 309,000-square-foot office tower preleased to Parsley Energy, Inc., an independent oil and natural gas company.

As he looks forward to being CEO, Connolly said he will draw on what he’s learned during the past seven-plus years from Gellerstedt, who served for several years after owning a condo development company and leading Beers Construction Co., now part of Skanska. “That really has been just a fabulous partnership,” Connolly said. “He was certainly a wonderful mentor to me. I learned a great deal from Larry.”

Did you know?   Connolly is an avid runner along Atlanta’s main street Peachtree Road, where Cousins owns and has developed millions of square feet of office.

After Merger, Doing What He Does Best

Retail development is in Gar Herring’s blood.

Growing up in Texas, he watched his late father pioneer the development of fortress malls and become an icon in that field. Herring joined his father’s firm, MGHerring Properties, in 2004, and became president and chief executive in 2012. Together, he and his father, M.G. “Buddy” Herring Jr., weathered the peaks and valleys of commercial real estate and fought for every deal in a changing retail world.

Earlier this month, about two years after his father’s death, Gar Herring decided it was time to do things differently. He merged MGHerring into Jones Lang LaSalle, the global commercial real estate services firm. At JLL, Gar Herring is senior vice president of retail development. MGHerring still exists as a real estate owner but not as an operating company.

“MGHerring was successful in business for 40 years, but today it’s a very challenging business environment to be an entrepreneurial, private developer,” Herring said. “That’s a tough business model. I enjoyed running my own company, but I’ve always had a passion for development and redevelopment. Now I’m able to focus on doing that.”

Herring said he decided to move his 10 employees, himself and three retail assets to JLL because he’s always appreciated the company’s leadership, resources, collaborative process and position of dominance in several markets. “They candidly will be handling the corporate responsibilities, allowing me to focus on development and redevelopment.”

Herring said he’s already working on several potential development deals at JLL, though nothing he can announced now. In fact, his new boss, Director of Retail Development John Lambert, was on a plane Tuesday checking out some of the opportunities, Herring said.

Crescent Promotes Multifamily Trio

Crescent Communities revved up its multifamily business at the right time, and it’s recognizing those who helped make it a success.

The Charlotte, North Carolina-based developer of mixed-use, commercial and multifamily projects across the Southeast and Southwest said that it has promoted three key members of its multifamily team.

Benjamin Collins, based in Nashville, has been promoted to an expanded role as senior managing director of Crescent’s Western region. In this role, Collins (pictured), who joined Crescent in 2010, will oversee teams responsible for all investments in Tennessee, Texas, Arizona and Colorado, including Crescent’s super-successful Novel Music Row community in Nashville.

Jay Curran, based in Atlanta, has been promoted to an expanded role as senior managing director of Crescent’s Eastern region. Curran, who joined Crescent in 2013, will oversee teams responsible for all investments in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and the Washington, D.C., area where Crescent plans to develop Novel South Capitol, a mixed-use project near Nationals Park and the Navy Yard.

And Daniel Cooper has been promoted to senior vice president of multifamily construction and head of Crescent Multifamily Construction, the company’s in-house construction company. Cooper, also based in Atlanta, joined Crescent two years ago and already has been responsible for building 2,800 units.

Crescent, in the past known for its suburban office development in Sunbelt markets, now focuses on mixed-use projects such as Stonewall Station and Ally Charlotte Center in its hometown as well as multifamily development. Crescent recently branded its apartment communities with the Novel name and has several developments under way. The company sold two major portfolios, including one group of six it sold to Berkshire Group in 2014. Since then, Crescent has ramped up multifamily development in Charlotte, Atlanta, Nashville and other Southern cities.

more moves

CBRE’s Bergin Heads Back to Colorado

D. Bergin is going home, back to the mountains of Colorado.

The 15-year commercial real estate veteran who served as director of sales management for CBRE’s Northwest Region has been promoted to managing director of advisory and transaction services. As part of the promotion, Bergin transferred from CBRE’s Seattle office to Denver. The native Coloradan now oversees office occupier (tenant) and industrial services for CBRE’s five offices in Colorado.

Bergin is pumped to return to Colorado, and he said he can see similarities between his home state and Seattle, which emerged as a top technology market during his tenure at CBRE Northwest. “The growth along the Front Range of industries like technology reminds me of the growth that I have seen in Seattle over the past 15 years,” Bergin said.

While in Seattle, Bergin played a key role in establishing the Seattle market as a test site for new CBRE initiatives and technology. He plans to leverage that experience to help CBRE clients in Colorado’s growing sectors.

HFF Atlanta Lures Away Broker From Colliers

Huston Green, who served as co-leader of Colliers International’s Atlanta office investment sales team, has jumped ship. He moved to Holliday Fenoglio Fowler (HFF) Atlanta, where he will be a managing director.

Green, a 15-year veteran who’s closed more than $1 billion in transactions over his career, plans to focus on office investment sales in Atlanta and across the Southeast.

He began his career as an analyst at Trammell Crow Co. and also worked at DTZ Rockwood. He is a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia.

Did You Hear? is a new column focusing on real estate's movers and shakers. Send new executive hires and promotion announcements to  |  Check out yesterday's issue of Did You Hear? and follow the news on Twitter @TheCoStarGroup and @TWilbert.

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