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Hurd enters new phase with father-son partnership


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Hurd Realty signs have been popping up throughout Greater Des Moines, giving a more public presence to a company that has been around for nearly 30 years.

Driving this change is a two-year transition period that included Richard Hurd’s separation from CB Richard Ellis/Hubbell Commercial and the return of his son, Richie, from Arizona to help run the family business. Today, Hurd Real Estate Services owns 75 commercial properties in nine cities; more than half of the properties are local. And that portfolio is growing as the Hurds focus on buying long-term investment properties in the retail, office and industrial sectors during the economic downturn.

Still, the commercial real estate company keeps a low profile, working out of a newly renovated warehouse-looking building off Fuller Road in West Des Moines, which doesn’t have a sign yet. But that could change as Richie’s presence brings a new Web site, more marketing of Hurd Real Estate’s properties and potential growth from a staff of five, including the Hurds, as the company buys more property.

“It’s a company that’s been built over the past 30 years from the residential up through the commercial properties, and now is a great opportunity to have my son come work with me,” Richard said. “It’s something that I enjoy doing, and I’m happy he decided to do it, and we’re going to try to continue to grow the business.”

Transition time

Around 2005, when the retail market was at its zenith, Richard began selling off some of his major shopping centers. This included Westown Shopping Center at Interstate 235 and 22nd Street in West Des Moines, which was purchased by a Los Angeles-based company for $15.625 million, according to the Polk County assessor; he originally bought that property for $9.15 million in 2001.

Deals like this allowed him to enter some major investment deals, including acquiring about 30 acres on the southwest corner of Jordan Creek Town Center, which now houses a Lowe’s Cos. Inc. store.

“I think it just gave us an opportunity to look at a lot of things that we wouldn’t have been able to look at prior to selling the properties in 2005,” Richard said.

Currently, Hurd Real Estate’s main development and investment properties in Des Moines are:

• Jordan Creek Plaza at 690 Jordan Creek Parkway in West Des Moines, a retail development that is about a third complete. Hurd is only offering build-to-suit or leasing rather than selling parcels like other developers in the area;

• The former Citigroup Inc. building at 4300 Westown Parkway in West Des Moines. Hurd recently secured a tenant for half of the 100,000 square feet and has outlots available for further development;

• A 20,000-square-foot retail center at 5717 Ashworth Road in West Des Moines; and

• The former 600,000-square-foot R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. printing plant at 5701 Park Ave. in Des Moines. The warehouse space is fully leased, with outlots available for development.

Hurd Real Estate handles most of Walgreen Co. and Arby’s Group Inc.’s development in Central Iowa as well.

Beyond Des Moines, Hurd Real Estate owns properties in eight other cities, primarily in the Midwest and Southwest, which the Hurds say makes them unique among Central Iowa real estate companies. It has given them a broader perspective on the national market, which helped them foresee the economic downturn before it hit Greater Des Moines. And with the downturn, they have found opportunities to buy more properties in weaker markets.

“We have just been watching the market and acquiring things as the opportunities present themselves, but there’s been more opportunity elsewhere than there has in Des Moines,” Richard said. “The market’s been stronger here.”

Most of its outside purchases are investment properties with tenants that have signed long-term leases. The Center at Troon North shopping center in Scottsdale, Ariz., acquired by Hurd Real Estate in July 2007, has been performing well, with about a 95 percent occupancy rate, Richard said.

Getting buildings leased has been a tougher challenge than finding properties to buy, but Hurd has had some luck recently due to competitive pricing, which Richard said is a common trend in the marketplace right now. Though the company often steers clear of speculative buildings without any tenant commitments, the one spec property it purchased last year was the former Baker’s Square on Ingersoll Avenue for $575,000.

Hurd Real Estate also handles some brokerage work.

But, Richard said, “We’re pretty much at capacity with what we can handle with the small staff we have currently, so as we continue to add more properties, we’ll obviously have to have more people.” Amber Valentine works on marketing and sales with Richie, while Joe Nixon handles property management and Becky Kile handles accounting.

A shaky start

Richard entered real estate at age 20, when he bought his first repossessed house in 1973. For most of the 1970s, he bought run-down homes, fixed them up and sold them, while also getting into apartments and duplexes. Then interest rates skyrocketed in the late ’70s.

“We ended up selling virtually everything that I had at the time just to survive,” Richard said.

In 1981, he incorporated Hurd Real Estate Services and began buying commercial properties, with the fallout in the early ’80s teaching him an important lesson. “You got to be a little careful as far as the amount of speculation projects that you do,” Richard said. “When you hit those periods like we have right now, the speculation projects are the ones that hurt the most.”

Richard kept his company going over the next couple of decades, even as he became manager of Iowa Realty Commercial and then joined CB Richard Ellis/Hubbell Commercial. The past 15 years, his primary focus has been on investment and development properties, handling little brokerage work.

Meanwhile, Richie grew up going to real estate meetings after soccer practice and fell in love with the people side of the business. After graduating from Creighton University, he talked to his father about a good market for learning the business and ended up at Sperry Van Ness in Phoenix, working for three people who sold the most shopping centers in the market.

“It was fun to work for them and learn the basics and more advanced (concepts) over the two years I was there,” Richie said. But he also was transitioning into working with his father, helping close the $22 million Troon North deal and managing that property for Hurd Real Estate.

Working together

Richard is the “jack of all trades when it comes to commercial real estate,” Richie said. “It’s pretty amazing listening to all these things he knows.”

While Richard brings years of experience and knowledge to the business, Richie focuses on the day-to-day marketing and leasing of the properties, bringing some connections from his time in Omaha and Arizona. He also has an understanding of technology and is updating the company’s Web site.

Though the company is in buy mode right now, Richard also is willing to wait for the right deal.

“He’s taught me patience is everything in real estate,” Richie said. “It’s connections and patience. We built up a lot of very good connections in a lot of markets, especially Phoenix, and then we just sat back and waited, and we were lucky enough that (Troon North) came across,” Richie said, adding that it was an off-market transaction.

“We feel like we’re well positioned through the economic downturn,” Richard said, “and when the market turns, we’ll be ready to take advantage of it.”

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