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‘We were fortunate’: D-FW real estate companies discuss landing millions in federal pandemic incentives

High-profile local developers, architects and construction firms all got money in the Paycheck Protection Program.

Real estate companies in North Texas so far have fared pretty well in hanging onto their workers during the pandemic. They haven’t had the thousands of job cuts seen in the travel and entertainment sectors.

One way developers, real estate agents, builders, construction firms and architects made ends meet when the economy shut down is with millions of dollars in federal small business relief loans.

Several hundred real estate related companies are among the Dallas-Fort Worth firms that took money under the government’s paycheck protection program. The U.S. Small Business Administration released the names of recipients of loans of more than $150,000 this week in response to a lawsuit, including more than 15,000 in North Texas.

The real estate companies received more than $150 million in support.

The federal incentives helped the firms keep more than 16,000 local workers on the payroll, according to information from the Small Business Administration.

Some high-profile North Texas real estate companies are on the list of firms getting the federal dollars.

Developers including Crescent Real Estate, Billingsley Co., Harwood International, Gaedeke Group, PegasusAblon, JMJ Development, Trademark Property and Wynne/Jackson Inc. are among the firms getting the federal assistance.

“As a commercial real estate operating company and investment advisor, Crescent was severely hit by the pandemic and the stay-at-home orders,” said Kasey S. Pipes, a spokesman for Crescent. “Crescent has used the money exactly as it was intended — to keep our employees on our payroll during the pandemic.”

Trademark Property CEO Terry Montesi said the money his firm got prevented layoffs.

“Our revenues were down 50% to 60% in April and May and rent collections were 30% to 40% portfolio-wide April-July,” Montesi said. “Retail operators and owners — particularly those of large malls and mixed-use/lifestyle centers — were hit very hard.

“We have 200 employees and were able not to furlough or lay off anyone due to COVID-19 with the PPP funds.”

Some of the area’s largest architects also benefited from the program, including GFF, BOKA Powell, Omniplan and Humphreys & Partners, federal records show.

“Professional services firms like architectural practices are often among the first to feel the effects of economic downturns,” said Chris Barnes, partner at Dallas-based BOKA Powell. “Despite the sudden nature of the pandemic’s spread, we were fortunate not to have an immediate shock in March and April.”

Barnes said the firm applied early for the funds.

“Many architecture, engineering and construction firms enacted layoffs, pay reductions and/or furloughs almost immediately,” he said. “BOKA Powell experienced none of that, mostly due to continued progress on projects already underway.”

Local residential sales companies got the small business support, including Judge Fite Co., Briggs Freeman Real Estate Brokerage and Mike Bowman Inc.

High-profile D-FW area homebuilders also scored the funding, including Grand Homes, Shaddock Homes, CB Jenni Homes, Green Brick Partners, Centurion American Custom Homes and Megatel Homes.

And major construction companies on the list include ANDRES Construction, Rogers-O’Brien Construction and Scott + Reid General Contractors.

Billingsley Co. CEO Lucy Billingsley said that the federal money her firm received was a plus, but the industry is still wrestling with the pandemic.

“This is an incredibly challenging time for real estate development companies as we reach out to guide and support our retail, office, industrial tenants and all of our residents in our apartment communities,” Billingsley said. “Of course this is costing us money in many ways.

“And yet we are trying to rise to the occasion by working hard to facilitate the success of all parties,” she said. “We worry and expect that this struggle will continue for months to come.”

Some of the D-FW companies getting the funds.
Some of the D-FW companies getting the funds.(DMN research )

Steve Brown, Real Estate Editor. Steve covers commercial and residential real estate in Dallas-Fort Worth. @SteveBrownDMN
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