Residential Offerings Expected to Keep Pace

June 29, 2004

Atlanta Business Chronicle
Jarred Schenke
Staff Writer

Bob Voyles has been a driving force in Atlanta’s office market. He helped build Three Ravinia in the late 1980s. He helped build One Overton Park and the Perimeter Summit office complex. And Voyles was one of the principal players at Hines Interests L.P. to get 1180 Peachtree — the new Midtown office tower — underway at a time when new office product lagged with the economy.

Now Voyles is going to build something else — his own company.

After 16 years with Hines, Voyles, 52, is resigning at the end of July to start his own company — Seven Oaks Co. — a small firm he plans to use as a vehicle for mixed-use urban developments in the metro area.

“My basic plan is to create a smaller, more entrepreneurial platform to do urban and suburban mixed-use land development, focusing primarily on Atlanta and possibly some small office [projects],” Voyles said.

He is focusing on land acquisitions in Atlanta, as well as projects that can incorporate residential, retail and even small office components. He said he has spoken to parties that would be interested in financing his company, but plans to wait to push on that until after he leaves Hines.

Word of Voyles’ departure began to circulate around Atlanta’s real estate community last week.

“Knowing Bob as well as I do … I would guess that he is making this move to be able to do things more locally and maybe on a smaller scale, maybe in a more entrepreneurial way,” said John Decker, a partner with Childress Klein Properties Inc. “I think he is also seeking a change that will give him more discretionary time to do things that are as important to him as his profession.”

Voyles said he has no specific projects in mind for Seven Oaks, and instead is focused on the Hines transition.

Voyles was one of eight southeast development directors for Hines. Hines is transferring Kurt Hartman, Hines’ vice president from the Chicago office, to Atlanta to take over Voyles’ duties, said Kevin Shannahan, executive vice president of the Southeast region. Hartman already has experience in Atlanta real estate. He was credited previously by Voyles for helping secure financing for the 1180 Peachtree tower when the original financing fell apart.

Michael Harrison, who runs Florida development for Hines, will pick up additional duties in Atlanta, Voyles said. And John Heagy will continue to direct marketing for Hines in Atlanta.

“There’s no ill feelings whatsoever. The projects I think Bob will be undertaking won’t be directly competitive,” Shannahan said. “We care about Bob and we wish him the very best.”

Voyles said he will continue to consult and help Hines on a collection of projects, including future developments of retail at both Overton Park and the Ravinia complex.

“The issue for me is a stage of life and wanting to do something different,” Voyles said.

While he said he didn’t feel Hines was too big, he did say that the developer had grown more “institutional.”

“In the current marketplace, we are pursuing a tremendous number of acquisitions with institutional partners and the development, we’re primarily only doing development where there is significant opportunity for a build-to-suit. But my reasons for leaving the firm have more to do with what I want to accomplish myself,” he said.

Voyles said he wants to get back to building communities, something his position at Hines didn’t allow.

“One of my great passions is to build communities,” he said. “The further you go up in an organization, the further you get away from that.”

Voyles, who in a previous life was a real estate attorney at Alston & Bird, has had a long career with Hines since joining the ranks in 1988. He was senior project officer for such developments as 1180 Peachtree, the future 41-story office tower that will be home to King & Spalding in Midtown; Perimeter Summit, a 3-million-square-foot office project in the Central Perimeter area; Overton Park, a 2-million-square-foot office project in the Cumberland area; Deerfield, a mixed-use community in Alpharetta that eventually plans up to 700,000 square feet of office; and a 1,100-acre mixed-use project in Nashville.

Kerry Armstrong, senior vice president at Duke Realty Corp. in Atlanta, said a development company run by Voyles will be a player in Atlanta’s commercial real estate scene.

“I can tell you he’s very highly regarded,” Armstrong said. “If he’s out there doing development, he’s going to be a formidable competitor.”

And John Fetz, president and partner with The Staubach Co. in Atlanta, said the move is a good one for Voyles.

“In my opinion, Bob has done very, very well and this is a great next step in his career,” Fetz said.

© 2004 American City Business Journals Inc.