While Houston’s office sector remains in the doldrums, multifamily is struggling and has seen better days, retail remains hot. One of the most active players – if not the most active player — in the Houston retail scene is Alan Hasssenflu. In a short span of time, Hassenflu has become one of the nation’s premier retail real estate developers. His firm, Fidelis Realty Partners, owns and manages or has under development or pre-development more than 10 million square feet in nine cities and three states. With a BBA from Texas Tech University and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, Hassenflu started his career at Price Waterhouse in Dallas before joining Trammell Crow Company in Houston. He started as a leasing agent, eventually becoming the largest retail investor and developer within Crow nationwide. To find out more about Houston’s retail sector and the many developments of Fidelis, Realty News Report spoke with Mr. Hassenflu, the co-founder, managing principal and CEO of Houston-based Fidelis Realty Partners, Ltd.
Realty News Report: You were among the first to build retail on Houston’s Eastside. What did you see in the area that others didn’t?
Alan Hassenflu: Relatively high, stable incomes, strong population densities, large disposable incomes (residents not “house poor”), and a relative lack of retail per capita.
Realty News Report: You are developing a number of projects throughout the Houston area. Are you concerned about Space City’s economy or the gyrations in the energy sector?
Alan Hassenflu: Not in any way. Houston grows at a much more rapid rate than other large metro areas in the U.S., and as long as we remain limited in our government, capitalistic in our economic policies and inviting to all, we will continue to thrive.
Realty News Report: Fidelis, in partnership with Williamsburg Enterprises, recently purchased the 24-acre Exxon Mobil Brookhollow campus at Highway 290 and Dacoma St. What is your vision for that property?
Alan Hassenflu: A dominant neighborhood/community retail center to serve the growing and dynamic residential areas in the trade area.
Realty News Report: Can you provide an update on the development of the 1.2 million square foot, 107-acre San Jacinto Mall redevelopment in Baytown?
Alan Hassenflu: San Jacinto Mall is located in the most dominant retail location on the east side, and the community of Baytown is desperate for a dominant and dynamic retail venue for its residents. We intend to transform the mall into that venue.
Realty News Report: The Yale Marketplace, a proposed Fidelis retail development in the Heights area, will be anchored by the 365 by Whole Foods store — the grocer’s new “value-oriented” store targeted for millennials. What are your thoughts on the 365 concept? And what is the status of Yale Marketplace?
Alan Hassenflu: The 365 concept is a great one, and will be the growth vehicle going forward for Whole Foods. This property will be the first in Houston for this concept and one of the first in the country. Yale Marketplace will commence construction on or before April 2017, and open in the first quarter 2018.
Realty News Report: In 2015, Fidelis purchased 112 acres in the new Grand Central Park master planned community on the former Camp Strake in Conroe. What’s happening to the property?
Alan Hassenflu: It is under construction. The property has several executed anchor leases and will be approximately 725,000 square feet. Stay tuned for a more detailed announcement soon.
Realty News Report: We are hearing that Meyerland Plaza, the Houston retail landmark on Loop 610, will be getting some major additions. What’s in the works?
Alan Hassenflu: Meyerland is one of the greatest retail centers in Houston. Ed Wulfe and his team did a fantastic job redeveloping this property, and Fidelis is blessed to now be the owner of this fine center. We will continue to make improvements to make this center the best it can be.
Realty News Report: The retail market in Houston is probably the strongest sector in commercial real estate right now. What’s your outlook for 2017 and 2018? Can the retail market stay strong forever?
Alan Hassenflu: Not forever, but for the next couple of years. We are just catching up from the huge population and job growth that occurred during the 2010-2014 period.
Realty News Report: What was your first development and was it an immediate success?
Alan Hassenflu: The Uptown Collection at Westheimer and Yorktown. Happily, it was successful from the beginning!
Realty News Report: What advice would you give up-and-coming, would-be developers?
Alan Hassenflu: Make sure you don’t make mistakes in designing your site plan. If you do, those mistakes stay with you for a long time.
Realty News Report is a Texas-based publication edited by Ralph Bivins.