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December 13, 2012

Real Estate Surveys: Trammell Crow Co.

Specialty: Office and industrial development

Management: Mike Nelson, Craig Dobbs, Mark Netherland

Founded: 1948; Seattle office reopened 2012

Headquarters: Dallas

Projects: Pending land acquisitions, expected completion by end of 2013

Trammell Crow reemerged in Seattle last month, ready to make a big splash.

The company closed its Seattle branch in 2008 as the recession took hold. But in the last year, as conditions started to improve, the Dallas-based company wanted back in.

So Trammell Crow approached Mike Nelson, Craig Dobbs and Mark Netherland about running the office. The former Schnitzer West executives were getting ready to start their own company, Madison Investment Group. But the lure of Trammell Crow’s history, and access to capital was too much to turn down. Trammell Crow’s offer fit the business plan Nelson, Dobbs and Netherland were pursuing, making the change an easier one.

Starting small

The office reopened Oct. 15 and it is starting small: Nelson, Dobbs and Netherland are the only employees. In April, another Schnitzer West veteran, Tom Woodworth, will join the team. He will oversee all development and acquisition projects, new business pursuits, finance and office operations.

Once Woodworth is added, the team will have more than 89 years of experience. They’ve worked on high-profile projects such as the Amazon.com campus, The Bravern and the Microsoft Advanta campus.

No apartments

Nelson said the firm hasn’t nailed down any projects yet. It is looking to specialize in office and industrial ground-up development in the top markets. Nelson pointed to downtown Bellevue as one of the markets best positioned to succeed.

“It didn’t get hit as hard in the downturn,” he said. “It didn’t suffer a major employer collapse like Seattle with Washington Mutual.”

Dobbs said some suburban markets could be attractive, as well, with less competition for land.

The company wants to focus on Class A office space with floor plans in the 150,000- to 600,000-square-foot range. Their goal is to acquire the pieces of land they need to start projects by the end of next year.

The long-time developers were quick to say they planned to avoid the apartment market. Nelson said the market already appears oversaturated, and that should increase as more units come on line over the next few years.

“It is hitting critical mass, and I think it is one market that could be very dangerous in the near term,” Nelson said.

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