Monday, June 16, 2008

Developer Hopkins Commercial levels site - at a cost of $1 million

Developer Mike Hopkins moved mountains to do his latest real estate deal.
OK, OK – it was just a hillside.

But he still had to haul off 4,000 truckloads of rock and dirt to clear the building site on Skillman Street near Northwest Highway.

"It is probably the most challenging development site I have ever dealt with – it was 25 feet up in the air," said Mr. Hopkins, who's been doing Dallas-area retail projects since the 1980s.

The 2-acre tract facing busy Skillman at Eastridge Drive is in front of a Home Depot store. But to get there, you had to climb the driveway to the home improvement center.

That's why no one had developed the tract – which previously was the site of an apartment complex.

"A lot of people had looked at the property over the years but couldn't do anything with it," including Mr. Hopkins, who had previously had the land under contract.

Finally his Hopkins Commercial Real Estate Inc. made a deal to buy the property from Home Depot.
That's when the real work began.

First the dirt and stone had to be excavated on the small tract.

"At times, all the equipment working on that site was bumping into each other," Mr. Hopkins said.

Then the developer had to construct a towering concrete retaining wall to hold back the rest of the hillside. "There's a 30-foot waterfall behind that wall," said Hopkins president Steve Gregory. "The entire storm water draining for that Home Depot property is behind that wall."

So how much did all that cost? Roughly a million bucks, said Mr. Hopkins. But the expense was worth it.

Hopkins Commercial has already leased half of the property to Washington Mutual for – you guessed it – another branch bank.
And the prospects for the rest of the property are looking up since Trammell Crow Co. has begun demolition across the street to make way for a 44-acre, 450,000-square-foot shopping center.

"We didn't know about that when we bought our site," Mr. Hopkins said.

The independent development company is busy with other deals, including a 50-acre shopping center at Josey Lane and State Highway 121 in Denton County, and one in Houston.

Hopkins Commercial just completed a strip shopping center redo at the northwest corner of the Dallas North Tollway and Wycliff Avenue.

"People have finally recognized that the west side of the tollway [in Oak Lawn] is not a bad place to be," Mr. Gregory said.

By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News