Written by: Mike Dano
Chad and Troy McWhinney take the long view to develop some of Colorado’s signature projects, including Denver’s stunning Union Station
“Success often comes to those who get in front of the inevitable,” said Chad McWhinney, CEO and co-founder of real estate company McWHINNEY, which has offices in Loveland and on Larimer Street. “We spend a long time trying to figure out what the inevitable is, and obviously try to get there early.” Interestingly, McWhinney acknowledged that “the inevitable” includes the kinds of boom-and-bust cycles that affect most businesses, and real estate in particular. And he said McWHINNEY has long worked to take advantage of whatever portion of the cycle it may face. “We like to make investments strategically in the downturns and hold on to those investments and let them appreciate in the upturns,” McWhinney summed, explaining that the company typically makes acquisitions in a bear market and sells assets in a bull market. The result, he said, is opportunity at all stations on the cycle. “We position the company to really try and be counter cyclical,” he said.
McWhinney also said the company is somewhat unique in the real estate market by taking a long-term view of the market–“it’s not uncommon for us to look out 10, 20 years from today,” he said. Indeed, the company proudly asserts that “many of our investments are made with the expectation that our holding period is forever.”
McWHINNEY, with $1 billion of assets under management and around $175 million per year of new developments, certainly maintains a portfolio that reflects the success of this approach. The company has dozens of major developments under its belt, stretching from its Centerra project that started in 1991 to the newer, 935-acre mixed use tract in Broomfield, located at I-25 and Northwest Parkway, that McWHINNEYy has dubbed North Park. The company is currently in the process of developing this location: Already, McWhinney said, the company is working on a medical complex for the University of Colorado that will cover 62 acres in North Park.
But it’s the redevelopment work on Denver’s Union Station that McWhinney believes could stand as one of the company’s most noteworthy and prominent projects. “We’re working to create what we’re calling ‘Denver’s living room,'” McWhinney said. “We think it’s great real estate, we think it’s a great time, we think it’s great partners. When we chose to come to Denver … we wanted to get involved in developments that were not only profitable but would help make Denver an even better place.”
McWhinney has traveled a long road to obtain a seat in “Denver’s living room.” In the 1980s, McWhinney and his brother Troy managed roadside fruit stands in California before deciding to move into real estate in Denver. “Oh yeah, it was a big change,” McWhinney acknowledged. “It’s been a lot of fun.”
“Our purpose with the company is to create great places for people. And for us the purpose is defined by the customer,” McWhinney resolved. “We are a very customer focused organization.”
Challenges: McWhinney acknowledged that it’s difficult for the company to find solid investment opportunities during a boom period, which means the company is currently focusing on some asset sales in order to take advantage of potentially higher prices. He said that when Colorado’s real estate boom eases, the company may return to acquisitions, when prices are lower.
Opportunities: “The opportunities right now are to strengthen the balance sheet,” McWhinney said. “As we get bigger as a company we need to continue to balance new acquisitions with reoccurring revenue and liquidity.” He said the challenge though is to create the right balance with this effort.
Needs: “One of our biggest needs is to attract and retain top talent,” McWhinney said, adding that as the real estate market picks up, talent can become harder to find.