Sometimes I wonder if I’m working hard or hardly working. I had coffee with a contractor friend yesterday who suffers the same affliction. Our days are full of meetings, planning and doing. We enjoy work so much we forget as self-employed guys we also have to make money.
Enter real estate. Of all the things I do from restaurants and business to politics and nonprofits, the one consistent thing is land and buildings. Every human endeavor touches the ground at some point, and God ain’t making any more dirt.
In my former life as a lawyer I spent a lot of time sitting at my desk. I felt pressure to be there, even if I had nothing productive to do. I absorbed that expectation to the point I felt guilty if away from my desk for anything other than structured meetings or courtroom hearings. It was hard to shake that desk-anxiety after quitting. But then I did. I realized the correlation between sitting at a desk and productivity is tenuous at best, and for me the two are probably inversely proportional.
After a few years developing retail businesses and learning first hand how the right space can make you and the wrong one break you, I got my commercial real estate license. Now I spend a lot of time helping businesses and nonprofits find and negotiate for the right space.
Especially in a city like Memphis that is so spread out and has such a stock of cool buildings, it’s like a treasure hunt to find the right fit. I really like the little guys. The big ones get all the attention, incentives and praise. But I believe a local sandwich shop, boutique or unique service can sometimes do more to enhance community and spur growth than a slew of big boxes and office parks.
My passion is developing the urban core. It’s exciting to be a part of this global shift of young and old orienting themselves back to city centers. They want to live in real communities, dine at local restaurants, send their children to neighborhood schools and bike or walk to work.
In Memphis, Broad and Binghampton seem to be the next Cooper Young. With the right guidance and help, the Edge and Medical District will pop in the next few years. South Main is booming. Overton Square anchors an ever-evolving Midtown, and Crosstown will connect it all.
I’ve got a really cool office now, but for me real productivity happens at coffee shops and on the ground. Building a city takes all kinds of people doing all sorts of things. I’m just glad I found playing with dirt is the right one for me.