Brent Herrington, president and CEO of DMB Associates Inc., finds his company in the middle of a major change in strategy. DMB, known for building large masterplan communities, now shifts its focus to urban redevelopment style projects aiming for more infill and adaptive reuse.
He took over for former president Charley Freericks in February and describes the company’s current environment as an interesting time. Traditionally, DMB would build out their developments horizontally, which uses a greater amount of square footage on community amenities and occasionally large golf courses.
However, Herrington believes this opportunity has run its course in the Phoenix area. “We’ve sprawled about as far as you could sprawl,” he said.
Herrington has had his foot in the world of expansive communities since he was a child. His father worked for Exxon, a pioneer on that front, and Herrington’s family lived in one of the first large masterplan communities in Houston.
Before joining DMB, he worked for many years as a manager on masterplan communities, including Disney’s “Celebration, Florida” project. While at DMB he has led projects such as Scottsdale’s DC Ranch and Silverleaf, and a large 1,000-acre community on the island of Kauai called Kukui`ula.
Herrington said the company now must reorient itself away from the horizontal focus of the sprawling communities it developed before, and approach the redevelopment that DMB is doing now with a more vertical focus. He references a mixed-use building that the company is currently developing, called One Scottsdale, as an example. The development is 70 acres, which Herrington said in the company’s old world was not very big, but is enormous in the urban development market they’ve entered.
He attributes the shift in development to the mindset of younger consumers. He noted many people living in the city have a strong desire to live in densely populated areas. “Younger housing consumers frankly don’t want to live in Buckeye and commute an hour to their job,” he said. “Younger consumers are just not wired that way. They don’t want to live in a cul-de-sac an hour away from all the things they like to do.” With the One Scottsdale development, Herrington aims to create a luxury environment that urban professionals will enjoy.
The rise of infill activity going on in Phoenix excites Herrington who envisions Phoenix as a high-density city in the near future. He is highly critical of the current sprawling nature of the city, and sees the opportunity his company is presented with as a chance to make a positive impact on the city.
“Why are people continuing to build at the edges,” asked Herrington. “Why wouldn’t you come and put people and shopping and dining and entertainment and recreation, and put it a mile from downtown, not 30 or 40 or 50 miles from downtown?” He noted some of the prime real estate in Downtown Phoenix is currently occupied by undesired businesses, which forces newer developments to set up shop near the outskirts of the city.
Herrington hopes that DMB projects will stimulate a lot of other urban development projects to start happening, and hopes this will bring more vibrancy to the city’s urban areas. “I think that DMB has the ability to do things now that will have a catalytic impact,” he said.