Paul Geyer, PGIM Real Estate Finance
2018 Giving Gala Chair
Please Note: This interview has been edited and condensed. You may listen to the complete version on The TREC Podcast.
We’re still about a month and a half away from Giving Gala, and there’s a lot of work left to be done before the big day, but how has the experience been so far for you in chairing the event?
The experience for me has been terrific. This is the first time I’ve been in this kind of role for TREC and I’ve really enjoyed working with the TREC staff, who I’ve gotten to know a lot better over the last several months. Working with Linda and Marcia and Kelcey and the rest of the staff here has been an eye-opening experience just to see how busy they are during the day and what they do and how they can really help out behind the scenes and help coordinate the event. The folks within the industry that they know and can put you in contact with and the coordination they do behind the scenes with all the talent, table selections, the decorations, the location, all of that. Working with our committee and our sponsorship committee, the table sales committee, the wine pull committee, the volunteer committee, it’s really been fun. It’s a good group, and it’s been really fun working on it.
Do you remember your first gala? How would you describe this event to somebody that hasn’t attended before? What was the experience like?
It’s a lot more casual than you’d expect. My first one was probably 15 years ago and I couldn’t even tell you the specific year, and when I learned I didn’t have to wear a tuxedo I was so relieved. It’s basically cowboy boots and jeans and come as you are, have a good time. It’s open to all, it’s a causal event, hopefully it’s outdoors at the Anatole again. We love that venue because there’s always a plan B, if you do have bad weather, you can always go inside. But it’s a great event, its’ very relaxing, great music, and it’s a great spot to bring clients and hang out and be able to visit.
This year’s gala theme is Dream Big, a nod to Dallas’ nickname as “The Big D” and its motto, “Big Things Happen Here.” Of course, our “big thing” is the Dallas Catalyst Project and the dollars and resources we’re donating to the Forest District in South Dallas. Last week, you attended one of our bus tours through the district – what were some of your takeaways?
We met with Dr. Flowers of St. Philips, he’s the one that gave us the tour. The way he described it, and it was one of the biggest takeaways I had, the entire area was really cut off from highway construction and really set aside because of that. It’s cut off from a lot of services and supplies. It’s cut off from bus services and regular city services that a lot of us take for granted. He pointed along the way some of the steps that he’s made and TREC’s made over the years, whether it was bringing habitat for humanity down there – because they for some reason had not really been active down there until TREC’s involvement – and showing us the homes they had built. He was really proud of those. They put senior housing down there for folks who really needed a place to live and great housing for seniors down there. My biggest takeaway was that this was an area in the 70s and 80s did not receive a single building permit. So if you look at the highway construction and what it can do to an area, unintentionally it can be fairly devastating, but what you really learn are the steps that St. Philip’s, Cornerstone and CitySquare have made which is to buy plots of dirt, to get out the liquor stores and get them out of the area and really re-purpose the real estate. You look at the Forest Theater project and what that’s going to mean at a community level, it’s quite large in getting the retail they need in the nearby strip malls. It’s really going to be helpful. But when you get down there and drive it, it’s two and a half miles south of most people’s office buildings in Dallas. it’s really not a very long trip and if you can bring that area back to being incorporated into the city where people have access to downtown and the jobs, it’s going to be a tremendous win for everybody.
If you had a free afternoon with no work or family responsibilities on your schedule, how would you spend the time? What would you do?
I’m no newlywed, but if this were the newlywed game, and I was giving my wife’s probable answer, she’d say that Paul gets in his car and goes down to [Grover C.] Keeton Park [Golf Course] and hits golf balls or plays golf either at Tenison [Park Golf Course] at Keeton for the afternoon. I like golf, I don’t get to play enough like any golfer or anyone who loves golf but I really like the folks over at Keeton Park. It’s a great city-owned golf course, so is Tenison Park, and it’s really terrific to be in my car and 10 minutes away or 15 minutes away. I’m right there.
TREC’s guiding principle is to Build the City You’ve Imagined. What kind of city do you imagine? What kind of lasting impact do you want your career in commercial real estate to have on Dallas?
As a lender, I get to work with a lot of great developers and owners and those are the guys that really have the vision and the willingness to take the risk to build the real estate to make it work. I think the impact I would like to have is to be involved with some of those important projects but also we’ve taken the initiative at PGIM Real Estate Finance to really be involved in affordable housing. It was a change of pace for us. We’ve been really involved in financing older apartments and older retail, and not stuff we’re selling and getting off the books. This is stuff we’re going to hold. We’re an FHA lender as well. We get involved in the local communities and look at the housing needs and we want to be a big part of that. I think what I’d like to leave behind is a view of not only my company as being a community sponsor but also an advocate for those programs that really help cities integrate housing, integrate income levels within the city and really help make it a community.