In his quiet managerial style and conservative low-key corporate posture, Michael R. Chase has zealously nurtured the growth of Hillman Properties for the past 14 years, establishing the firm as the 16th among U.S. leading developers, according to a recent poll by National Real Estate Investor magazine.
Chase, the firm's 44-year-old president, is responsible for the real estate investments and developments of Hillman Properties throughout the United States and is headquartered in Newport Beach.
When the company recently issued its first corporate brochure with a representative sampling of Hillman projects, the scope of its activity was a surprise even to its largest financial and corporate joint-venture partners.
At the end of the first quarter of 1988, Hillman Properties had a million square feet completed and under management; 2.4 million square feet under construction, and 15.7 million square feet to be built on land held in inventory in 46 cities in 23 states.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday July 3, 1988 Home Edition Real Estate Part 4 Page 16 Column 3 Real Estate Desk 1 inches; 18 words Type of Material: Correction
The square footage of Hillman Properties' projects total 8 million. The figure was misstated in the June 26 real estate section.
The soft-spoken Chase, a native of Minneapolis, joined the Hillman Co. in Pittsburgh in 1974, having earlier been with Advance Mortgage Corp. and Citibank, and in 1983 established a western affiliate, Hillman Properties West Inc., which subsequently became known as Hillman Properties.
'Have Own Capital'
Chase describes his company's philosophy as opportunistic. There is no "generic" Hillman project.
"And as an affiliate of the Hillman Co. in Pittsburgh (Pa.) a privately owned diversified investment firm, we have our own capital to invest," he said.
"We also benefit from the parent company's hands-off management style, which gives us the flexibility to make operating decisions in a short period of time--a critical requirement in an ever-changing real estate environment.
"We take a venture capital approach by getting involved earlier than some of our competitors and we take the risks of getting projects approved and building the infrastructure."
Doing the Basics
If there is a company modus operandi, Chase said, it's to keep doing the basics, studying the markets, finding the niches you want to fill and building what makes sense.
"Real estate is an entrepreneurial business, and our branch managers operate as entrepreneurs within their own geographic regions. The lack of intricate corporate formularization permits them to act upon opportunities as they arise," he said.
A broad range of activity emanates from Hillman Properties' Southern California regional office, headed by John K. Alstrom, vice president.
That office is currently involved in the development of the 200-acre SAVI Ranch Business Park in northeast Orange County, the new 550 North Brand office building in Glendale, East Hills Office Park in Anaheim Hills, and the Stadium Towers Plaza office/retail complex next to the Anaheim Stadium in Anaheim.
Others are Camarillo Commerce Center in Camarillo, Commerce Pointe Business Center in Ontario, The Complex in Redlands and Canyon Ridge Business Park and Sorrento Towers in north San Diego County.
One of the firm's newest undertakings in Southern California is the development of the 1,402-acre Pacific Rim Country Club and Resort in Carlsbad. (See related story on this page.)
A conservative estimate of Hillman's current real estate assets exceeds $2 billion, Chase said, with office buildings making up 79% of its real estate portfolio.
Chase, who lives with his family in Laguna Niguel, oversees Hillman's far-flung activity by spending as much as 50% of his time traveling between the main office and the company's regional offices in Sacramento, San Francisco, Denver, Albuquerque, Portland, Ore., and Pittsburgh.
The company's residential building arm, Republic Development, is building apartments in San Bernardino; a 939-acre Riverside County community, The Canyon; Victoria Pointe homes in Rancho Cucamonga, and Saratoga at Heritage Village, a single-family home project in Fontana.
Downtown redevelopment is also of interest to Hillman executives, who believe it's important to retain good buildings and to give them new life. Chase is proud of his company's Portland Center, which encompasses nine city blocks in downtown Portland, Ore., and of the recently completed One Harrison, a restored office building on the Embarcadero in San Francisco.
One of the little-known facts about Hillman is that it owns an interest in the projects of The Center Cos. of Minneapolis, one of the largest and best-known retail development/management firms in the United States. Hillman builds retail properties through its northwest division.