Patrick Callahan, a veteran of commercial real estate giant Equity Office Properties, set out on his own with Urban Renaissance Group in 2006, just in time to catch the onset of the financial crisis. “Everything froze,” he recalls. “There were certainly periods during the downturn when it felt scary.”
But Callahan has long believed there was new life ahead for city centers as places where people attracted by walkability, transit access and urban amenities would want to live, work and play. He has long championed the once radical notion that tech companies would locate in downtown high rises instead of suburban office parks — “hence the name” of his new company. So Urban Renaissance made it through the downturn of 2008 and 2009. The company didn’t lay anyone off, “which turned out to be a great decision. We were better prepared coming out of the recession because we were fully staffed and ready to go.”
With those ideas about the direction of commercial real estate in city centers validated, Urban Renaissance controls more than 8 million square feet of space in Seattle, Bellevue, Portland and Denver and has $4 billion of assets under management. The 150-employee company has developed more than 2 million square feet of space since 2013.
Callahan expects to continue developing new buildings and adding to Urban Renaissance Group’s portfolio of existing buildings. Expanding into yet another market is a possibility, but Callahan spends a lot of time thinking about how to position Urban Renaissance for the next downturn. “The question is not if but what is the nature of that next recession,” he says. A soft landing will dictate one approach; a market meltdown will lead to another. He believes the underlying philosophy combined with diversification will continue to serve the company well.