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slated to earn LEED certification, with 29 buildings totaling more than 1.8 million square feet pending certification. In addition to its commitment to the environment, St. John Properties is dedicated to supporting the communities in which it does business. Its chairman established a nonprofit foundation whose philanthropy is exceptional. To date it has gifted more than $60 million. “The Developer of the Year honor is the Holy Grail for us,” states Chairman St. John. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think that we would receive this award. My employees and I are so proud of the company that we have built and what we have achieved.” “Stop This Flying Foolishness” St. John was exposed to commercial real estate at an early age. When he was age 16, his father died and left the family with a small manufacturing company, a small distribution business and five 10,000-square-foot industrial buildings. Two of the buildings were occupied by the family businesses and three were leased to other tenants. St. John, however, wanted to be a test pilot. Upon graduating from high school at age 17, he was accepted into the second class of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. After further consideration, he decided to go to the University of Maryland, major in electrical engineering and join the Air Force ROTC, which would still enable him to become a test pilot. “In my senior year in college,” recalls St. John, “my mother came to me and said: ‘If you don’t stop this flying foolishness, I’m going to sell all the businesses.’ I decided to get involved in the family businesses after graduation. I quickly learned that I didn’t like manufacturing, and I didn’t like distribution; but I loved the real estate part of it — talking to tenants and even taking care of the roofs.” After several years of managing the five buildings that his father had built, totaling 50,000 square feet, St. John wondered if he could build and lease industrial buildings as a business. He

didn’t know how to develop a building at the time, so he looked for a local builder with whom to partner. In 1966, he formed a partnership with a man named Leroy Merritt. “Leroy taught me how to build,” explains St. John, “and I taught him what to build. We constructed 500,000 square feet of industrial space together over five years in the 1960s.” St. John says that the industrial buildings of the day were painted block with railroad tracks at the back of the structures. After five years, the men split up the partnership and divided the buildings, and each started his own company. Flex/R&D Development in Maryland St. John does not take credit for inventing the flex/R&D property type, a structure that can accommodate both office and industrial uses, but he does claim to have been the first to develop such a property in Maryland. “I built my first industrial building in Columbia, Maryland,” he notes. “It was a typical industrial building with metal trim at the top. It was a front- loader, which meant there was an entrance door at the front with an 8-foot to 10-foot drive-in door. Trucks were parked out in front of the building with railroad tracks in the back.” He successfully leased his new building and planned his second one at the location. A tenant at the first building with whom he had become friendly told St. John that he (the tenant) spent more time at the industrial building than he did at his own home and that he would like a better-looking building in which to work. He asked St. John why he didn’t install landscaping and plant a lawn in front and put the trucks in the back, among other things. After listening intently to what the tenant wanted, St. John redesigned the typical industrial building, which became his business practice for the next 47 years. He installed a small office component, brick facade, large windows, a lawn and landscaping in front and moved the loading to the back. The market loved it, and the building leased quickly. If imitation is the highest form of flattery,

then St. John was indeed flattered by other developers who started to build a similar product in the market. At first, these flex/R&D buildings were 5 to 10 percent office and 90 to 95 percent warehouse or industrial space. As time passed, tenants wanted a different configuration: the office component grew at first to 25 percent and then from 70 percent to 80 percent, in some cases. “It became clear to us that there was a need for one-story office [buildings],” says St. John. So he moved into developing one-story office structures in addition to flex/R&D. The buildings were actually quite similar in design to the flex/R&D, with the front and the back looking the same, but more suitable for office uses. Although St. John Properties made its mark with the introduction and perfection of flex/R&D in Maryland, it has continually expanded into other products as the market and tenants have demanded. From flex buildings, the company moved to one- and two-story office structures and then on to multilevel office buildings and large-scale developments. Where retail space was once added to building lobbies to service existing tenants, the development of retail space became a separate division at St. John Properties as the company’s highly compact and efficient business parks — containing one to five buildings — were expanded to become mixed-use, multifunctional business communities. St. John Properties was selected NAIOP’s 2018 Developer of the Year due to its “extraordinary commitment to not only develop a quality product, but also to enrich communities. This made a tremendous impression on the selection committee. It’s clear that the company values its employees, takes pride in the quality developments that form its vast portfolio and has an extraordinary commitment to the communities where it does business.” Joan Woodard, Developer of the Year selection committee chair at NAIOP and president and CEO of Simons & Woodard Inc., Santa Rosa, California



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