International Developers: Meet Fehmi Karahan From Istanbul, Turkey

Karahan built one of North Texas' most-successful developments at Plano's Legacy West. Now he's working with Hunt Realty on the massive Fields development in Frisco.

Karahan Legacy

How’s this for a report card? Name: Legacy West in Plano. Evaluation: “The most successful real estate development in the history of North Texas.”

That was longtime Dallas Morning News real estate reporter Steve Brown’s assessment in 2018 of Fehmi Karahan’s $3-billion, 250-acre mixed-use project that launched in 2014. What was forecast as a 10-year job bolted out of the gate and stampeded to a finish in barely four years. In that time, Toyota, JPMorgan Chase, Boeing, and others built corporate offices with thousands of employees, hotels accommodated them, and apartments, retail, and restaurants filled the rest. 

A quick stroll through the retail section of Legacy West offers a village-like setting that just feels right. Karahan declined an interview for this article, but it would be unthinkable not to include him. This summary of his accomplishments relies on past interviews, including one with us in April, and on comments by other real estate professionals.

Karahan left his native Istanbul to attend Columbia University on scholarship in 1978 and after that moved to Texas, which he found quintessentially American. Playing weekend soccer, he met a fellow countryman who worked in real estate and went to work for him in 1982. 

The Shops at Legacy in Plano. [Photo: Lance Murray]

By 1984 he struck out on his own and did his first deal—an 8,000-square-foot strip center on Webb Chapel Road. In 1993, he hit pay dirt with MacArthur Crossing in Irving, a retail center in what at the time was not considered a good location. 

“Early on, I learned what deals to make and what deals not to make,” he told us in April, and it’s a selectivity that’s served him well.

Karahan leaped into the upper levels of the business in 1999 when he bought land in Electronic Data System’s vast Legacy corporate campus in Plano. That led to the Legacy Town Center mixed-use development that includes The Shops at Legacy, a project of which he’s proud. 

“It’s not an ordinary shopping center. It’s not an ordinary real estate development. It has heart, it has soul, it has character. It’s a gathering place.” That was followed by Legacy West, and now, Karahan has embarked on his largest development yet.

With Hunt Realty Partners, he will develop a 2,554-acre former ranch owned by the Fields family in north Frisco. The mixed-use project has already attracted the new headquarters of PGA of America, which will also bring high-profile golf tournaments to the area. The golf connection is appropriate, because back in April, Karahan said that Legacy West was like winning the Masters, and what does one do after that? “Keep playing,” he said.

PGA

[Image: Courtesy PGA]

“What attracted me [to the Fields project] was the sheer size—2,600 acres in a strategic location,” he says. “I felt that this is an incredible opportunity to create something significant.”

This story was originally published in the Dallas-Fort Worth Real Estate Review.


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