Ask Mehrdad Moayedi how he got into homebuilding and he has a quick answer. Three answers, really: Herman Smith, Don Horton, Larry Cole.
In Tarrant County, those three are about as close to residential real estate royalty as it gets. Smith developed Fort Worth’s Wedgwood neighborhood and served as president of the National Association of Home Builders; Horton founded Arlington-based D.R. Horton Co., today the nation’s largest homebuilder; and Cole, a former Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman, built hundreds of high-end homes. Moayedi learned from them all.
He arrived in Bedford in 1976 to live with guardians while his mother and stepfather, an American Air Force helicopter pilot, remained overseas. But when the Iranian Revolution arrived in 1979, “we lost everything,” he says. “That’s the best motivation.” Moayedi quit the University of Texas at Arlington and got a job landscaping. It took him just days to decide he could run a landscaping business, which he quickly did and later expanded into brick contracting. Contacts with the homebuilders followed.
“Herman was instrumental in helping me get started,” he says. Moayedi had attended Bell High School in Bedford while Smith was active in the school’s alumni association, starting a personal relationship that continued until Smith’s death in 1994. “I did landscaping and hardscaping and worked on Herman’s houses” as well as doing work for Cole’s splashy Tara development in Colleyville. And he worked on residential projects for D.R. Horton, which Don Horton and his brother, Terry Horton, had launched in 1978. Moayedi remembers Terry Horton picking him up to go to church.
When Moayedi was ready to try his own hand at development, Smith’s First American Bank was there to provide financing. “I lost money on my first project, so I had to make money on my second,” Moayedi laughed. But Centurion American, which he started in 1990, has gone on to develop more than 25,000 single-family lots in the area and in recent years has been among the most active commercial developers in North Texas.
In 2017 he completed the Residences of the Statler Hilton, renovating the downtown Dallas hotel landmark that had been empty for a decade. At the same time he converted the old Dallas Public Library to offices. He has since acquired the Cabana Hotel on Stemmons Freeway and most recently the former Braniff flight attendant college building, built in 1968 and vacant since 2015.
Brad Bell applauds Moayedi’s willingness to work through the difficulties of such restorations. “The Statler is an adaptive reuse. We don’t always have to tear things down. We can rejuvenate and extend new life to other buildings around it.”
In North Texas, “landmark” and “old” are relative terms, of course.
Moayedi remembers his parents, after their return to DFW, hosting overseas guests. “What was there to see in Dallas? In Fort Worth, the Stockyards is about what we had to offer,” he says. “History takes time.”
But in North Texas terms, the Statler Hilton was historical. It opened in 1956 as the epitome of mid-century architecture, and he was thrilled to save it from the wrecking ball. When he started the Statler, the number of people who came to him with their historical perspectives let him know he wasn’t the only one that wanted the building restored. “That was a very tough undertaking,” he says. “We’re proud of bringing it back. I’ll be long-gone before these historical buildings.”
And then there’s Collin Creek Mall, 38 years old by the calendar, but of an entirely different age in mall years. Moayedi bought the property last year. Its anchor stores and most of the rest are being demolished, but Moayedi says that doesn’t mean he can put up whatever he wants. “We went to all the homeowners’ associations” to pitch a redevelopment plan that includes transitions from more-dense to less-dense use, as it nears existing residences, he says.
When it was time for a public hearing on the project, 74 of the 75 speakers backed Centurion’s proposal, he says.
“People are passionate about where they live,” he says. They want to know you are adding value to both the mall and its surrounding residents, “and I think we definitely accomplished that.”
This story was originally published in the Dallas-Fort Worth Real Estate Review.
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