Almost anywhere you look in Fort Worth, you can see Jack Huff’s imprint on the city.
A commercial real estate broker who has been involved with more than 1,150 transactions worth more than $1 billion, Huff’s name is associated with some of the biggest deals in Fort Worth.
As a result, he will be inducted into the North Texas Commercial Association of Realtors and Real Estate Professionals’ Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame on Thursday, May 4.
The honor will place in him in the company of Dallas-Fort Worth real estate heavyweights such as Trammell Crow, Henry S. Miller, John Carpenter, Roger Staubach and Ross Perot Jr. Fort Worth’s John Goff of Crescent Real Estate was inducted last year.
“This is a very big honor for me,” said Huff, a principal at Transwestern in Fort Worth. He’s been involved in commercial real estate here for 36 years.
But Huff, 61, acknowledges that none of it would have happened had he not followed his heart.
Huff grew up the sleepy Hill County burg of Lampasas, where his family had settled because of its proximity to Fort Hood. His father, a career military man, was a chief warrant officer.
Huff attended the University of Texas where he majored in business but with no real idea of what he wanted to do with the degree, he said.
One summer while in college, he took a job with a bank that involving tracking delinquent loans. The experience provided insight into the structure of real estate deals.
And it showed him that real estate was the career for him.
“I went back to UT and started taking real estate and finance courses,” he said.
In 1979, he graduated with a BBA in real estate and finance as well as his license to sell real estate. He knew he had head to either Houston or Dallas to launch his career.
“The girl I was dating in college was from Dallas and I knew she would be going back to Dallas when she graduated,” he said. “
Huff’s landed a job with Swearingen Management Co., where his duties were split between office management and office leasing/ That’s where he quickly discovered he was a better leasing agent than a property manager.
As he had hoped, Leann Dryer moved back to Dallas and she and Huff married in 1980. They lived in the mid-cities area so she could easily drive to her job in Fort Worth and he could commute to Dallas.
The following year, he shifted over to The Swearingen Co. as part of the team involved in leasing City Center, a 1.6-million square-foot office complex in Fort Worth.
The Huffs bought their first house in Arlington Heights and moved to Fort Worth in 1982.
Huff said in arrived in Fort Worth at the perfect time, when downtown was still quiet and a little frayed but just on the verge of becoming re-invigorated with the infusion of Bass family investment.
“There was lots of opportunity,” he said.
Over the years, Huff’s brokerage expertise has been in the areas of office tenant representation, office building sales and urban land. His experience with investment and development includes resort property, shopping centers, office and medical buildings, mineral interests and parking garages.
Shortly into his career, Huff and several partners – Sam Brous, Terry Montesi and Pat McDowell – formed their own firm. In 1999, Huff Brous McDowell & Montesi merged with the Dallas firm, The Stoneleigh Group, which gave the new firm a presence throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
But in 2006, the Dallas office split off to join Transwestern, a full-service real estate firm. Huff and his Fort Worth partners created Huff Partners, which became the largest commercial real estate firm in Fort Worth until it merged with Houston-based Transwestern in 2011.
Some of Huff’s biggest deals include his 2006 brokerage of a $42 million deal for nearly 180,000 square feet of office space for Range Resources in Pittsburgh and the 2014 sale of 66 acres of land, formerly known as Lockheed Martin Recreational Center, to Trademark Property Co. for the Waterside development in Fort Worth, a deal worth $24.5 million. Whole Foods is the anchor of that development.
Huff said his most complex deal was the 2010 negotiation of the Carter & Burgess sublease of nearly 272,000 square feet of office space in the 777 Main Street building. The $42 million deal was his biggest office lease and involved “a lot of moving parts,” he said.
“Jack Huff is a legendary real estate leader whose hustle and business savvy have left a remarkable footprint on North Texas,” said Chris Teesdale, chairman of the 2017 Hall of Fame induction.
Wayne Swearingen, Huff’s first employer and a long-time mentor and friend, will take part in Huff’s induction into NTCAR’s Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame at the Dallas Country Club. Huff will be inducted alongside John Scovell, founder and chairman of Woodbine Development Corp. John F. Crawford, the longtime president and CEO of Downtown Dallas Inc. will receive a lifetime achievement award.
Huff reflected on his career for the Fort Worth Business Press by answering a few questions:
What are biggest changes you’ve seen in the commercial real estate industry?
There are a lot more people in it now and competition has increased. There are also a lot more qualified people who have BBAs in real estate and MBAs. The competition pushes us to provide a higher level of service.
What changes have you seen as a result of commercial real estate transactions in Fort Worth?
There are so many great things that have taken place in Fort Worth. The Alliance area, development along the toll road, the Panther Island/Trinity River Vision development and the organic expansion of West Seventh Street to name a few. A lot of wonderful things have happened here. But the bad thing is that there is a lot more traffic.
What is your business philosophy?
Work hard and be honest. Treat people the way you want to be treated on the other side of the table. It’s not complicated.
What was your best day on the job?
I’ve enjoyed it so much, I can’t put my finger on any day that stands out. I’ve had a lot of great days on the job – I really enjoy this industry.
Who was the greatest influence on your life?
My parents, Hughlen and Nellie Huff. They were great role models in how they conducted their lives and treated other people, and their work ethic. They gave me stability and encouragement.
Tell us about your family.
My son, Grant, works for Transwestern as a commercial broker and my daughter, Adrianne Holland, is a residential real estate agent for Williams Trew. My wife, Leanne, is an avid tennis player.
Tell us about your community involvement.
I’ve served on numerous boards. Several include: All Saints’ Episcopal School, All Church Home (ACH Child and Family Services) the Child Study Center and the Fort Worth Opera.
Tell us about your hobbies.
I love to ski, hike, fish, climb – anything outdoors. My biggest hobby is real estate – I love it.