The FORT Podcast: Jonathan Brinsden

As CEO of Midway, Jonathan Brinsden guides the overall business strategy and operations which have led to the company’s creation of a $2B portfolio of core mixed-use assets. On this episode, Jonathan and Chris talk about Jonathan’s journey up to joining Midway, they discuss the Houston market as it navigates the COVID crisis, where retail and hospitality will go in the future and Jonathan’s experience with ULI and the Midway Foundation. Enjoy!

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(02:50) – Jonathan’s Background and Journey to Midway

(06:54) – Can you describe how the Town & Country Village deal came about and what the last 15 years of working on that project have been like?

(10:29) – What was the draw to this property back in 2004?

(12:12) – When you bought it, did you have to force the tenants out or let their leases run dry?

(14:00) – How do you arrive at a ‘final plan’ with a deal that big? 

(17:11) – Where do you stand today with Town & Country Village?

(17:51) – How do you program the experiential factor of your properties?

(20:55) – What makes an amenity have longevity?

(22:34) – How is Houston holding up in a post-COVID world?

(24:03) – Is Houston as dependent on oil and gas today as it was 20 years ago?

(24:54) – Is it ultimately a good thing for developers that the city of Houston doesn’t have a lot of zoning Laws?

(26:37) – What are you seeing in retail now and how has it progressed since March?

(28:56) – The Hospitality Side of Retail

(30:08) – Are tenants out in the market or is everything just dead?

(31:18)  – Is there anything you’re seeing in lease proposals that you hadn’t seen before?

(32:36) – Are Houston office tenants going back? Is there permanent damage to office usage with the realization of WFH?

(38:09) – Is there anything in terms of new technology that will make things safer for the next few years?

(39:55) – Will you be aggressively looking to acquire if the opportunity presents itself?

(41:57) – What’s the state of new development for retail and hospitality projects?

(42:52) – Are your developments public/private or just private?

(45:35) – In a public/private partnership, which side is the first to approach a project and present to the other side for consideration?

(49:00) – Do you have any opinion on the rising property taxes in TX?

(51:05) – What has ULI meant to you and why do you think it’s important?

(53:41) – What’s the Midway Foundation?

(57:48) – Do you have a morning routine?

(59:43) – What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

(1:02:25) – If you could put any message on a billboard, what would it be?


Episode Summary

Brinsden, with his storied career and notable contributions to the sector, unfolds a plethora of insights and perspectives, woven from his experiences and strategic navigations through the complex terrains of real estate.

The dialogue commences with an exploration into the realm of mixed-use environments, with Brinsden highlighting their pivotal role in enhancing tenant experiences and fostering talent retention. The conversation underscores the shifting paradigms of workspace utilization, acknowledging a potential transition towards workspaces serving as hubs for culture and collaboration, against the backdrop of evolving organizational cultures and operational dynamics. Brinsden elucidates how space, when wielded strategically, serves as a potent tool in attracting and sustaining top-tier talent within organizations, thereby ensuring operational continuity and sustainability.

Transitioning into the impacts of the pandemic, the dialogue navigates through the adaptations and challenges induced by the shift towards remote working paradigms. The conversation delves into the criticality of sustaining organizational culture amidst the decentralization of workspaces, providing insights into the strategies and adaptations essential for maintaining organizational cohesion and identity in the wake of new operational realities. Brinsden underscores the imperative of strategic adaptations to ensure the sustenance of organizational cultures and operational efficiencies amidst the dynamic landscapes of remote work paradigms.

As the dialogue progresses, Brinsden and Powers explore the operational dynamics of managing mixed-use environments, emphasizing the strategic imperatives of ensuring tenant satisfaction and operational efficiency. The discussion provides insights into the challenges and strategies of managing tenant relationships and experiences within mixed-use environments, highlighting the pivotal role of tenant engagement in ensuring the sustainability and success of these environments.

Navigating further, the conversation delves into the financial dimensions of managing mixed-use environments, offering a detailed exploration into the financial management strategies and structures paramount within the sector. Brinsden elucidates the criticality of strategic financial management, especially in the context of the pandemic, in safeguarding investments and ensuring their financial health and sustainability. The discussion offers insights into the financial management paradigms employed within the sector, providing a detailed panorama into the financial dynamics of real estate management and investment.

In the subsequent segments, the dialogue ventures into the domain of leadership within the real estate sector. Brinsden underscores the importance of effective leadership in steering organizations through the complexities and challenges of the contemporary real estate landscape. He highlights the pivotal role of leadership in ensuring organizational adaptability, sustainability, and success, especially amidst the complex and dynamic terrains of the real estate sector.

The conversation also traverses the terrains of sustainability and environmental considerations within real estate development. Brinsden brings to the forefront the importance of incorporating sustainability into development projects, highlighting its implications on project success, regulatory compliance, and organizational reputation. He provides insights into the strategies and considerations employed to ensure sustainability and environmental compliance within development projects, offering a detailed perspective into the environmental dynamics of real estate development.

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