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Opinion: Real estate reports draw biggest audience in ’18

Eyes & Ears

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Members of the Williams family are responsible for two of SBJ.net’s most popular stories of the year. That’s what happens when you drop news of a $500 million development plan and a new-to-market brokerage connected to some $20 billion in commercial real estate deals worldwide.

Yes, I’m talking about The Ridge at Ward Branch and the NAI Global franchise.

Here are the 10 most-read stories on our website in 2018.

1. “$500M development planned in south Springfield
It’s almost hard to believe that 100 acres along one of the busiest thoroughfares in the city hasn’t been touched yet. The Ridge at Ward Branch aims to change that along Campbell Avenue, south of James River Freeway. In a big way.

Of significance here is that it’s the largest single planned development in the city since 60/65 Partnership LLC a decade ago announced a $400 million mixed-use development. What is that, you ask? It hasn’t come to fruition, in part, because of the timing shortly after the Great Recession.

2. “Morris decides fate of Ozark Mill
Those who know Johnny Morris say this is a legacy piece for him. You could argue – when is he not thinking about legacy? It shows Morris’ care for the heritage of the Finley River, while modernizing the area with thoughtful commerce. As more plans came forward throughout the year, we saw the development dubbed Finley Farms as a major investment in a small community by a billionaire businessman. He is 70 years old, now. Yes, legacy.

3. “Branson Airport lands deal for daily flight provider
Maybe this was the break Branson Airport needed. Silver Airways became the second airline this year to add direct flights. But it was short-lived. Before beginning service, the Florida airline company had to cancel the plans in Branson, citing a hiccup in getting its new aircraft certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. No one saw that coming.

4. “Bankruptcy court: Creditor taking over JQH assets
This was the beginning of the end of John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts as we knew it. You could say it started two years earlier when the bankruptcy proceedings began. Or five years earlier when Hammons died.

With no more financing tricks up his sleeve, the hundreds of millions of dollars in debt finally toppled the prominent hotel development and management company.

5. “Elle’s Patisserie plans closure
Maybe a surprise in the Top 10, this shows the popularity and strength of small businesses in our community. The French-style bakery had a 170-square-foot kitchen. No million-dollar deals here. Just a local business that people cared about. New property owners plan a taco eatery in the Rountree neighborhood space.

6. “Multibillion-dollar brokerage enters Springfield via complex deal
This news came before The Ridge. The Williamses broke the ice by announcing they’re bringing the NAI national franchise to the Queen City. First, they had to sell their own real estate investment trust, Missouri Valley REIT Inc. It managed roughly $165 million in assets. Brothers Titus and Phil Williams, and their father Brad, are no stranger to big deals.

7. “Table Rock Lake resort expanding with $42M hotel
Tim Freund is at it again. His D’Monaco resort is adding a 40-suite villa complex and a six-story hotel at the west end of Long Creek Bridge in Ridgedale. The Table Rock Lake property was converted into D’Monaco in 2007, through a $6 million project. At the time, it was partially developed and went bankrupt. Now, he’s adding 170 hotel rooms to the market.

8. “Lathrop Gage closing Springfield office
Six Lathrop Gage LLP partners forced the hand of the Kansas City-based law firm by deciding to move their practice. Led by managing partner Randell Wallace, they were opening a Springfield office for newcomer Kutak Rock LLP. That ended a 20-year run for Lathrop Gage in the city. The partners were followed by almost a dozen associates into the new office at the John Q. Hammons Building.

9. “Carol Jones Realtors merges with sister company
Carol Jones had a long-lasting legacy in the local real estate market since she founded the brand in 1983. Over time, it’s diminished, and now the name is a thing of the past. The new name is ReeceNichols Real Estate. It seemed a no-brainer, as ReeceNichols is 10 times the size of the CJR office and brings additional resources.

10. “Husch Blackwell partner Virginia Fry dies
In September, Virginia Fry suddenly could not attend Springfield Business Journal’s Trusted Advisers event to receive her Legacy Adviser award. We didn’t know she was sick with cancer at the time. Fry died Nov. 18. She was 64. What happened next was an outpouring of support and memories by the business community. It was hard to keep up with all the comments shared, but here are a few words to describe the 38-year lawyer: “trailblazer,” “the closer,” “one of the first women attorneys” in the region, “great business judgment,” “visionary,” and “female leader.”

Springfield Business Journal Editor Eric Olson can be reached at eolson@sbj.net.

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