ICYMI: The top Texas stories of 2024 so far

Catch up on the biggest real estate news in the Lone Star State

ICYMI: The Real Deal’s top Texas Stories of 2024 so far

From left: Opal Holdings’ Shaya Prager, StoryBuilt’s Ryan Diepenbrock, Wolfe Investments’ Kenneth Wolfe, StoryBuilt’s Anthony Siela and Alan Stalcup of GVA (Getty, Opal Holdings, StoryBuilt, Wolfe Investments, GVA)

The year is almost halfway over, so there’s no better time to catch up on what you missed in Texas real estate news this year.

These were some of the most popular stories on The Real Deal in Texas.

New Jersey investor Opal Holdings causes stir in Cowtown

Before Fort Worth’s tallest tower was foreclosed on and wound up in the hands of the lender in May, Pinnacle Bank accused landlord Opal Holdings, led by founder Shaya Prager, of lying about owning the ground lease and the building to get a massive loan. Under a muddled ownership structure that came to light in a $1 million lawsuit filed by a vendor, Opal affiliates allegedly borrowed as both a landlord and a tenant of 801 Cherry Street, obtaining loans totaling $169 million for a building that had been purchased for $137.5 million. A trial is set for February, but that’s not the end of the Lakewood, New Jersey-based firm’s troubles in Tarrant County. Pinnacle Bank is also pursuing foreclosure on an office complex in Arlington after Opal Holdings defaulted on an $40 million loan.

StoryBuilt’s story gets juicier

Austin-based infill housing developer StoryBuilt fell apart last summer, when it laid off most of its staff and shook up its leadership. A receiver put StoryBuilt’s entire portfolio, once estimated to be worth $2 billion, up for sale in Austin, Dallas and Washington state. In January, the receiver, Los Angeles-based Stapleton Group, accused the firm of “egregious mismanagement” that included a pattern of sloppy bookkeeping and minimal documentation. In February, the receiver accused StoryBuilt of “inexplicable” accounting after weeks of forensic accounting to untangle its books. The receiver sued StoryBuilt the same month, pinning its failures on alleged misconduct, including misusing investor funds, by the firm’s leadership, namely, former CEO Anthony Siela, former CFO Ryan Diepenbrock and former COO Chad Shepler. The receiver was winding down his work in May. Meanwhile, the FBI, SEC and several other regulators have been investigating.

Big Apple heavyweight takes a bite of Big D

Investor RXR bought its first building in Texas late last year. The New York-based office landlord acquired the former Uplift Education building at 2625 Elm Street in Dallas’ Deep Ellum. The firm, founded by Scott Rechler, hasn’t disclosed its plans for the 100-year-old building, which spans 85,000 square feet and two stories. But RXR’s Eric Clement told TRD that the firm is interested in Dallas because of residential migration to Texas and a strong base of wealthy millennials and empty nesters.

Office-to-resi gets messy

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Local multifamily syndicators Wolfe Investments and Bluelofts made a splash last year with plans for office-to-residential conversions in downtown Dallas and Fort Worth. But those dreams have been dashed by foreclosures this year. In February, the blue-paneled building at 211 North Ervay in downtown Dallas sold for just $42 per square foot to an entity tied to Wolfe’s lender, Legacy Bank & Trust. The same month, the lender foreclosed on the Oil & Gas building in downtown Fort Worth. By April, Wolfe was facing six foreclosures on buildings slated for office-to-resi conversion, including one in downtown Atlanta. Earlier this week, it came to light that a building Wolfe and Bluelofts had been converting in Cleveland, Ohio, is scheduled for foreclosure auction in July.

Tangling with Mr. Cooper

After cutting 1,500 jobs in 2022, Coppell-based mortgage company Mr. Cooper last year suffered a data breach that affected 14.6 million customers nationwide. The company, a major player in the mortgage industry, is facing class-action lawsuits claiming it neglected its responsibility to secure customer information. In the wake of all that, Mr. Cooper hired former Wells Fargo executive Mike Weinbach as its president. Now the company is looking to sublease part of its massive office footprint.

Syndicators in purgatory

It’s been a rough couple of years for multifamily syndicators, firms that pool investor money to buy apartment complexes. Many of them bought “fix-and-flip” properties with floating-rate debt, when construction costs were lower. When interest rates and costs increased, it left some firms scrambling for cash or facing foreclosure. That has been the case for Austin-based syndicator GVA, which bought up thousands of apartment units when debt was cheap to more than double its portfolio in a year and become one of the nation’s 50 largest residential landlords. The firm, led by Alan Stalcup, has managed to offload properties and avoid foreclosure in San Antonio and Nashville. But it has also lost apartment complexes in San Antonio and the Austin suburb Georgetown. Last week, TRD reported that Overwatch Fund is suing GVA over a $153 million loan issued by Benefit Street Partners.

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Foreclosure hits global player

Dallas-based developer Greystar Real Estate, a global company with more than $280 billion worth of real estate across 241 markets, also faced a foreclosure this year. In February, Ares Management moved to foreclose on the 378-unit Gabriella apartment complex at 770 Cantegral Street after Greystar allegedly defaulted on its $127 million mortgage. The building was under construction at the time of the deadly crane collapse at the Elan City Lights apartment complex in 2019. The family of Kiersten Smith was awarded $860 million in damages in their lawsuit against Greystar, which was found liable for the accident.

All things H-E-B

How can one explain the cultural significance of Big Tex, chile con queso or H-E-B? You just have to live in Texas to understand our obsession. In real estate, every move San Antonio-based grocer H-E-B makes matters. That’s because everywhere H-E-B goes, development booms follow. The grocery store entered the Dallas market a few years ago, and its latest highly calculated North Texas land buy was in Celina.

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