In the past couple of years as the industry has come out of the downturn, there’s been a flurry of displaced development and acquisition folks who’ve found equity sources to get new operations up and running. Now, you can add another JPI vet to the mix. Ed Easley, who ran JPI West for Dallas-based JPI from 1996 to 2003 and then started his own company, Carlsbad, Calif.–based Crown Pacific Properties, is back in the mix again, with Carlsbad-based Urban West.
And, like former JPI vets Jim Butz, CEO for McLean, Va.–based JAG, and Pretlow Riddick, president and principal of Bedford, Mass.–based Criterion Development Partners, Easley has found financial backing. Last month, El Paso, Texas–based Hunt Cos., a top 10 builder with a heavy focus in military housing, agreed to invest at the entity level in a new venture with Urban West. With that backing, Easley can focus on development and acquisition deals in Arizona, California, and Washington.
For Hunt (which deferred to Easley any inquiries about the partnership), the venture offers the chance to capture market-rate opportunities in the Western United States. Last year, the company struck a deal to provide TRECAP Partners with additional equity capital and support services to expand its real estate investment management businesses. Two weeks ago, Hunt changed the name of that operation to Hunt Investment Management.
“Ed brings [Hunt] an opportunity to continue diversification out of military housing and into multifamily from a development perspective, and maybe a team that can help Hunt capture opportunities as they exist with TRECAP or military,” says Randal Howard, a partner at Chicago-based Moran & Co., which sourced about 20 potential sponsor equity partners for the new venture. “For Hunt, it’s another growth vehicle for a large and dynamic company.”
For Urban West, there are advantages beyond even the financial backing. “[Hunt] provides business services to investment platforms,” Easley says. “We’ll be able to benefit from that—financial accounting, taxes, and human resources. We can leverage those things. Having a capable financial partner like Hunt is something that’s required to be successful.”
Easley is actually one of a select few who can say he sat out the downturn. After leaving JPI, he started Crown Pacific Properties and secured Boston-based AEW Capital Management as a majority partner, with additional equity provided at the deal level by a number of private individuals. The company secured value-add deals until the market got too hot in 2006. Easley saw the handwriting on the wall and sold that year to The Picerne Group, based in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., signing a noncompete that kept him out of the business for a few years.
Like many others, Easley saw the opportunity to get his acquisitions and development engine revved up again. “A lot of people form these alliances to position themselves and capture the opportunities that are out there,” Easley says.