Shopping Centers Today

SEP 2018

Shopping Centers Today is the news magazine of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)

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S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / S C T 31 Jeff Preston Managing Partner, North American Development Group J eff Preston credits his law studies with giving him the knowledge and skills to make a successful career in retail real estate. Preston, 36, is managing partner for the Southeast region at Toronto-based North American Development Group, which his father, John Preston, founded in 1977. But joining the family business was never a foregone conclusion for him. Initially, he had wanted to become a lawyer. He earned a bachelor's in finance from Southern Methodist University and a law degree from the University of Miami. His first official job was with the law firm of Bracewell & Giuliani (today called Bracewell LLP). "I went into that thinking that I would be there indef- initely — no thought of a short-lived legal career," said Preston. "But I think subconsciously I always knew that I wasn't in law for a career; I was more into law for the expe- rience and the training for business." After two years, in 2008, he joined the family business. "2008 was certainly an extremely scary time, but it was an incredibly interesting time, and, fortunately for us, we were very defensive on the way up to 2008," said Preston. "As a result, we weren't subjected to the same problems that many of our peers were going through. My father looked at the times and said that there would be no better time for me to learn the ropes." Preston spent two years at the company's Toronto head- quarters, shadowing and learning from some of the exec- utives. Then North American Development began to look at an aggressive expansion into the U.S., after having essen- tially treaded water from 2005 to 2009. "There was a huge opportunity to revive [North American Development] and [to] be aggressive and opportunistic in Florida," said Preston. "We really hit the ground running, and we started buying existing shopping centers. It has been an awesome period for the company." Under his leadership, since 2009 North American Development has acquired or developed 45 properties, totaling some 7 million square feet. Preston's advice to anyone seeking to grow in the pro- fession is straightforward. "Never lose your discipline," he said. "There are times when you look around and your peers are doing something that you just know isn't right, but they are having success at the moment, and it is very easy to jump in. We just don't do that. We are very con- victed in our vision, we are patient, and, I would say most importantly, we are very disciplined in what we do." North American Development is now developing 10 projects across the Southeast, totaling about 2 million square feet. Three of these exceed 350,000 square feet each. Among them is the 450,000-square-foot Tomoka Town Center, in Daytona Beach, Fla., part of a 100-acre mixed- use development. The first phase is scheduled for comple- tion this month. "The success that we are having at each of these projects proves there isn't an existential crisis in retail," said Preston. As for what comes next in his career, Preston is keeping an eye on how the industry evolves. "The next five years in our business really are going to be extremely interesting," he said, "and we are going to continue to work as hard as we possibly can, take advantage of opportunities when we see them, and, importantly, have fun along the way." Jeff Preston

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