Real Estate Leaders Discuss Nashville's Growth, Future
This episode of Point By Point was produced prior to the combination of Waller and Holland & Knight.
Waller recently welcomed three new attorneys to the firm's government relations and real estate practice. Together Doug Sloan, Jon Cooper and Quan Poole bring nearly 45 years of experience in legal and leadership roles and the metropolitan government of Nashville and Davidson County.
These three will boost Waller's experience in the key areas of land use and zoning, corporate relocation and expansion, along with public-private partnerships.
In this episode, they discuss having a front-row seat to Nashville's record-breaking growth and their outlook on the city's future.
Morgan: Welcome to PointByPoint. This is Morgan Ribeiro Waller's Chief Business Development Officer and the host of the podcast. Waller recently welcomed three new attorneys to the firm's government relations and real estate practice. Together Doug Sloan, Jon Cooper and Quan Poole bring nearly 45 years of experience in legal and leadership roles and the metropolitan government of Nashville and Davidson County.
These three will boost Waller's experience in the key areas of land use and zoning, corporate relocation and expansion, along with public-private partnerships. Today, I'm passing the microphone over to James Weaver, who sat down with Doug, Jon, and Quan to discuss Nashville's development boom, challenges and opportunities for the city, and what led to their decision to come to Waller.
James leads Waller's government relations practice and has worked with clients on incentives and relocation packages for nearly 30 years. James, I'll turn it over to you.
James: Thanks, Morgan.
Earlier this month, we welcomed three talented attorneys to our real estate team. Doug Sloan, Jon Cooper, and Quan Poole, who together bring more than 40 years of collective government experience with them to Waller. Today, we want to give you, our listeners, the opportunity to get to know them a little better as they discuss Nashville's growth, and potential for continuing growth going into the future. Doug, Jon, Quan, why don't you just take a moment before we get started and tell our listeners a little bit about yourselves? Doug, let's start with you.
Doug: Sure. Originally I started right out of law school, working with the Metro legal department worked there for about 15 years, moved into the mayor's office during the recession right after the flood in 2010 to help out with the city, and after that moved over to the planning department where I ran the planning department for about five years. Left there, worked for about a year and a half with the airport authority as they kicked off the beginning of the expansion there, and then after a year and a half moved out into private practice, started doing a lot of land development work, which fit right in with the experience that I had and really the relationships I was able to build 20-plus years over with Metro and got the chance to work with a lot of folks that I work with over the last few decades.
So right now we're seeing a ton of growth downtown, and most of my practice is helping the property owners and the developers to find a way to work through the metropolitan government system of entitlements and development.
Jon: Much like Doug, I started early on in my career with the Metro government. I was hired by the Metro council office's Assistant Director back in 2000, 2001. I served as Assistant Director for about five years and then was appointed Executive Director of the Council and Special Counsel to the council, which is a fun title.
Over that time, I either wrote or researched almost every piece of legislation that went through the council. The council is usually the last stop in the deal process, and we would have the deals essentially handed to us on a platter, and then it was up to the council to say up or down. So I got to analyze all those deals. And then for four years, I was the law director for Metro, which is like serving as the general counsel for a $2 billion corporation. Then I went back to the council office for about a year and a half, and just recently went into private practice.
James: Great. Quan?
Quan: I guess a little bit differently than these two, I actually did not begin my career with the Metro government. I was at Memphis, working for Shelby County government practicing criminal law. So a lot of litigation experience at that time. I moved to Memphis right out of law school, went to Knoxville, and did that for almost right at three years. I moved to Nashville in 2017. I thought that was a good opportunity for me to transition my practice.
I was fortunate enough to be hired at the Metro legal department by one Jon Cooper, and practiced there for the last three and a half years working with the planning department, the board of zoning appeals, metro codes and a lot of the other land development departments.
I did a series of things there. I continued some of the litigation experience that I had started at the start of my career. Then I transitioned left the Metro government in 2020 during the pandemic to start doing work with Doug. It's been great ever since.
James: Let's start with something really obvious. Nashville's experienced unbelievable growth over the last few years, whether you're talking about the built environment, 5th and Broadway, River North or whether you're talking about big corporate movements into the city: Alliance Bernstein, Amazon and recently announced, Oracle. It's been an unbelievably exciting time for Nashville and for the state of Tennessee for that matter. What do you think has led to all this growth in this region? Doug, I'll start with you on this.
Doug: Yeah, it is not the first time I've heard this question about how did Nashville attract this level of growth, and I think a huge part of that is the way that the state and local government has worked with the private sector. When you travel around the United States and talk to other city officials and developers that are moving here and bring business here from other parts of the United States, one of the things you hear that is unique is that the city works with development community here and try and figure out how to get things done. When I worked in the mayor's office with Karl Dean, one of the things he used to say routinely was, “if we're working every day to create jobs, then we're doing what we need to be doing.” And trying to help businesses move here and develop, get built to allow those businesses to move into, especially our downtown core was always a major focus of his.
And when we're the planning department, a big focus that I had, and a lot of what I talked about with staff, was when we have businesses, large scale divisible businesses, or even small coming to town and asking for our assistance, we need to figure out what it is they're trying to accomplish and then how to help them get there. And I think that relationship between the government and businesses here in Nashville has been a critical part of that growth. That, and then I think we've had exceptional leadership on both sides of the public-private sectors as well, an incredible line of really great mayors, I think, that helped put the foundation in place that has prepared us for this growth.
James: Jon you've worked with and for five mayors? Play off a little bit of Doug's comment about leadership and you don't have to tell us which one was your favorite, which one was not your favorite since they're all still alive but talk a little bit, if you would about, about leadership and the importance to leadership in terms of the growth of the city.
Jon: Sure. I would agree with Doug. I think visionary leadership has been key to Nashville's success in going back to the 1990s when then-mayor Bredesen had the idea to build Bridgestone Arena. That was a next step for Nashville. And then while that was going on, you had the Houston Oilers decide they wanted to come. And so we're building a stadium and an arena pretty much at the same time. And that was all due to visionary leadership that continued on through mayor Purcell and Dean, and then on into mayor Barry and Briley, and now mayor Cooper. I think they all have the city's best interest at heart and all believe that growth is essential. If a city is not growing, then it's dying. And so we have to do whatever we can to make sure that we're growing in a sustainable way and a way that is beneficial for all Nashvillians.
James: Quan, one of the unique attributes of our system here in Nashville is the boards of commissions. And not a lot of people understand the importance of those boards and commissions. I know you've represented a number of them during your service at Metro legal. And there's a certain element of leadership in those boards and commissions. Talk a little bit about the importance of boards and commissions and how, what you do today, your day-to-day interaction for clients with these boards and commissions.
Quan: Yes, I think is very important. One of the things that often tell my friends when we're discussing, whether it be an election year or not, they ask “who are you voting for or why are you voting for this particular person?” I will always try to steer the conversation towards local elections and local positions, and I'll tell them, go attend a zoning hearing, go attend a planning commission meeting, and you will see a lot of what's happening in your day to day community is happening right there in those meetings. And you have a group of citizens who are Nashville residents and care deeply about our community. And you can see it in their work. You can see it in how they have tackled some of the issues that we've faced over the last couple of years.
I think that takes leadership for each of the boards or commissions that I work with, there are always meetings that the legal department would have with the executive director. Meetings that the legal department would have with the chairman of that particular board of commission.
And you go through the agenda, you try to spot the issues and understand what's the impact this is going to have on our community and what is the neighborhood going to think about that? In what ways is it going to impact them? And despite Nashville having exponential growth, I think all the board members and commissioners are all sensitive and respectful to what impact this is going to have on our community and wanting to make sure that those things are sort of working in lockstep with each other.
James: if you would walk through, just real quickly, so if I'm a real estate developer and I'm looking to do business in Nashville, what are the boards and commissions that I'm most likely to be interacting with?
Quan: Undoubtedly, you're going to be working with the planning commission.
If you look at the property and you decide that you want to put a mixed-use project there, or you want to do all multifamily housing, whatever it may be, you want to make sure that the property is properly zoned for that. And if it's not, your first step is going to be with the planning department. You're also going to be working with the Metro council office because within our system, the only person that can change the zoning on the site is going to be either the district council member or a council member at large. So you want to be working with the council office to make sure your vision and what you want to see for that site is also in line with the land use policy with the planning department and the vision that council member is going to have.
And so you would approach that project, looking at Nashville's general plan, working with staff to make sure that whatever's going to be built on that site is in compliance with both of those documents, but in the event that there's something that the zoning code maybe is its application to your project is harsh or unfair, I guess that's the best way I can describe it, you can apply for a variance. And so what a variance does is it's an exception to the zoning code. If you have a piece of property and say you want to build closer to the street than what the zoning code allows, and there are a lot of benefits to that from being in a more urban environment, having a more walkable city, having closer access to those buildings to the street, you could go before the board of zoning appeals and say, these are the goals that we have for this neighborhood, we want it to be more walkable this 15 foot or this 25-foot street setback, where you're just going to have a lot of asphalt or concrete parking, doesn't really further that goal. So can we apply for a variance or a special exception that would allow us to build closer to the street, meeting more policy goals than what the code currently allows.
James: Quan mentioned the council. Jon, you've represented the council. You've been a staffer at the council. You've been the mayor's general counsel and dealt with the council. During this period of unprecedented growth in our city, how has the council responded to that?
Jon: So, as you know, we have a 40-member council, which is the third-largest council in the country behind New York and Chicago, and you've got 35 districts. So five at-large members and 35 district members, and the district council members pretty much control the development that goes on within their particular district.
That's really the key power that the council has is over zoning and budgetary matters. So a lot of communication and a lot of deference is afforded to district council members. We call it " councilmanic courtesy." And if a district council member thinks that a project is good for his or her district, generally the rest of the council is going to go along with that. They're not going to try and step into the shoes of that district council member. So I think that, with 40 council members, you've got a wide range of opinions about what growth should look like and where growth should be. But in general, I think the council has coalesced around important projects, and has supported key initiatives that have furthered the city. I always said, if you can't get 27 people to agree, then it's probably not a good idea. And so I think that in general, the council has put the city first and has supported sometimes controversial projects, if they thought it was in the best interest of the city.
James: Doug, you spend an enormous amount of your time working on projects in the core of the city where height and mass are important attributes of those developments. Talk a little bit about how the conversation around height and mass has changed over the last few years and where you see it going in the future.
Doug: I think certainly what is a tall building in Nashville has changed dramatically over the last 10 years.
I know that as we were developing the long-range plan for the city. we looked at the downtown code and what we thought were large entitlements, right? Significant entitlements. And we were just dumbfounded to say this 30 stories, the very idea that there might be buildings downtown 30 stories was the vision.
We were not imagining tall enough. The vision for downtown should have been envisioning 50 and 60 story buildings when we were thinking 30. The city has seen, as you said, unprecedented growth and in the downtown core in particular but the code that we have, and the code that we put in place, during the national next and through amendments to the zoning code, didn't allow for that level of entitlements.
When I was planning director, we added a provision into the downtown code that gave the planning department, and the planning director, in particular, the authority to grant what's called height modifications. So the downtown code has in it these different height entitlements for different sub-districts.
If you're in the core, that's where your highest entitlements are, just base entitlements, but then as you move out of the core, those entitlements begin to fall down to lower heights. The overall height modification provision in the code allows for developers to come in and offer unique architecture, improve streetscapes and add other amenities to the community, I should say the pedestrian level, around the development in exchange for additional height. And that overall height modification process, it's very discretionary for the city and for the planning department.
And so what I've seen happen over the last 10 years is development has gone from using the base entitlements that they have available to them to using the overall height modification process to reach two and three times those entitlements, but that comes through a pretty long process and conversation with the city and the planning department, and frankly, the elected officials. Meeting with council members whose district those developments are occurring in is also critical on the front end.
But I've found overall that the community is embracing taller buildings in the downtown core. It's just the process tends to be one that takes a little bit longer than it used to simply because I think they're reaching for taller heights.
James: In dealing with the development community, particularly the developers and entities interested in developing in Nashville who are coming here from out of town, which we're seeing more and more of, one of the things that we encounter from time to time is the differences in the sort of how you go about executing on a project here in Nashville versus other communities. And we generally refer to those kinds of issues as "dogs that might bite," and we talk to our clients about those “dogs that might bite” pretty routinely. You guys come at this work from a varied background and particularly from a background of being in government.
Talk to me a little bit about your idea of "dogs that might bite" things that are unique here in Nashville that you might not encounter, in other cities and Jon, we'll start with you.
Jon: I think the big one is infrastructure. Metro Nashville Davidson County is I think it's 533 square miles or something. So, it's a very large area. And the infrastructure in the ground the storm-water, the sanitary sewer, water lines, electrical, that has, in some areas of the county, not kept pace with the level of development. In the early 2000s, when you had a lot of single-family subdivisions going up , you didn't have the sewer and water lines and capacity in the area to support that development.
And so, we've of had to do some catch-up to account for that, but the first thing to do when you're looking at a piece of property is to figure out what's in the ground, what would have to be upgraded and how much that's likely to cost.
Doug and I are actually working on a project with the water department and some engineers to come up with a formula for knowing what your storm-water infrastructure cost is going to be on the front end so that you don't go through your financing and have everything in place and then at the very end find out that you've got to put in a $1.5 million worth of stormwater infrastructure that you hadn't budgeted for.
So we've been working pro bono with the water department to come up with a formula that will allow developers to know on the front end what they are going to have to pay for that infrastructure. We've got the legislation, actually got a draft ready to go, and then it should be hopefully finalized here pretty soon, but that's just one step we're trying to take to make it easier on developers who are coming to town to know what those costs are going to be on the front end.
Quan: One thing that comes to mind, and I don't know if it's unique to Nashville, I think other cities likely have to grapple with this issue as well. But I think community benefits as Nashville has seen this growth over the last 10 to 15 years, I think there are a lot of positives to what is happening, and I think it's great for our future.
There are some residents who are local and who have been in these communities for a number of years and feel like they have “weathered the storm”. And as new companies and developments come into town, they want them to help the neighborhood grow and receive something for what the higher density that they're bringing. I can think of a project right now that I think as a development team, we did a lot of the right things, the things that are going to be expected, we engaged with the community early, we showed them our designs, we let them have some input on the design and that project was tracking along. And then there was some members of the community who were not in favor of that project. And I won't say that it was halted or stopped, but as I was speaking earlier, how the planning commission members and the planning department want to make sure that neighborhoods have a say in happens in their neighborhood. They wanted us to talk to these individuals.
And a lot of times what may come out of those conversations are community benefits. Are you going to install a park? Are you going to make donations to local scholarship funds? Are you going to, in certain ways, make this neighborhood better than when you found it? And so that's been something that's been different for me.
As when I was working for Metro legal, on the government side of it, we weren't involved in those conversations. We were actually instructed not to do those things. We couldn't be a party and could not be involved to these agreements that we had no authority to enforce. And on the developer side, realizing that you want to make sure that the community is engaged as you're going through the approval process and even before that approval process. So that way, when those questions come up when you have your public hearing, you're going to be able to have support that are going to come out and say, we are in favor of this particular development because the developers did it right and they engaged with us.
James: I'll come back to community benefits agreements in a minute, but I want to give Doug the opportunity to weigh in on the “dogs that might bite” question.
Doug: One of the things a lot of developers and property owners don't realize is that if you're doing a large-scale development, having a comprehensive signed package included in your application is important. Nashville actually has pretty restrictive sign ordinances, but the planning department will work with you in getting a sign package that works for your development, whether you're doing a development that has say an entertainment district, or it's a part of the entertainment district or it's just retail businesses or multifamily development. Each one of them will have different needs regarding signage, and the code speaks to those different uses as far as entitlements differently, especially entertainment districts. Nashville is a huge entertainment town, and so, not surprisingly, the code requirements or I should say entitlements, are greater for entertainment districts, but it's the kind of thing that needs to be thought through at the very beginning of the design phase of large-scale development, or even if you are just doing a smaller one, understanding that the signage needs to be thought through. Where are you going to hang it before you get too far into architecture costs of putting that together, I think is key, and oftentimes will jump up to bite folks.
I do want to jump off something that Jon was talking about. I think it's worth noting that because of our past, all three of us worked with closely with Metro for decades now. They still reach out to us to work with them when they hit roadblocks with the development community.
When problems, like the one Jon spoke of regarding surprise costs of infrastructure, gets thrown on a project late in process, that can just be absolutely devastating to the project. And as I said earlier, too, that the local government's goal is certainly not to stop development, but to try to help. And so when they hit snags like that, or issues within the downtown code that they see as preventing development, it is not uncommon for them to reach out to one of the three of us to try to get our perspective and to seek our assistance in drafting legislation that hopefully solves it and is palatable both for the local government and for the development community.
James: Let's pivot for a minute and talk a little bit about large projects. Waller has a long history of working on large projects in the city, whether you're talking about River North, or you're talking about Fifth and Broad, the Nashville Yards project, and all of those projects involved, complicated public-private partnerships. You guys have been on both sides of those negotiations where, when you were with Metro, you've worked on the city side. Now you've been several years on the private sector side working on these P3s as we call them. What have you seen that's here in Nashville and in terms of how that conversation has changed? I know we've talked a little bit about community benefits, and I know that's a part of this, but just generally talk a little bit about what you see. Maybe Jon, we'll start with you. You've negotiated a number of these P3s. You've negotiated a number with me on the other side. Yes. I'm glad you're over here working with me now. It's much easier. Talk a little bit about what you've seen in the changes over the years.
Jon: I think when we started really ramping up the economic development incentive opportunities to try and lure companies to come to town. We were doing a number of jobs, grants, $500 per job per year, and PILOT agreements (payment in lieu of taxes), which is providing a tax abatement as well as a tax increment financing. And so that was providing a financial incentive to companies and to developers come here.
That shifted really when Megan Barry came into office that pivoted from cash on the table, here's what we're paying you to come to more of an infrastructure focus, that something that the city would otherwise be responsible for and will own. We're helping the development by doing some of that infrastructure work for them or contributing towards that infrastructure, but it's for the overall benefit of the city. So I think that shift has been pretty remarkable.
James: Let's talk a little bit about something that's in the news today. And that is fees associated with working with Metro. We hear pretty regularly from our client base, particularly clients, again, that are coming here from out of town that our fees for permitting for instance, and just the cost of the pre-development process here in Nashville is extraordinarily high. And then in the newspaper today, as I was alluding to, there's an article about the IDB potentially raising its fees to work on projects in that Metro government entity. You don't have to respond as to whether or not you think the fees are high and I'm just simply reporting what we hear from clients, but are their limits on Metro's ability to set these fees? How do they go about establishing these fees?
Quan: Yeah, so they are not allowed under state law to do any impact fees, at least in metro. So if you are a part of a development and you have something that you feel is akin to an impact fee where they're just saying for the simple fact that you're putting a house here just because you're putting a building here in exchange for that, we want you to pay X. Those types of impact fees are not allowed under state law.
So we always talk to our clients about what fee Metro was attempting to impose on you? And what is the relationship to that fee through your development? They want you to put a sidewalk out front. They want you to improve the right of way, right outside your building.
Are you adding traffic to that right away? Are the people on that sidewalk going to be serviced? Then, yes. That is a natural connection or there's a nexus between that fee that they're requiring of you and your development. On the opposite end, if you think there's an extremely high fee, that's really going to service some sewer line that's a half-mile away, or in no way connected to your development, then that can be an issue. And that seems like it could be closer to an impact fee than anything else. And we get involved, we reach out to these departments hopefully we can, if it is similar to an impact fee or a fee that's not related to your development that can work with the storm-water or whatever department it is to get that fee removed, or certainly get it reduced to something that is actually related to your project because that's what you want to pay. You want to pay your fair share and what impact your development is going to have on this community.
James: Another thing, Jon, and I'll throw this one to you that we hear from clients is that the not necessarily development specific install, this, renovate this, but just the cost of filing a permit application is out of line with what they're seeing in other cities. Are there limits associated with that? How's that process work?
Jon: There are. In general, fees are supposed to match the administrative cost of issuing that permit and enforcing the provisions that are applicable to that permit. So it's supposed to be tied to the service that you're receiving for paying that fee. You pay a building permit fee. In exchange for that, you're getting the review of the codes department and the various other departments, the inspections and all that goes along with that. So they're supposed to be tied to the cost of providing the service. Otherwise, it's a tax like Quan said an impact fee that, you can't enact under state law.
Doug: Don't, most of them have to be approved by council, those fees?
Jon: So most fees do have to be approved by council. Back when I started 20 years ago, the council really liked having control over all fees. Pretty much every single fee, they wanted to be able to set.
That has shifted a little bit to the council being willing to give a little more authority to the departments and the boards and commissions to set fees. So it depends, but yes, ultimately the council has that authority, limited by state law as to what you can charge and ensuring that it covers the cost of services that are being provided.
James: As we're all familiar with great opportunity sometimes comes great challenges. What do you see as the greatest challenge that we face as a city, as we continue to grow? I'll start with Quan.
Quan: This is a great question.
I think each one of us would have a different response to this question, but I think growth that's happening in the city is great. But we're also starting to run out of room in some neighborhoods. And I think the city is going to have to start considering zoning and a lot of areas.
I think there is a significant part of the county that is still single-family zoned, and if you look at some of the larger cities like Denver and Portland, these cities are looking in the future, just to eliminate single-family zoning. As affordability continues to be an issue we're going to have to deal with that.
I think one of the best ways to do that is to increase density within the city and put more housing units into the market. And so grappling with wanting parts of the county to be single-family as it should be. But then also looking at portions of the city that are very close to the core and thinking, is that appropriate?
As we look at balancing those two things, wanting to have portions of the county that is appropriate for single-family zoning, but then also wanting to have increased entitlements in other neighborhoods because we need to get more people closer to the transit lines. We need to get more people closer to our restaurants, people closer to our establishments and transform Nashville into a truly walkable city. To make Nashville a place where we can live, work and play all within that same area. And the best way to do that is through additional housing units and through density. The by-product of that is the more units that you have into the marketplace, the more affordable it should be.
Jon: Piggybacking on what Quan said about the greatest challenges, I think it's finding affordable and workforce housing in areas where people want to live and that have the infrastructure in place to support those developments. I think that's going to be key. We know we have an affordable and workforce housing problem, our teachers and our firefighters and police officers can't afford to live in Nashville, which is a bad thing. So finding tools to help with affordable housing under the constraints we have with the state law, I think is one of its biggest challenges.
Doug: Following up on that as well. During my time in the planning department, one of the things that I used to say routinely and still say today is if the cost of a product is high, the best way to solve that problem is to create more of that product.
So when people complain about the cost of housing in Nashville today, my answer is “let's build more” and I think that's what Jon and Quan, what both of y'all were we're talking about really, right? Let’s build more housing. Let's build it in the right places and in doing so, we're going to be able to help with the cost of housing. I don't care if it's a loaf of bread or a car. If you produce more of them, then the price will come down. I think some of the challenges that we meet is a combination of what both of you have been talking about, and that is that we have a growing city. The density of this city is putting pressure on our existing neighborhoods. The response from the local government from the council is to create more regulations to control what that growth looks like and how it impacts existing communities that makes creating the density difficult and more expensive to create.
And I think working within that challenge, the challenge of how do we bring density, place it in the right location but create regulations that make it so that it fits in with our existing community, without driving up the cost of creating that housing. That's really a huge challenge. Now that's the challenge that I think all three of us are faced with every day when we're talking to our council members and trying to get them to support our clients and their developments and speaking with our clients about how to be responsive to the community and what they're seeking to get from the development as it goes up in their community is achieving that balance, accomplishing our client's goals and still getting those developments to fit into our community.
The community as a whole, I think, my single biggest issue, I believe that faces the city moving forward is transportation. And again, I know that was brought up just a moment ago and creating density in the right locations helps with that tremendously. But it's a challenge that this city has attempted to tackle a number of times. And Jon, you've been in the front row, for that battle over and over again, as to how to raise the money to answer that infrastructure issue. And the different solutions have been brought to bear, but I don't think that we have that solution in hand yet. Changing technologies may help us with that over time, but I think that's what the city is going to have to focus on in the coming years.
James: Finally, what led to your decision to come to Waller?
Doug: Our business has grown quite a bit in recent years. The need for our assistance for development, for all the reasons that we've talked about today, has expanded quickly.
The three of us were working together previously on these issues. But frankly, we felt like we really needed a team that had expertise in a variety of issues, whether that's the transactional side of the work that we do, or whether that's issues regarding eminent domain, lobbying efforts to work with the state and local governments to try and accomplish.
Whether that's the changes to the law or whether that's simply support for the projects. Those were all issues that we needed additional help with, and we felt, in looking across the legal landscape in Nashville and in Tennessee as a whole, that Waller was the best firm. The three of us met and we talked about it extensively. I will tell you. For me it was the lobbying piece. That helps me do what I need done the most. And Jon, I don't know if there was a different portion of this that you focused on
Jon: Waller for many years has been focused on development and has been a part of developments. Development of the city and the surrounding areas has always been important to the firm. Because of that focus they have the infrastructure in place and the team, as Doug said, including the lobbying and government relations team in place to help us be successful.
We each bring different skills and strengths, and we think that we're better together than we are individually. And that seemed to fit with the culture here at Waller.
Quan: I think for me I am a very practical person and when I think about what Waller has and how it's built.
It's set up to do this because they've already done it a number of times. And so why create a wheel when you already have one? Why spend most of our time trying to figure it out? How to get our infrastructure in place when there's a place that's already established and has already done that. And we can spend more time assisting our clients and getting developments approved and gaining additional entitlement and not spending time on things that are not furthering the business needs of our clients.
James: We're excited to have you guys here with us and look forward to working with you in the future and are excited about all the experience that you bring to the firm.