Perspectives on Commercial Real Estate
Every day, Sloss Real Estate and our community benefit from the wide range of expertise on our team! Recently, Tom Walker, Jr., our Chief Operating Officer, weighed in on his experience in the commercial real estate industry.
Walker graduated in 2007 with a finance degree from Alabama. While real estate was slowing down during the 2008 financial crisis, he began his career in the accounting department of Colonial Properties Trust. Starting at the low end of the totem pole, he learned everything he could and worked his way up in the industry. Later, he was hired at Bayer Properties as a financial analyst, where he took the opportunity to move into a more development-focused role.
During Walker’s time at Bayer Properties, the individual in charge of the Pizitz redevelopment project retired before the project really got off the ground. Walker approached the owners of Bayer Properties and asked for a chance to prove he could learn that side of the business. His courage paid off as he became the development manager of the Pizitz building, a project representing a $70 million investment, and which has become an incredible example of the revitalization taking place in downtown Birmingham.
This revitalization effort is what attracted him to the project, Walker says. “I didn’t have as much interest in traditional real estate development. I was drawn to The Pizitz Building because of the opportunity for urban infill development. Taking an old building and activating it was exciting.”
After the Pizitz opened, Sloss Real Estate President Cathy Sloss Jones was looking for someone to come in and focus on operations. Walker was intrigued by the chance to focus on redevelopment in downtown Birmingham and prioritize the return to Birmingham’s urban core. “Cathy has been doing that longer than anyone,” he says. “It’s a trend particularly in the South because communities couldn’t afford to tear down old buildings. Especially in Birmingham, there wasn’t a need to do so, because there wasn’t a lot of activity downtown – old buildings didn’t get torn down to make way for major industries. There weren’t people lined up to get condos downtown as you may have seen in a larger cities such as Nashville.”
Walker believes that Sloss Real Estate leases, manages and develops some of the most exciting real estate in the City of Birmingham, and he enjoys having a front row seat to the continued progress in the Magic City.
The biggest factor for Birmingham’s success, he says, will be continuing job growth. This is what will aid true progression in Birmingham, bringing in more ideas and talent to benefit the area and continue to build the city up. The city is dedicated to that mission: to attract industry players while also growing and supporting small businesses. Birmingham’s small business community is strong, and those businesses are a priority for the city, and should be a priority for the private sector as well. With all the challenges facing small businesses today, it’s more important than ever to support that community wherever possible.
Sloss Real Estate will do its part, dedicating the majority of its attention to the district near Sloss Furnaces – where Pepper Place and Sloss Docks are now. Walker is focused on consolidating Sloss Real Estate’s portfolio to prioritize the things the company is best at – bringing the community together through innovative real estate redevelopment, while honoring and preserving the rich history in Birmingham.