This month, we sat down with Eric Hepfer, managing director at Hines. An EDC investor, Hines is a global real estate investment, development and management firm with 148 developments currently underway around the world. We spoke with Eric to learn more about the company’s local projects, and how they align with our regional goals.
Please tell us about your past projects and history in the region. What are some things most people don’t know about Hines’ work?
Hines came to San Diego in 1996 to work on projects for SDSU, including the Tony Gwynn stadium, which we parlayed into serving as development manager for Petco Park and then acquiring and developing properties. We developed three towers at La Jolla Commons. I joined Hines in 2012 to work on the second tower – a 420,000-square-foot tower for LPL Financial, where we incorporated an innovative fuel cell electrical generation system that can power the entire tower. For the third tower, I managed the design, entitlement and predevelopment before we sold it to American Assets. I also supervised the lease up and sale of the 449,000-square-foot Procopio Tower in downtown, and our company’s expansion into the Carlsbad market with the acquisition and repositioning of 400,000 square feet of flex/office projects.
In addition to our current work to transform Mission Valley’s Riverwalk Golf Course into a 200-acre, mixed-use, transit-oriented village, we’re in pre-development on a student housing project adjacent to the CSU San Marcos campus, and we’re evaluating a number of additional deals throughout San Diego.
Your Mission Valley project, Riverwalk, is closely aligned with EDC’s inclusive growth goals. Can you tell us more about this?
Riverwalk is a complete-village project that celebrates its surroundings and provides an interdependent mix of uses for a wide variety of people, including a new, central trolley station. It also opens and restores over 100 acres of park space to the general public living, visiting and working in Mission Valley, which is woefully underserved with park space. Hines will also restore the expansive portion of the San Diego River that runs through the project, and we will add a large section to the San Diego River Trail. The regional vision includes connecting this biking/walking trail from East County all the way to the ocean. Adding the Riverwalk section will go a long way toward completing this vision.
The 4,300 units planned at Riverwalk are comprised of a diverse mix of market-rate, affordable and senior housing. Furthermore, we’re making it possible to live at Riverwalk without relying on a car. We’re creating a new trolley station on site and developing a mix of uses, which includes retail and office space. We’re positioning Riverwalk to create economic opportunity. In addition to its live-transit-work-play options, we intend to provide good jobs and, potentially, job training programs for a broad range of people.
What is your long-term vision for San Diego?
Our LPL Tower, with its onsite energy generation capabilities, and Riverwalk, with all of its strategies for loosening our reliance on cars, demonstrate our firm’s commitment to responsible planning and development and creating projects and places to foster social mobility. We even have an ‘Office of Innovation’ that tracks and studies new technologies. Going forward, Hines will develop additional high-quality, large-scale, game-changing projects that will positively impact our region.
Can you tell us more about your San Diego team?
Our team is relatively young. We’re raising families and balancing careers. We’re embracing alternative modes of transportation and have located our office so our employees can use transit, which I do nearly every day. We recognize that we’re in a unique position to affect many of San Diego’s quality of life issues for our generation and others. We take that responsibility very seriously.
That doesn’t mean we don’t make time for fun, though. We work hard and play hard, realizing that spending social time together makes work more enjoyable and strengthens employee retention. Most recently, our business generation team challenged ourselves to surf and ski in Southern California in one day…which we did!