Written by: Amanda Watson, Marketing Specialist (Portage, IN) and Kahli Anthony (Former employee)
Holladay Properties recently celebrated its 60th year in business. To commemorate the occasion, we created a video history of the company from its founding in 1952 to today. We collected a lot of great information that couldn’t all be included in the video. So, for your education and entertain, we present:
The Complete History of Holladay Properties
Holladay Properties has gone through a lot of changes over the years. From its humble beginnings as the builder of single family housing specifically designed with WWII veterans in mind, to one of the largest, privately held commercial real estate developers in the Midwest today. In 1952 Grant Holladay Construction Group was founded by architects Wallace F. Holladay and Norbert Grant, two out of work FHA inspectors who decided to try their hand at building homes for the largest section of the population, the middle class. The first 15 years involved starting 25 homes every Monday morning, mostly for WWII vets. In 1957, Holladay bought out Grant and The Holladay Corporation was created and continued to focus on mid-income single family housing primarily in the Midwest. In the mid-60’s Wally acquired a piece of land in Fort Wayne, Indiana which was zoned for apartments with a piece designated for a nursing home. After building the nursing home in Fort Wayne, he ventured into the Midwest locations for apartments such as West Jefferson in Mishawaka and Portage Place, Holladay Corporation’s first South Bend apartment project, which both stick to Wally’s focus on middle to low income basic housing, no frills. In the early 70’s Wally became much more involved in the Washington, DC market and lost interest in the Midwest. Before this, Wally had spent the majority of his time traveling between his various Midwest projects, flying his single engine airplane from city to city, going home to DC on Fridays to do his “banking.”
In the early 70s, Wally was developing multifamily nursing home projects in the South Bend market and other Midwest cities. He developed a relationship with an employee at St. Joseph Bank and Trust Company – John T. Phair. John loaned Holladay Corporation money on several occasions and Wally became one of his biggest customers and a friend. At the same time, the DC office was expanding and adding more and more projects to its portfolio. Wally, at this point, decided he didn’t want to continue coming to the Midwest and wanted to sell his assets here so, John set up three appointments for potential buyers. At the time the market was down and the meetings resulted in offers lower than he wanted to accept. After the meetings, John was driving Wally to the airport they had a conversation about the day’s events and how Wally needed to do something about the Midwest properties; it was then that Wally said, “what about you?” John and Wally then sat at the bar at the airport and worked out a back of the napkin arrangement. On March 1, 1978, John resigned his position at St. Joe and went to work for Holladay Corporation. An interesting thing to mention, on John’s last day at St. Joe, he signed a loan commitment as a lender to the Holladay Corporation and on the following day, he signed the same agreement as the borrower, possibly still a first.
John then opened an office for Holladay Corporation in an apartment at Portage Place apartments. At this point, Portage Place and West Jefferson had onsite managers and they were now reporting to John. During John’s first six months, Holladay built an addition of 96 units at Portage Place and developed the first 28 units in seven buildings at Maple Lane South Bend. In the next few years, Holladay built several additions at Maple Lane and Portage Place to end up with around 400 apartments at Maple Lane and 568 apartments at Portage Place, which completed development on Holladay Corporation’s land holdings in South Bend. So now Holladay needed land and John had a real interest in getting into the commercial side of the business. Holladay found out that Crowe Chizek wanted to expand on the river and ended up buying and developing the River Glen site on the other end of the park and started a new building before Crowe Chizek broke ground. Holladay built the 34,000 SF River Glen Office Plaza in 1980, which became the South Bend office’s first commercial development and also the first office that Wally had built. This was the turning point for Midwest operations and the South Bend office started focusing on commercial development more than residential.
The 80’s were an exciting time for Holladay in the Midwest. The South Bend team completed and moved into their first commercial project, got really good at moving – they had four different offices – and stopped building apartments with the exception of Maple Lane Elkhart, which began in 1986. In 1985, John Phair became a partner of The Holladay Corporation, and the South Bend office started its first substantial rehabilitation of a closed factory, 3300 Sample Street, which was converted from a Milton Bradley croquet toy plant, into multi-tenant office/warehouse space. Sample Street has had its ups and downs but remains a project that generates revenue for Holladay and today is home to a unique tenant mix. South Bend also developed its first built-to-suit at 851 Marietta Street in South Bend for Signature Insurance, a subsidiary for Montgomery Wards. Though the facility has gone through many changes over the years but is still owned by Holladay today. One might know that to build 851 Marietta, an old school was torn down and used the fixtures, including doors, granite and bathroom partitions, at 227 South Main, which was undergoing renovations at the time for Holladay’s next office. John inherited the Kindergarten door, which caused a lot of laughs at the time. These fixtures are still present in the building and in Holladay’s current office space – which puts us light years ahead of the green building movement!
As of 1986, the South Bend team had only developed projects in the South Bend area until Thomas C. Gibson, a member of the South Bend team, convinced Wally that Nashville, TN was up and coming and Holladay needed to be there. Tom volunteered to lead the new office and moved to Nashville. Soon thereafter, Holladay purchased two separate sites to develop as industrial parks called Fessler’s Lane Business Park and the Northgate Business Park. Holladay developed 110,000 square feet of flex space in Fessler’s Lane Business Park by the end of the ‘80s.
Meanwhile in South Bend, the tenant portfolio was growing so Holladay made an effort to show its appreciation by hosting cookouts at each building. The South Bend Property Management Team and John Phair would take a van loaded with a grill, hot dogs, chips and pop and set up a picnic in the parking lots. They visited one building per lunch hour each day through the summer months to meet with and listen to the tenants.
As the ‘80’s drew to an end, the South Bend office developed One Michiana Square in 1988; and, in 1989, Holladay’s first joint-venture development, Memorial Skyway, and the headquarters for AM General, who also moved into the Byrkit Avenue facility, a 600,000 SF building dating back to 1911 that was purchased in 1988. The redevelopment of this project required Holladay to navigate various environmental issues, which weren’t the only challenges the South Bend and Nashville offices were facing at that time.