Texas real estate developer Ross Perot Jr. hired Chicago industrial veteran Don Schoenheider to lead a push into Chicago and other Midwest markets.
Schoenheider began work yesterday as senior vice president and market officer for the Chicago area at Dallas-based Hillwood Investment Properties, the firm said.
Schoenheider, 54, had spent almost 10 years at Liberty Property Trust, where he was vice president and city manager for the Malvern, Pa.-based real estate investment trust.
He oversaw Liberty’s development, acquisitions and leasing in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas. Schoenheider also is mayor of north suburban Lake Forest, a volunteer position.
At Hillwood, Schoenheider is moving from public ownership to a private, family-owned business. The company is the industrial arm of Hillwood Development, part of the Perot Group. Perot, son of the billionaire businessman and former presidential candidate, is chairman of Perot Group and Hillwood Development.
Schoenheider is making the switch amid a strong industrial property market. With the Chicago-area industrial vacancy rate at a 12-year low, life is good for landlords, but soaring property prices have made it hard to find industrial buildings to buy.
“In today’s world acquisitions are tough, so we’ll probably be focused on ground-up development,” Schoenheider said. “But we’ll look to do both.”
Hillwood entered the Chicago area in 2012 in a joint venture with Chicago-based Bridge Development Partners. Last year, Hillwood added another 1.4 million square feet through a six-building, $91 million acquisition.
The firm aims to expand its investment and development operations in Chicago, as well as move into new markets such as Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Columbus, Ohio, Schoenheider said. He said he plans to open an office in Rosemont and eventually add five or six employees. Hillwood does not currently have an office in the Chicago area.
“Don’s significant experience in industrial development will serve us well as we continue to build up our portfolio in the Chicago area and pursue new markets across the Midwest,” Hillwood President Tal Hicks said in a statement.
Hillwood has developed more than 41 million square feet and bought more than 21 million square feet since it was formed in 1998. Aside from its headquarters, the firm has offices in Ontario, Calif.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Harrisburg, Pa., and Memphis, Tenn. It also has offices in Germany, Poland and Luxembourg.
During Schoenheider’s tenure, Liberty’s local acquisitions and development totaled about 13 million square feet, as well as about 350 acres of land. Large deals included development of about 3 million square feet in Liberty Business Center Aurora and the addition of 3.2 million square feet of buildings as part of a 23 million-square-foot Cabot Industrial Value Fund III portfolio.
Liberty now owns about 12 million square feet of warehouses in the Chicago area, with almost 1 million square feet under development, Schoenheider said.
“I’ll basically be doing the same thing I did at Liberty, only with a larger geographic area and at a private company,” Schoenheider said. “I’ll have the ability to do some things that it was more difficult to do at a public company, which is joint venture relationships.”
Liberty is searching for a new Chicago market leader, according to spokeswoman Jeanne Ackerly Leonard, who declined to say whether it is likely to be an internal or external hire.
“Don was a wonderful representative of Liberty in Chicago for nearly 10 years,” Bill Hankowsky, Liberty’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “Under his leadership our local portfolio and our reach increased significantly, and on a national level he made important contributions to our company’s expanding industrial strategy.”