“There must always be a burn in your heart to achieve. In the quiet of your solitude, close your eyes, bow your head, grit your teeth, clench your fists. Achieve in your heart, vow and dedicate yourself to achieve, to achieve.”
— Trammell Crow.
Growing up as the only daughter of legendarydeveloper Trammell Crow, Lucy Crow Billingsley was raised in the finest Southern belle tradition. By the time she got to college, the debutante couldn't wait to rip off the long white gloves. She skipped the liberal arts classes and dove into real estate and finance. “All I knew was that I wanted to do something of substance,” Billingsley says. “I was yearning for the grittiness of life.”
One of her five brothers, Harlan, heads up Crow Family Holdings. The others dabble in real estate investments. But it's Billingsley, a petite, red-headed firecracker, who's following in her father's development footsteps. After graduating from the University of Texas in 1975, she worked in research and retail, eventually being named CEO of Trammell Crow's 7 million sq. ft. Dallas Market Center complex. She left in 1991 to “do it on my own, damn it,” launching a travel agency that became the region's largest.
In 1996, she formed Billingsley Co. to begin building on land north of Dallas owned by her business partner and husband, Henry Billingsley. “He told me, ‘This location is so good, any fool could make it work,’” she recalls.
That 300-acre project, International Business Park, now holds 1.4 million sq. ft. of office space; plans call for up to 35 buildings totaling 5 million sq. ft. At Austin Ranch, a 1,900-acre development in North Dallas, Billingsley has built 1.4 million sq. ft. of office and industrial space and 2,000 residential units. Her latest endeavor is One Arts Plaza, a $125 million, 425,000 sq. ft. office building going up in the Arts District of downtown Dallas. The 24-story tower will serve as the world headquarters for 7-Eleven Inc. and will sit on 10 acres her father acquired more than 30 years ago.
The influence of Trammell Crow, who's now 92 and suffers from Alzheimer's, is obvious in his daughter's office. Framed quotes and letters from him sit on her credenza and hang on her office walls. The two have always had a very deep bond, to the point where they can read each other's thoughts and finish each other's sentences, Billingsley says. “More than anything about real estate, he has taught me about life.”
In late October, the publicly traded company that bears her father's name announced it was being acquired by CB Richard Ellis Inc. in a $2.2 billion transaction. Trammell Crow Co. will continue to exist as a Dallas-based development subsidiary, but the bulk of its operations, its brokerage and property management groups, will be folded into CBRE. The acquisition enhances opportunity for growth. “It preserves the Trammell Crow name,” Billingsley says, “and takes it back to his development roots.”