TCN Worldwide agent, Alison Blalock of WestMark Commercial, Awarded 2020 William C. Jennings Award for Commercial Real Estate

The Texas Realtors association awarded Alison Blalock of WestMark Commercial/TCN Worldwide the 2020 William C. Jennings Award for the outstanding commercial real estate transaction of the year.

The award is based on the transaction's contribution to the community, merit and creativity, and application of commercial principles. The winning transaction transformed unusable office space into 89 affordable housing units in one of Lubbock's most historic buildings, Metro Tower. The tower had been mostly uninhabited since a devastating tornado damaged the building in 1970.

Kansas City-based MRE Capital and its partner, Austin-based Structure Development, purchased the property to redevelop the historic tower with 89 housing units – a mix of efficiency, one- and two-bedroom lofts for lease while keeping the building’s Mid-Century Modern look.

The structure was completed in 1955, branded then by the Lubbock Morning Avalanche as “the talk of America” and “one of the most modern office buildings in the nation.” It is the second tallest known building to have survived a direct hit from a F5 tornado, according to A-J archives.

“[In 2015], Alison and I were standing downtown looking at a building, and I pointed at the tower and told her the one I wanted was the tallest one in town,” said Daniel Sailler, co-founder of MRE Capital, in a news release.

The building wasn't for sale, but the developers were extremely excited and Alison was up for the challenge, saying she'd make a few calls. Her perseverance and dedication to her client paid off when after pitching the developers’ idea [buy the building; renovate it using Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) Housing Tax Credits and Texas Historic Preservation Tax Credit funds; and add affordable housing units.] numerous times and making several offers over the course of several years, a change in upper management at NTS prompted a desire to sell the property.

“This was and is the building’s highest and best use. Bringing affordable housing to downtown will continue to spur commercial development. Metro Tower Lofts is another piece of the puzzle to revitalize downtown Lubbock,” said Alison Blalock of WestMark Commercial/TCN Worldwide.

Other facts about the project:

  • The building has been known recently as the NTS Tower. The company is now called Vexus.
  • MRE Capital has completed 18 residential developments across the Midwest and five in Texas, which include Conrad Lofts in Plainview, which restored the Conrad Hilton Hotel built in 1929, and Farmhouse Row in Slaton.
  • The partnership will be using historical tax credits and housing tax credits as part of the financing. Its construction budget is $20 million. The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs awarded MRE Capital tax credits which makes the project financially feasible.
  • The developers’ design includes commercial amenities on the first floor. Vexus will use the second and third floor for its servers and it will continue to use the roof for its communications equipment.
  • The developers have also purchased four parking lots: one is directly north of the building; another is opposite the building on the south side of Broadway; and the others are at 1301 10th St. and 1402 Main St.
  • The 274-foot high tower was originally called the Great Plains Life Building when it was completed in 1955. It was designed by David S. Castle, an Abilene-based architect who designed dozens of buildings, churches and courthouses in West Texas. His career spanned 40 years and the tower in Lubbock was one of the last buildings he designed. His first designs incorporated a neo-classical style and his later buildings like the Metro Tower were designed in the international style popular Mid-Century.