“What stood out to me the most when I arrived at Opus four years ago is the collaborative culture," said
Dustin Slack, Vice President of Real Estate Development. “Our fully-integrated team of
construction experts make it possible, along with our shared culture of truly caring for our clients and partners."
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With more than two decades of experience in multifamily development and architecture, Dustin leads development and is responsible for identifying, pursuing and overseeing market-rate multifamily projects across the greater Southwestern markets including Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado.
“My team finds and evaluates development opportunities, ensuring they provide the best possible return on investment for Opus and our financial and joint venture partners."
Since the late 1990s when multifamily development firms began focusing on investment-grade, institutional-quality, residential projects, Dustin has developed more than 5,000 multifamily apartment units in several major sunbelt growth markets.
“Compared to other commercial real estate pursuits, multifamily projects tend to be complex and typically have long life cycles," he said. “They are a good fit for us, given the effectiveness of our multidisciplinary approach. Our financial partners appreciate our turn-key delivery with everything under one umbrella, providing a one-stop shop for what would otherwise be a very complex process."
An Architect First
Dustin began his career as an architect.
“I took a drafting class in 8th grade and was hooked," he said. “When I got into middle school, I spent a lot of time drawing houses – all kinds of houses."
Dustin's interest in architecture was solidified in high school when he attended vocational classes offered through his high school in Dallas. He went on achieve a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Texas at Austin and then a Master of Business Administration degree from Southern Methodist University.
Dustin's first job after college was designing apartments.
“Looking back, it was almost like dumb luck. It was my first opportunity doing what I enjoyed," he said. “Little did I know, multifamily would become central to my entire career, first as an architect and then as a developer."
The Making of a Developer
While working as an architect, almost all of his clients were developers.
“A couple of them encouraged me to go into development," he said. “They said I was a good project manager who used a pragmatic approach, considering all aspects of a project: design, the market and construction costs."
Dustin excels as a developer because he speaks the language of design, development and construction. But when asked what he enjoys most about his job, he says it's being in a job trailer at the construction site.
“Working directly with our architects and contractors on the physical building itself – problem solving and moving the project along – is most rewarding to me," he said. “The financial analysis portion is more like a math problem than a creative opportunity."
Timing is Everything
At Opus, we talk a lot about speed of delivery. That's because delivering projects on time is critical to our partners and clients. So, the adage “timing is everything" certainly applies to our projects. Case in point,
1919 Mile High Apartments in
“The project had a tight timeline and we were racing toward a March 11, 2020, closing date," Dustin said. “All three of our groups were burning the midnight oil to get there. The development team was crunched for time with permits, our designers were hustling to get drawings approved and our construction team, as always, was pressured to get costs in line with where we needed them."
Dustin and Jim Erwin, Regional Vice President of Construction, were leading and monitoring the project closely.
“We both have over 25 years of experience and have been in these situations before," Dustin said. “Our role was to keep everyone calm and support them. We were confident and knew our teams were on track for a successful transaction on March 11. We also knew our land seller was not going to budge on the March 11 date – and thank goodness they didn't," he said.
Many times on closing day, it's around three p.m. when confirmation arrives that everything is in place, the land has closed and the joint venture has been formed with the equity partner.
“We were all glued to our email waiting for the news," he said. “Sure enough, everything came through, and the transaction was confirmed, albeit later in the day than usual. Normally we celebrate, but it was late so we all went home and went to bed."
“When we woke up and went into the office March 12, the world had changed. While we were focused on the Mile High project the night before, the NBA abruptly halted the Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Utah Jazz basketball game before tip-off. One of the players had tested positive for Covid-19. I remember it vividly, because it was indicative of what was to come."
On Friday, March 13, the Covid-19 shutdown began in earnest and all Opus offices, including the Denver office, closed down and associates transitioned to working from home. It was a volatile time for all businesses.
“If our dedicated teams at Opus hadn't pushed so hard to meet the March 11 deadline, it's likely the deal would not have survived," Dustin said. “Looking back, time really was everything."
New Multifamily Project Type
In addition to the Mile High project, Dustin led development of
Paradise @ P83 near
Phoenix. The first project of its kind for Opus, it is a lower-density, 352-unit, 10-building, garden-style
Traditionally, our multifamily developments have been high-density, high-rise buildings, mainly in the Midwest. Consisting of multiple three- and four-story buildings, Paradise is distinctly different. With decades of experience as an architect and developer in the Southwest, Dustin was familiar with the project type and successfully introduced it at Opus.
“Dustin brings a unique blend of spatial awareness and business acumen to each of his projects," said Larry Pobuda, Executive Vice President & General Manager. “An architect by training, Dustin can quickly assess the right project, scale and business opportunity – a unique and valuable skill set. Equally important, Dustin is a great teammate and a valued colleague to all of us at Opus."
Dustin is a member of the National Multi-Housing Council, the Urban Land Institute and Real Estate Council of Austin. He also maintains designation as a registered non-practicing architect.
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