Hunter Richardson has enjoyed a storied career in commercial real estate and has played a key role in some of Atlanta’s highest-profile developments. In today’s Four on Friday, we chat with Richardson, who recently joined Portman Holdings as executive vice president of development, about his new job, his favorite projects and his love of Canadian vacations. Many thanks to Hunter for his time and insight.
Richardson: I personally have always had a great deal of respect for John Portman & Associates, Portman Holdings’ affiliated architecture firm, and the quality of their design and the scale and complexity of the projects they have undertaken. This respect has grown since starting to work in Atlanta in the mid-1990s and learning of the extent of their impact on the quality of life in downtown Atlanta with projects like Peachtree Center, the Hyatt Regency, the Marriott Marquis and AmericasMart, which have all contributed immensely to landscape of the city.
More recently I became acquainted with Portman Holdings and their renewed focus on real estate development within the United States. With five projects either under construction or about to start and the desire to pursue other developments, I have the opportunity to translate my years of mixed-use experience into overseeing multiple projects at the same time while helping to grow the Portman Holdings development platform. It is an exciting opportunity that has led me back to Downtown Atlanta and will enable me to continue to contribute to the fabric of Atlanta.
Over the course of your career, you've worked on a number of high-profile Atlanta projects, including Buckhead Atlanta, Pemberton Place, Philips Arena and the renovation of CNN Center. Is there any one particular project of which you're most proud.
Richardson: It may sound cliché but my favorite project has always been the one I’m either working on today or my most recent one. When Phillips Arena opened and the CNN Center renovations were completed back in 1999 and 2000, it was my favorite for linkage to Centennial Olympic Park and their contribution to Downtown Atlanta. When working on Pemberton Place for Coca-Cola and seeing the master plan come to fruition, it was my favorite as it anchored the north end of Centennial Olympic Park and added further dimension to Atlanta in terms of its destinational appeal.
And now Buckhead Atlanta is my favorite. It was the most difficult and complex development I’ve ever been involved with given its history and the effort involved in bringing this district of Buckhead back to life. Just as Phillips and Pemberton Place have been catalytic to Downtown Atlanta, Buckhead Atlanta is proving to be catalytic to both the Village of Buckhead and Atlanta in general. I believe that each of these projects contributes to the quality of life in Atlanta, and I’m proud to have been a part of each of these destination attractions.
What drew you to a career in commercial real estate – did you ever contemplate another profession?
Richardson: I laughingly say that if I had to do it over, I’d be selling umbrella drinks on the beach. But more seriously, I grew up in the lumbering business and then worked road construction to help pay for college, so I had a taste for construction and development from an early age.
When I was in grad school, I did an independent study project, researching the viability of Reston, Virginia, as a “new town.” This more or less crystalized my interest in real estate and led me to starting my real estate career with Gulf Reston and then Reston Land. From there, I may have questioned the choice occasionally, but found that it constantly presented new challenges and new opportunities, and I have never really wanted to do anything else.
If you could take a trip to anywhere, where would it be?
Richardson: My family laughs about my penchant for Canada — our latest trips have been to Vancouver, Montreal and Quebec City, as I thoroughly enjoy the experience of going north of the border. More seriously, I’ve never been, but would love to visit Rome, Italy, and Sydney, Australia — two divergent choices, but two places that appeal to my desire to experience both Old World and New World cities.