Schuler Development is keeping busy developing projects in Texas.
By Alan Dorich
Some developers buy land and immediately plan to build a project on it. But McKinney, Texas-based Schuler Development prefers to wait for the right time when it can benefit the most, founder George Schuler says.
“My modus operandi has been to go out ahead of an area’s growth, buy the land and let it grow,” he explains. “Then, I sell it or form a joint venture [for a project].”
Schuler has sat on parcels of land for as long as 20 years. “The good news is that if you hold land long enough in Texas, you’ll make money off it,” he says.
A longtime veteran of the real estate industry, Schuler founded the company in 1980 after managing the Plano Chamber of Commerce in Plano, Texas. When the city experienced a development boom, “I got bitten with the entrepreneurial bug,” he recalls.
Schuler built a chain of seven car washes, but also purchased a piece of property that a bank foreclosed on. Instead of immediately developing the property, he patiently sat on it.
“I sold it a year and a day later for more money than two of my car washes made in a whole year,” he recalls. “That got me involved in real estate.”
Since then, Schuler Development has developed multiple projects with this approach. “We try to get the best piece of property wherever the location is and have to be patient,” Schuler asserts.
Schuler’s partner, Jim Meara, praises his leadership method. “He’s good at taking a crystal ball and looking forward,” Meara says, noting that Schuler often looks 10 to 20 years ahead when buying projects. “He plans it accordingly.”
Schuler recently returned to the business after stepping away due to his health. “About 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis,” he recalls, noting that he received a double lung transplant in June 2016.
“It was an absolutely remarkable surgery,” he says. “I just had my six-month checkup and all my numbers are ahead of what they expect. I still have something to do here.”
Schuler Development is at work on Preston Harbour, a 3,000-acre mixed-use community in Denison, Texas. “[That] will be our big project for the next 20 years,” President Kelly Cannell declares.
The company plans to build a hotel in the area, followed by housing, retail and offices. But Schuler has been advised to build the hotel first. “The active adult developers are saying, ‘You’re better to wait until you get the hotel,’” he says.
He has worked for nearly two decades on Preston Harbour, which is located along Lake Texoma, the second-largest lake in the state. “It’s got nine miles of water frontage, and with that comes the right to have 1,000 boat slips,” Meara says.
The project also is close to the Dallas North Tollway, which is undergoing an extension. “The toll road will come within a mile-and-a-half of our property,” Schuler says, noting that this will only increase the value of Preston Harbour.
Schuler’s brother has partnered with him on the project over the last 17 years. “He’s been a very patient partner to have,” he says, noting that most developers would not commit to a project that long. “But because we don’t do things in a hurry, [we] create the highest-quality product.”
Schuler Development’s projects also include Kings Fort Market Center in Kaufman, Texas. “It was originally a 300-acre mixed-use development,” Meara says. Walmart is the property’s lead retail tenant, along with AT&T, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, Great Clips and UPS.
“We’ve got about 75 acres of commercial retail property that we’ll be developing over the next 36 months,” he says. “In addition to the retail, there will be about 550 single-family lots and 950 apartments.” Groundbreaking on the first apartments is anticipated in late 2017.
Schuler is proud of his company’s past work, including a fixed-base operation (FBO) at McKinney National Airport in McKinney, Texas. The company sold fuel, leased hangars, rented cars and provided all of the services for the public from 1980 to 2013.
“When I first started in McKinney, it was a 4,000-foot runway and no other buildings,” he recalls. “I built the FBO and over time, the airport developed. Now it is airline certified.”
Schuler also convinced Texas Instruments Inc. and Electronic Data Systems to move their corporate fleets to McKinney. “It became a very significant airport,” he says. “I’ve got many fond memories about that.”
The company now provides the same services at Lake Texoma Jet Center, its FBO at North Texas Regional Airport in Denison. It also plans to spend the next five years developing Wildwood, a new lakeside condominium community, also in Denison. “We’re in the early stage of vetting that out,” Cannell says.
“Hopefully, in the next five years, we’ll have our hotel at Preston Harbour and that will trigger a huge development,” Schuler adds. In addition to Preston Harbour, the company has 150 acres at the intersection of US 75 and the proposed Dallas North Tollway extension in Denison that it may develop.
“Something will happen there in the next five years,” he predicts. “I am just a lucky guy in that I have experience in developing in the hottest market in the country.