MARCEL specializes in developments that enhance their communities.
By Alan Dorich
When MARCEL develops a property, it takes great care to place it in the right location. “We make sure it’s going to be a site we can develop,” founder Vernon Veldekens declares. “We also make sure we can improve that area.”
This approach has made The Woodlands, Texas-based commercial real estate development and property management firm extremely successful. A longtime veteran of the construction industry, Veldekens started MARCEL 20 years ago, naming the company after his grandfather.
Over the years, it has developed, built and managed properties while establishing itself as a company that banks, investors and tenants can trust. “We do what we say we’re going to do,” Veldekens says. “We also try to be transparent in everything we do.”
MARCEL also sets itself apart with the type of projects it develops. “Usually, a developer does a complete lifestyle center that has multiple types of anchors or a neighborhood center,” he describes.
But MARCEL prefers to operate as a boutique developer that combines many of those things into a single project. “We’re doing a lot of things not a lot of other people are doing,” Veldekens states.
Something for Everybody
MARCEL recently has focused on developing its MARCEL Town Center concept in multiple cities. For each, “We design a development that is mixed-use and is centered around a grand central park,” Veldekens describes.
The centers’ designs also feature courtyards, artificial turf areas and covered sitting areas. “The whole concept is to get the families outside at our centers and put the type of things in there that every community needs,” he explains, noting that these can include restaurants, stores, offices and medical clinics.
“They can go to the fitness center, the hair salon or get something to eat,” Veldekens continues. “[We want to] have something for everybody at all times.”
Each MARCEL development also incorporates a broad range of materials and natural foliage in their design. “We go from masonry to stucco to concrete to wood, and integrate elements of lush landscaping into the overall aesthetic,” he says. “We try to use it all in each one but each area is somewhat different.”
MARCEL recently completed one Town Center located on the outskirts of The Woodlands in Conroe, Texas. “We’re 100 percent leased on that,” Veldekens reports, adding that the company is underway on two more centers – Cross Creek Town Center and MARCEL District – in Fulshear and Sugar Land, Texas.
When finished, the developments will enhance their communities. “Everybody wants something like that,” he asserts. “They don’t want the traditional neighborhood shopping center.”
Neighborhood outreach and community investment are core values of MARCEL. The company’s signature giving initiative, “Groundbreaking for a Cause,” marks the start of construction on each of its projects with a ceremonial event and donation ceremony honoring local nonprofit organizations.
“Since the founding of our company more than 20 years ago, community involvement has been at the forefront of our mission. We pride ourselves on assisting our communities and are fortunate to be in a position where we can give back. It’s what we enjoy, and we’re happy to do what we can to help,” Veldekens says.
A Complete Destination
MARCEL’s next project, MARCEL Boulevard, will even have more to offer its tenants. The project, which will be located in Conroe, will also feature multifamily and senior living units.
“It will be more of a complete destination,” Veldekens explains. “Now you can live, work, shop and have everything you need in one area.”
The project, which it has partnered on with Johnson Development Corp., will place tenants near the Sam Houston State University Medical School and the new Conroe Hotel and Convention Center. “We’re going to be right in the middle of those,” he says.
Although MARCEL plans to break ground on the Boulevard project this December, with a groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for February, it is showing no signs of slowing down afterward.
“Our goal is to do about three Town Centers a year,” Veldekens describes. In addition, he observes that the projects usually carry budgets of $30 million. “Once we start adding multifamily, it will double that cost.”
Veldekens is proud of MARCEL and how it has enjoyed success over two decades. During the Great Recession of 2008, many developers closed their doors, but MARCEL pushed forward while paying all of its subcontractors and investors.
“I think we showed a lot of honor and a lot of integrity during that time,” he recalls. “Sometimes you never know what you’re capable of until you face it, and getting through it was an important part of our sustainability.”
He also takes pride in the company’s partners, including licensed architect Robert Buker of Robert Buker & Associates. “He handles all of the upfront development,” Veldekens describes. “He is a very integral part of putting these projects together.”
Will Bowerman of Bowerman Contracting also earns his praise. “Will puts the team together that’s going to run on our projects,” he states. “He’s very instrumental in everything we do.”
Veldekens also praises Jeff Stein, a senior vice president of CBRE, for his financial assistance, Patrick O. Hayes, a real estate lawyer for Andrews Myers, the leadership team at Nitya Capital and the design team from Gensler’s Houston office. “We don’t do anything without them,” Veldekens says.
He predicts a strong future for MARCEL, as it brings more amenities to its tenants. “I can see the Town Center evolving more and more into a one-stop-shop, live-work-play development,” he says. “We’re trying to evolve that concept and [find ways] how to improve it.”