By Garry Marr | CoStar News
RangeWater Real Estate’s Steven Shores Says Attracting the Right People Matters
As CEO of RangeWater Real Estate, Steven Shores oversees the management of 95,000 apartment units and $6 billion in rental housing in a company he built. That’s a far cry from where he started in his first job in commercial real estate: closing bank branches.
After giving up on the initial idea of going into architecture, because he says he’s not artistic, he ended up in his first job at Andersen Consulting. At the firm, now Accenture, he worked on bank merger-and-acquisition transactions from 1994-1998, and for deals with North Carolina National Bank, now known as Bank of America.
Former Bank of America CEO and Chairman Hugh McColl and his team “went around and gobbled up banks around the country, and I was on the team who would go in and help them merge operations,” Shores said. “There was a lot of real estate stuff involved, branches across the street from each other, and one had to close. How do you consolidate? How do you dispose of them?”
To get from a job where part of the duties involved closing bank branches to overseeing a company managing apartments across the Sun Belt, he would first have to go to New York City and then Denver. Along the way, there was office property and then condominiums, and he said he learned in all his travels and working with different property types that surrounding himself with people he could trust was vital.
The first step on that career journey began with his return to school in 1998 to get his MBA at the Columbia Business School at Columbia University in New York City.
“New York is really the best Petri dish to learn real estate from a transaction perspective,” said Shores.
From there, an important career moment was when he joined Houston-based global real estate investment, development and property manager Hines in 2000 in its Denver office.
“I was fortunate to get a job with them. They are run with the highest integrity,” said Shores about Hines, where the Denver office had four people. “Originally, I was going to work in their Aspen office. I have loved the mountains and outdoors since I was an Eagle Scout. They had a resort development arm. I interviewed, but the market and economy in that business were slowing down.”
Hines asked him to move to Denver and consider working on offices instead of resorts.
“I ran their office in Colorado. We did development. I expanded my role to the broader Southwest U.S.,” he said. “They are known for office, but they do everything. I gravitated to the more residential side of the business.”
His entrepreneurial spirit made Shores want to create something on his own, so he moved back to his hometown of Atlanta and was a partner at Urban Realty Partners. URP built a few different condo projects.
“We parted on good terms, but I wanted to build a company focused on” apartment real estate, Shores said. The door to the multifamily business opened shortly after when Shores was having a beer with a guy he grew up with named Steven DeFrancis.
DeFrancis just happened to be CEO of another large apartment company, called Cortland, that owns 83,500 multifamily units. Cortland now is a competitor of RangeWater’s. “I told him what I wanted to do, and he said, ‘You have to meet Marc Pollack,'” Shores said.
Pollack is chairman emeritus of RangeWater. In 2006, he co-founded the firm, initially known as Pollack Shores Real Estate Group, with Shores. In late 2019, the owners rebranded Pollack Shores and its property management division, Matrix Residential, as one company under the RangeWater name.
When Shores and Pollack met to plan their multifamily firm, they didn’t yet have an established headquarters.
“We had three offices, the (three) Starbucks,” Shores said with a laugh.
Big Emotional Blow
Looking back, Shores said one of his toughest lessons was one of his first projects — an office tower in Denver that was ready to go until the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.
“The market for high-rise offices froze up. It was sort of like the pandemic because people were asking if anybody wanted to be in an office,” said Shores, noting that the project got shelved. “It was a big learning lesson. It didn’t happen because of things out of our control. It was a big loss to take. It was a big emotional blow.”
Shores said he learned to be focused on risk management because great markets can end. Hines taught him it always helps to have good partners in projects with deep pockets and interests aligned. Today, he runs a company with 1,700 employees.
“I’m not doing as many deals day to day. It’s much more managing people now,” said Shores, who still loves to get involved in transactions when he can because it fills a need. “But what I learned? Integrity is one of our core values. I’ve always surrounded myself and worked with people in the business world who maintain integrity first. We lead our organization that way.”
R É S U M É
Steven Shores | Chairman & CEO, RangeWater Real Estate
Current city: Atlanta
Years in industry: 25+
Education: MBA in finance and real estate from Columbia Business School, Bachelor’s degree from Davidson College
Hobbies: Fly fishing, golf, skiing, cycling
Advice to those starting out in the industry: “Be a sponge and build relationships. Take on whatever you can that will teach you something. I learn new things every day from facing new challenges. Always remember real estate is a relationship business. Make sure you invest in getting to know others and build a personal bond. Too often people view real estate as a transactional business more than a people-focused one. What I’ve found in my career is that the relationships I’ve built with others—personal relationships—are the most rewarding and productive aspects of the job.”