Families in RE: Creativity, passion power family trio

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By Suzanne Heyn

The personalities of Jim Pederson, founder of The Pederson Group, son James Pederson and brother Gary Pederson blend well, the men say.

Jim is the visionary, the big-picture thinker who understands real estate and knows how to bring players together. James is hard working, eager to learn and ready to put the time in to understand the complex shopping center business.

Gary is the detail guy, a lawyer by trade, focused and dedicated. He once walked through a neighborhood in the rain, talking with neighbor after neighbor, to appease concerns over a project The Pederson Group was working on. 

Jim started the company in 1983, and Gary joined in 1996. Eleven years separate the brothers. Jim was already in college by the time Gary grew old enough to form a relationship with him.

Jim and James Pederson.
Jim and James Pederson.

Gary initially suggested joining the company. He had been working in a law firm, and grew tired of spending life tethered to a time sheet. “It was a great opportunity to really get to know Jim,” said Gary. Today, he works as The Pederson Group’s vice president, designated broker and general counsel.

Jim happily brought Gary on board. “You have to be really careful in your documentation when you’re in the real estate business because it can come back to haunt you if you’re not,” said Jim. “I knew I needed help. I’m not a very good detail guy.”

James, Jim’s son, grew up in the business and always wanted to work at his dad’s firm. “That was always what I was shooting for,” he said. He joined in 2006, after working on Jim’s U.S. Senate race. As a senior leasing agent, he works to negotiate new leases and lease renewals for the firm’s shopping center tenants.

One thing all the men have in common — a propensity for jumping into new situations and figuring them out as they go.

“I believe in sink or swim,” said Jim. “You throw someone into a job, you throw them into the mix.” Creative souls enjoy those challenges. Those who need rules and structure generally lack creativity, an essential element for success in commercial real estate, said Jim.

“I don’t want to be part of the bureaucratic organization where you’re in an office and  you have people up above and people down below, and you’re stuck somewhere in the middle,” Jim said. Early in his career at Westcor, Jim was charged with the underperforming Metrocenter. No one told him the way forward.

“You get out there and you start solving problems on your own. That’s why I started my own company. To succeed or fail based on my own merits,” said Jim.

A mix of creativity and relationships often leads to the most non-formula driven projects, which build a company’s reputation for quality.

In the early 1990s, the owners of a struggling shopping center at Hayden and Chaparral roads approached Jim about a rehab. “They had lost so much money and didn’t know what to do,” recalled Jim.

A grocery store and drug store had left the shopping center, leaving just one tenant despite the good location. The family called Jim for a meeting at 2 p.m. on a Friday. Two hours later, they came to his office.

Jim knew the expanding Scottsdale Fashion Square was squeezing a Safeway out of its existing location, and that the supermarket would need new space. Despite the opportunity, problems were never-ending. A flooding wash restricted access. About two-thirds of the center had to be torn down and rebuilt. The family trusted Jim, giving him carte blanche to make the center profitable.

Jim’s ideas worked. Today, the center features a very successful Safeway and other large retailers.

“These things come to you if you’re involved in the community,” said Jim. “They don’t come to you sitting behind your desk, and they don’t come to you if you don’t make an effort to get out and form those relationships, because you never know where these deals are going to come from.”

“The truly unique deals,” Jim added, “are the ones that tend to make the most money.” Then, in the end, everyone wins. 

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