Olde English Village in Tyler is receiving a facelift from new owners.
Jim Ryffel, owner and president of Woodcrest Capital LLC, a Fort Worth-based real estate development company that owns, leases and manages properties across Texas, bought the property late last year.
Michael Unell, president of Woodcrest Construction Services, a subsidiary of Woodcrest Capital, is heading up the construction project that started in June. He said on Tuesday that two buildings' exteriors are nearly finished and they plan to complete the entire project before Thanksgiving.
Unell said they are using colors and architectural detail to create dramatic curbside appeal. “It's a far cry from what it was,” he said. “It has required a tremendous amount of planning and organizing to pull this all off.”
When the company purchased the shopping center, built in the early 1970s, the plans were to turn the property around from aesthetic and occupancy standpoints. He said only 11 of the 21 units on the property were occupied when they bought it.
Woodcrest has the in-house capabilities to create the design and drawings for the renovations and to do the construction work, he said.
“We have significantly increased the total number of units that were there,” Unell said. The 21 spaces have been made into 44 new suites without adding any extra square footage, he added.
When they bought the property, they looked at its vacancy and how the property was demised. Unell said it was not conducive to getting more businesses in the center so they took the vacant areas, demolished the interiors and created a large number of additional spaces. Available floor plans will include 950; 1,250; 1,800; 2,500; and 5,000 square foot lease spaces. All suites have ADA (American Disability Association) compliant bathrooms, as well as new electrical and HVAC systems.
Woodcrest was founded in 1981 by Ryffel and its portfolio of properties largely has been in Texas, Unell said. But in the last couple of years, the company has acquired properties in Arizona, Georgia, Missouri and Ohio.
Woodcrest generally targets neighborhood shopping centers that are older and offer lower rent than newer centers, and do not have big box stores anchoring them. The company has a lot of “mom and pop-type businesses” for tenants, but its centers also usually include a handful of national tenants, such as Sprint.
Unell said there is no limit to the type of businesses and offices that go into their centers, from restaurants and nail salons to accountant offices and financial services.
“It's open to such a large variety; it's hard to say,” he said, referring to what types of businesses will become tenants in the new and improved Olde English Village.
Although the construction has created some inconvenience for existing tenants, Unell said everyone has been able to stay open for business.
“Everyone is excited about the property,” Unell said of the tenants. “Everyone's really started to see how amazing it's going to look.”
FIRST IN TYLER
“Jim (Ryffel) likes communities like Tyler,” Unell said. “He's kind of a small town kind of guy.” Woodcrest has several properties in Odessa and San Angelo, he added.
“That's the type of market Jim enjoys being in,” Unell said.
Unell said each year he has two or three projects like the one in Tyler — giving a facelift to a shopping center and bringing it up to the aesthetics of the community.
Unell has been in the commercial construction business for 18 years and met Ryffel more than four years ago when he came to Woodcrest to try to solicit work from him, he said, adding that Woodcrest was doing all of its construction work in-house. Within months, Ryffel came up with the idea for them to work together.
The two formed Woodcrest Construction Services, which does all of the construction work for Woodcrest Capital properties, as well as third-party construction to bring in revenue, Unell said.
Although Woodcrest does some construction from the ground up, that is not the niche the company focuses on, he said. Woodcrest also has the capability to have all of their mechanical, electrical, HVAC and heating services done in-house. Woodcrest Construction has about 45 trade workers and about a dozen office workers.
Unell said the Woodcrest team is excited about the Tyler property and what it will do for the community. He said they are looking forward to more projects in Tyler.
He said they are working with local leasing brokers in Tyler, such as Matthew Marshall, principal of Landbridge Commercial Properties, but they have not decided on the day-to-day management of the center once it is completed.
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