VanTrust Real Estate: Developer of the Year 2023

Development Magazine: Fall 2023 Issue
By Ron Derven

This Kansas City-based real estate firm ‘has always been about people.’

Since its founding in 2010, Kansas City-based VanTrust Real Estate has worked to ensure that “developing with a difference” is more than just finding the right property or developing a successful project. Rather, it’s making a strong commitment to its employees, communities and clients. It’s “doing right by the dirt.” It’s developing every project as if it were a long-term hold — and so much more.

For its outstanding quality of products and services, financial stability, ability to adapt to market conditions and support of NAIOP and the communities in which it works, VanTrust Real Estate is NAIOP’s 2023 Developer of the Year.

“On behalf of NAIOP, we are honored to recognize VanTrust as our 2023 Developer of the Year,” said Marc Selvitelli, CAE, NAIOP’s president and CEO. “The company has achieved remarkable success by effectively navigating challenges and leading with an entrepreneurial and nimble approach. Its commitment to employees, clients and communities is impressive.”

“We at VanTrust are extremely proud to be recognized by NAIOP as the Developer of the Year, and we would like to thank NAIOP for this honor,” said Dave Harrison, president of VanTrust. “This award is a testament to the work ethic and conviction of our employees and the commitment of the Van Tuyl family capital. These two things, combined with the valued relationships we have in the brokerage, banking, construction and customer/client communities, is what we believe distinguishes VanTrust and enables us to develop with a difference.”

The Early Days

VanTrust Real Estate started with a meeting in 2010 between Cecil Van Tuyl and Harrison, who was leading a regional office for a national development company. Both Cecil and his son Larry experienced exceptional success in the automotive industry. Cecil started with a single used-car dealership in the 1950s, then Larry joined the business in 1971. Together, they grew the Van Tuyl Group into the largest privately owned auto group in the U.S. with more than 100 dealerships. In addition to owning the car dealerships and the land on which they were located, Cecil had exceptional business acumen in investing in various classes of real estate.

During a meeting in early 2010, Dave was assisting Cecil with a challenging real estate project. Aware that Dave and his group were embarking on a future “to be defined” endeavor, Cecil proposed a go-forward partnership. Caymus Real Estate was formed six weeks later.

“Cecil wanted to invest between $40 million to $60 million a year in commercial real estate,” Harrison said. “Fast-forward a couple of years, and Caymus was saying grace over more than $700 million in projects. In 2012, I went to Cecil with three options for the go-forward business, as our business model did not match up with our in-place work product: Keep the original partnership model, create a hybrid company or become a regional/national developer. Cecil then suggested that I meet with his son, Larry, because he said ‘you’ll only have me for another 16 years’ as he had planned on retiring at 100.

“After a brief meeting with Larry, the decision was made to be a regional/national real estate development company. Considering mutual objectives, the go-forward would become a fiduciary-based organization, owned by the Van Tuyl family. The name of the company changed from Caymus to VanTrust Real Estate as an ode to Cecil, as he was known as Van by his friends.”

Sadly, “Van” passed away in 2012, but his legacy continues as part of the fabric of the company.

The Business Model

VanTrust Real Estate, LLC has grown into a full-service real estate development company, offering a broad range of real estate services including acquisition, disposition, development, development services and asset management. Product types include office, industrial, multifamily, retail, hospitality, science and technology, and recreational. VanTrust operates nationally with regional offices in Columbus, Dallas, Phoenix and Jacksonville and its headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri.

“We have what we call a collective-success model,” Harrison said. “That is, everyone in the company participates in its success. We are not judged at the project level or at the regional level. We are judged as a team.”

(continued in Development Magazine)

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