March 24, 2018
85 Memorable Years
The Commercial Appeal
March 24, 2018
The late Bayard Boyle Sr. would often make a deal with his young grandsons on weekends in the 1970s: If they would accompany him on his drives to the rural outskirts of Memphis to look over some property, he’d let them sit in his lap, hold the steering wheel and pretend to drive.
“My memories were if we weren’t playing golf with him we were driving around looking at property on weekends or in the afternoons,” recalled Bayard Morgan, now executive vice president of Boyle Investment Company. It’s the same firm the grandfather founded in 1933 with his two brothers.
That kind of passion for land and development has carried the firm to its 85th anniversary. Boyle Investment Company celebrated the feat on Friday by hosting its 113 employees for a luncheon on the top floor of its newest office building, called 949 Shady Grove.
The venue was fitting considering that last fall’s completion of the 150,000-square-foot building, anchored by Pinnacle Financial Partners, also marked completion of the 45-year build-out of Ridgeway Center.
The multi-use development has been Boyle’s signature business park for the Memphis area. Ridgeway Center hosts more than 150 businesses, including the regional headquarters for Suntrust, Pinnacle Financial, and Kroger, the cylindrical Hilton Hotel, a Malco theater, Benihana restaurant and many others.
The 18-hole Ridgeway Country Club once occupied what is now the northeast quadrant of a high-powered intersection: I-240 and Poplar. Boyle Investment Company recognized the potential and aggressively pursued buying the 154 acres from the club, recalled Henry Morgan Sr., co-chairman and Bayard Morgan’s father.
“It was controversial. Some didn’t want to move. They had a clubhouse falling down. Club members subsequently sold and went” further east, Henry Morgan said.
It now seems as if Boyle struck gold where the interstate loop would cross Shelby County’s most prominent road. “Everybody recognized Poplar,” Henry Morgan said. “It was the high ridge in Memphis. All the way from the river, the highest ridge that deer and Indians followed, and the railroad. It’s always been the center of growth.”
The company’s founder, Bayard Boyle Sr., “had a remarkable ability to identify and acquire properties in areas that would soon become major growth corridors,” firm president Paul Boyle said of his grandfather in a prepared statement. “Today, we still stick to these same principles of careful research and planning, whether it’s a residential subdivision, a shopping center, or an office building that we are developing.”
The company did something else forward-thinking in establishing Ridgeway Center. Boyle made Ridgeway Center the city’s first planned unit development (PUD), executive vice president and chief operating officer Mark Halperin said. The new approach gave the firm more flexibility in how it developed the property.
“It was a progressive way to look at a big-size piece of property,” Henry Morgan said of the site that would grow to 204 acres. “… We had the ability to react to the market cycle.”
Boyle endured some difficult periods, like the time the firm left itself vulnerable by preparing space for a large tenant that left a short time after moving in. “That was a terrible mistake,” Henry Morgan said. “Fortunately, we didn’t do that too often.”
Asked for a highlight, he did not have to think long.
“Right now it’s great becasue of what Mark (Halperin) has done flipping all these tenants around,” Henry Morgan said.
He referred to the musical chairs that started when ServiceMaster announced in June 2016 it would move its headquarters from Ridgeway Center to Downtown Memphis.
What appeared to be a setback for Boyle turned into a positive. Thomas & Betts Corp. decided it would fill the space vacated by ServiceMaster by moving out of its Boyle building at Southwind.
But Boyle’s Southwind building will be filled again because Sedgwick Claims Management will consolidate its offices there.
“It’s a historic time for us,” Henry Morgan said. “Just remarkable… We could have lost all of it if we didn’t have a good product in a good market and with good people.”
Boyle has sold off some of its Ridgeway Center property, but still owns about 60 percent of the development.
Some Ridgeway Center tenants have remained in place over 40 years. “In this business if you turn over space too much you end up spending all your nickels on refurbishing,” Henry Morgan said. “What you like is somebody you can keep for awhile.”
This year is also the 20th anniversary of Boyle’s 443-acre Schilling Farms mixed-use community in Collierville. The most recently completed projects there include a 50,000-square-foot office building, second phase of The Carrington apartments, and a 9,000-square-foot retail center.
Boyle Investment opened an office in Nashville in 2001, and by 2005 Boyle’s work in Nashville had grown bigger than its Memphis projects. Boyle Nashville, with joint venture partners, have acquired, developed and managed more than 3.2 million square feet of commercial space, with another 532,000 square feet being built.
“We went over there thinking it was a good expansion for us never realizing, to be honest, how good it would be,” Henry Morgan said. The firm’s Nashville office now has 30 employees.
“Memphis has shallower peaks and valleys than Nashville,” Paul Boyle said. Nashville is “a boom-bust town. (Memphis) is kind of sleepy and easy going. But things are just going crazy up there.”
In Memphis, Ridgeway Center’s land may be filled with buildings but the work there is not completed. Now, Boyle now plans to do some targeted demolition and redevelopment, Halperin said.
Other family members and owners who are leading the firm are Bayard Boyle Jr., co-chairman, and executive vice president Henry Morgan Jr.
The firm counts 31 employees who have worked for the company more than 20 years.
In addition to Halperin, who has worked for Boyle 45 years, other 40-year-plus employees are Joel Fulmer, 46 years, and Russell E. Bloodworth Jr., 49 years.