How can guys this young have so many homes, so much dirt?
We were just thrilled to see that our favorite young single fam developer CEO’s, Tony Ruggeri and Jake Wagner at Republic Property Group (RPG) — aka 1,070-acre Light Farms in Celina, 957-acre Phillips Creek Ranch in Frisco, a 12-acre custom home development within Legacy West in Plano, and Walsh, a 7,200-acre development west of Fort Worth slated for more than 18,000 homes — are getting the recognition they deserve.
Tony and Jake were honored this month by D CEO Magazine as the best single family developers of the year with CEO’s second annual Residential Real Estate Awards.
Of course, we knew they were winners back in 2013 when we first started writing about them. In fact, I knew it back in seventh grade when my children were pals with them! The guys are only 34 and 35, yet they lead one of North Texas’ largest and most successful real estate development companies. And we love that we have watched these developments grow from the ground up.
You can check out their biographies — both went to St. Mark’s School in Dallas, Tony graduated from Boston College, Jake graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. They returned to Dallas to work in commercial real estate. Tony worked in tenant representation, Jake brokered land deals. Real estate may be in the guy’s blood: both of their dads are in commercial real estate. The apple never falls too far from the tree. Tony joined RPG in 2005, a year later Jake came on board, and the rest is just real estate history. RPC founder Rick Strauss was looking for an exit strategy, which he clearly found in the two bright young men. (RPG was also the developer of Lantana in Flower Mound, which the company sold in 2014.)
“Essentially, we shadowed Rick. He’d let the leash out a little, then pull it back in,” Ruggeri says. “Over the course of a decade, we built up more and more responsibility. We took over projects, then took over daily operations, and then the company.” He and Wagner acquired RPG in 2013; Strauss, who serves as chairman, still maintains an interest and serves as an adviser. Wagner says his longtime friendship with Ruggeri provides a solid foundation. “We trust each other and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and can also call each other on our B.S.,” he says.
What the article doesn’t say: two years ago, about this time, Tony, at age 33, spoke at the venerable Urban land Institute’s fall conference in New York where Walter Isaacson was giving a key note address. That’s because RPG was selected as one of three outstanding developers focusing on selling to millennials. Tony hosted a panel session titled Best New Communities of 2014, sharing details on
- Design, development, amenity, marketing, financing, and partnership strategies that led to the successful launch of the developments
- How these new MPCs (master planned communities) are being positioned vis-a-vis existing ones
- What are the new ingredients to creating “lifestyle” in 2014 and beyond
- How developers approach making money in the large scale development business post the recession era.
His talk was titled “How To Sell to Millennials by a Millennial”. That’s something these guys have mastered.
“We do very deep dives into what it really means to build a community and create the best experience and the best value with long-lasting impact,” Ruggeri says. “We’re very aware that what we do today permanently changes the landscape and impacts thousands of lives.”