GREENSBORO — In the 50 years since Steve Bell came to town, he has become something of a legend in the commercial real estate business.
But he never forgot the days when he was a young mortgage banker just looking for a toehold in a city full of successful real estate companies with thick bankrolls.
Tonight, Bell becomes a one-man awards committee, honoring who he calls the “legends” of the commercial real estate business in Greensboro who inspired him and built the community beyond their corporate interests.
He has invited a group to his house that will include current executives of those companies and younger business people who may be inspired by their examples.
“When I thought about these legends and what they meant to my career, I wanted to have other people step up to the plate and help our community going forward in every way I can,” said Bell, whose family owns Bell Partners, which manages apartments and apartment investment funds worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Bell compiled his list based on longevity, success and overall contribution to the community.
Tonight, he’ll make remarks about each company and, in the process, introduce some of those legends to the community.
Bell stresses that all five companies have broad family involvement, as does his company, whose CEO is now Bell’s son.
“I think the event ... really is about honoring these legends that have had an important influence on Greensboro,” Bell said.
Here’s a look at them:
Weaver Investment Co.
Founded in 1939 by Herman Weaver, the company initially built houses and apartments. Son Mike Weaver would later join the company and continue diversifying. The company was so successful that the Weaver family created a foundation in 1967 with $50,000.
Since then, the foundation has donated more than $30 million to the community.
Some of the highest-profile developments built by Weaver include those created under the partnership Quaintance-Weaver, with hospitality expert Dennis Quaintance. The O.Henry and Proximity hotels and the Lucky 32 restaurant are all Quaintance-Weaver operations.
Bell put Mike Weaver among the top Greensboro philanthropists along with the late Joseph M. Bryan, whose Joseph M. Bryan Foundation is one of the most influential in the region.
The late Joe Koury began building an empire 50 years ago off Interstate 40 at Gate City Boulevard with his Four Seasons Town Centre Mall and the Sheraton Four Seasons Hotel featuring the Koury Convention Center — the largest such venue between Washington and Atlanta. The company also owns the Grandover development, which continues to expand.
Richardson was founded in 1921 along with the famed Richardson Corp., once owning Richardson-Vicks Inc. The company has jointly developed downtown’s Renaissance Plaza office tower, three buildings in Green Valley Office Park and McConnell Center II, a 300,000-square-foot industrial building.
The Smith Richardson Foundation has backed many community initiatives including the Center for Creative Leadership.
Phillips Management Group
Founded 60 years ago, the company has developed about 30 apartment complexes across the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia. It also has built single-family houses and many commercial buildings.
The Phillips Foundation has participated as a lead donor to many major community campaigns with more than $22 million invested in Greensboro-area projects over the last five years.
Founded in the 1940s, this company has been managed by family members and developed such properties as the Greensboro Oaks Motel and the Penn National and Shelby Mutual buildings.