Veteran real estate broker launches Houston real estate firm

As the coronavirus pandemic disrupted retailing, veteran commercial real estate broker Josh Jacobs launched Blue Ox Group, a boutique real estate firm specializes in shopping centers, investment sales, project leasing, tenant representation and land sales.

“I had a bunch of people call me crazy for starting a business during the height of the pandemic, but honestly we were so busy before there was no way to even think about it,” Jacobs said. “The slowdown helped me actually think it through and plan out what I wanted the company to look like and execute on that strategy.”

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Jacobs, who co-founded the Houston office of Edge Realty Partners with Culver Stedman in 2011, left that firm five months ago to form Blue Ox, named after the Babe the Blue Ox, the legendary sidekick of Paul Bunyan, and described the split as amicable.

“It was an amazing run,” Jacobs said. “It was time for me to go do my own thing, create my own path.”

Blue Ox represents 40 properties for sale or lease and has several tenant representation assignments, according Jacobs.

The listings include Rice Village, a historic shopping district owned by Rice Management Co., the endowment arm of Rice University. The district near Kirby Drive and University Boulevard has been undergoing a transformation that infuses more restaurants and retailers focused on experiences into the tenant mix.

Blue Ox has closed 10 land sales and retail leases and has another 10 under contract, according to the firm. The deals include land .

“Most of these aren’t steals of deals. They’re good fair deals for both parties,” Jacobs said.

Similar to the last downturn, some sellers have come down on priceand

landlords are willing to do long-term leases with discounted rent for the first couple of years, Jacobs said.

Jacobs has assembled a small team of brokers including veteran broker Burdette Huffman who joined from Edge to become executive vice president. The six-person team is operating out of temporary office space in Rice Village while its permanent office is finalized. The company has a 5,200-square-foot property under contract for its new office.

Among its assignments, Blue Ox seeks to reposition older centers such as Mariner’s Village on Westheimer near Hillcroft as it did with Edge.

“What we’re looking for is cool stuff,” Jacobs said. “Things that change communities for the better.”

The company also handles sales of industrial and multifamily properties.

Blue Ox aims to be tech savvy, offering virtual tours of properties in a way that’s easy for customers to use.

“We’re making everything mobile friendly so people can scroll and get your information in one or two clicks,” said Jacobs, a graduate of Lamar High School in Houston.

Past and present clients include Satya, Smithco, SDI Realty, Weingarten, Oxberry Group, First Community Credit Union, Simon Property Group and Johnny Carrabba.

Prior to Edge, Jacobs worked at Page Partners, New Regional Planning and Grubb & Ellis.

Jacobs is optimistic about the retail sector.

“We’ve got challenges in certain sectors and others are thriving,” Jacobs said.

“Ones that have done poorly are the dry cleaners, because no one is wearing suits or dresses to the office. So that’s a challenging business.”

Businesses such as home gyms and restaurants with drive-thrus are going strong, he said.

The pandemic will create opportunities for companies seeking to expand into buildings that have been vacated, Jacobs said.

Jacobs has seen an uptick in the sale of vacant buildings, driven in part by low interest rates, since the pandemic.

katherine.feser@chron.com

twitter.com/kfeser

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