Jacksonville Business Journal
December 11, 2006
Christian Conte, Staff Writer
The Vestcor Cos. CEO Mark Farrell and founder John Rood always asked themselves the same philosophical question when making high-dollar deals in the real estate market — would their mothers be proud of what they were doing?
After 17 years with one of the area’s largest commercial real estate companies, Farrell said the answer has always been yes — including his decision to resign effective Jan. 31 from the company that he helped build from eight to 400 employees.
The decision was made about a year ago, when Farrell’s father died and his priorities shifted from work first to family first.
“It was a wake-up call,” Farrell said. “We’re only on this Earth for a short time.”
Now, Farrell said, his top priority is to spend more time with his mother; his wife of three months, Lori; 9-year-old son, Miller; 8-year-old daughter, Fallon; and his new family, which includes 20-year-old Ryan and 12-year-old Rachel.
Farrell has served as CEO of the company since Rood was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas nearly three years ago. Rood will return to the United States in January to manage the company, but in an e-mail from the Bahamas he expressed his thoughts about a man whom he calls a good friend.
“Mark has done a great job at Vestcor and we owe much of our success to him,” Rood wrote.
For Farrell, the change is bittersweet.
“You put your heart and soul into it,” Farrell said of the company. “There’s a tremendous amount of memories we had.”
“The more I think about it, saying goodbye to the guys, yeah, it’s going to be tough.”
That’s because, although at times the real estate market was tough, working at Vestcor was not. Founded in 1983, Vestcor provides multifamily and commercial investment, development and construction services primarily for apartment complexes and condominium projects.
Last year the company developed 15,000 square feet of retail space and 218,072 square feet of apartment space and generated $68 million in general contracting services.
Two of Vestcor’s projects — Cottages at Winding Creek and Cottages at Stoney Creek — were the third and sixth largest construction projects, respectively, in Jacksonville in 2006, according to research by The Business Journal.
Some of the projects that Farrell said he has been most proud of over the years include the Marina San Pablo and The Carling in Jacksonville, because of their unique character, but the company’s portfolio includes at least 18 more properties in Florida and Texas.
Ricardo Quinones, a principal in PQH Architects Inc., which does much of the architectural work for Vestcor, said that Farrell always offered a challenge at work.
“He was always asking us to come up with better ideas,” Quinones said. “It’s good to have a client who pushes the envelope.”
At 48 years old, Farrell said he’s too young to retire, so he plans to open an office near his home in Ponte Vedra Beach to conduct some sort of business — possibly related to consulting, brokering or investing — and work part time. The name of the business will be Kilashee Investments in honor of the area of Ireland from which his family came.
“I would be bored,” Farrell said of life without work. “I’ve got to do something.
“I’m just going to play it by ear and see what makes sense, so I don’t have to go back to a full-time schedule.”
Attorney John Metcalf, president of Pappas, Metcalf, Jenks and Miller PA, has worked closely with Farrell on the acquisitions and permitting for many of Vestcor’s Florida projects.
Metcalf said that although Farrell brought a sense of energy to the company, he understood Farrell’s decision to leave.
“It’s fast-paced,” Metcalf said of the real estate business. “It’s really hectic and really a lot of pressure.”
Still, “I don’t think he’ll be out of it for very long.”