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Business Observer Friday, Jul. 31, 2015 3 years ago

Commercial Real Estate Profile: Brett Hutchens

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Brett Hutchens' Casto Southeast Realty Services LLC is among a handful of firms nationwide that have carved out a successful niche reviving flagging retail projects and building from the ground up.
by: Kevin McQuaid Commercial Real Estate Editor

BRETT HUTCHENS
developer, Sarasota

Brett Hutchens' Casto Southeast Realty Services LLC is among a handful of firms nationwide that have carved out a successful niche reviving flagging retail projects and building from the ground up.

But it is his long-time leadership of the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, a charity that has raised more than $5.5 billion since its inception in 1982, that he's most proud of in a career studded with accomplishment.

In Florida, Casto Southeast, an affiliate of an Ohio-based development firm, has converted an aging mall into the $60 million Winter Park Village complex in Winter Park; built a 600,000-square-foot project in Lakeland and the Whole Foods Market Centre in Sarasota.

Nationwide, Hutchens and Casto are better known for redeveloping the Randhurst Mall — Illinois' oldest enclosed shopping center — into a $150 million lifestyle center in partnership with J.P. Morgan & Co.

The five-year redevelopment was especially complex because the mall had six anchor tenants that had to remain open during the conversion to a mixed-use project with residences and new retail.

“He has immense integrity, he's extremely likable, very creative and a good communicator,” Sheryl Crosland, a retired J.P. Morgan managing director who oversaw the company's retail real estate investment portfolio, says of Hutchens. “And with lifestyle centers, Casto was so ahead of the curve.”

Casto has also built Park West Village, a 100-acre project in Raleigh, N.C., which contains more than 600,000 square feet of retail space and 350 apartments.

“We like mixed-use projects because they're interesting, complex projects to do,” says Hutchens. “And we favor redevelopment to ground-up development. It's our forte.”

He also looks for projects that will be “transformative” for communities.

Hutchens' efforts have been transformative in another area, too: philanthropy.

As president of restaurant chain Duff's Famous Smorgasbord in the early 1980s, Hutchens persuaded owners Homer and Wilma Duff to underwrite a new telethon backed by singer Marie Osmond and actor John Schneider.

An outgrowth of the Osmond Family Foundation, the Children's Miracle Network was the brainchild of former March of Dimes executive Mick Shannon and entertainment producer Joe Lake, formed to link local fundraising with pediatric hospitals in the same area.

In its first year, the CMN telethon raised $4.7 million to benefit 22 hospitals. Last year, with a network containing 170 hospitals nationwide, including All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, some $324 million was raised.

Hutchens has been on CMN's board since its inception — the only person to be a director for so long.

“To be able to see first hand the impact we've had has been incredible,” he says. “From a legacy standpoint, it's certainly been the most meaningful thing I have done.”

Both Shannon and Lake say Hutchens' involvement and connections to partners such as Wal-Mart has been pivotal to CMN's success.

“The charity, named No. 1 in the country by USA Today, would not be where it is today without Brett Hutchens — period,” says Lake. “It never should have worked, because in 1982, there were 19 telethons in operation and only three major television networks. But he was instrumental to it working.”

Hutchens came to Florida from South Carolina in the mid-1990s and settled on Sarasota, in part, because his grandparents had vacationed there. In time he met Don Casto through a mutual friend and found they shared the same goals and vision. Together, they redeveloped Winter Park beginning in 1996 before embarking on projects in Ohio, North Carolina and elsewhere.

Next year, Hutchens and Casto intend to begin work on a new 44-acre retail project in Clemson, S.C.

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