By Chris Schroder
Bob Voyles has spent much of his career developing signature buildings that grace Atlanta’s prime intersections and highways, so “it was like a fire bell going off in my head” when his daughter Virginia revealed she wasn’t moving back to her hometown because of Atlanta’s growing congestion.
“This was a huge surprise to me, because I love Atlanta and worked here nearly 40 years and my family is from here and always expected my children to want to embrace the city that I loved,” Bob recalled in our accompanying video.
The two were having dinner 10 years ago while Virginia was a freshman at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where she had earned a Morehead scholarship. Excited to think she might bring her talents back to the city he was helping shape, Bob asked her about her plans following graduation.
”She said she felt the city getting too large, too crowded, too congested and she didn’t think it was a good place to at least raise her family,” Bob recalled. “I’ve spent 30 years in the commercial real estate industry developing large office projects, land developments, and tried to do good things for the community and I’ve been involved in a number of different governmental quasi-governmental organizations that work on transportation and other issues. But that night, sitting at that restaurant, made me realize if my kids didn’t want to come back to Atlanta, I really need to redouble my efforts with regard to trying to help solve some of these problems.”
Though his family’s roots are in Georgia, Bob grew up in Southern California, returning east to attend the University of Virginia, earning a law degree at Emory and a master of laws degree in land development planning at George Washington – all the while serving as an Air Force officer on the legal staff of the Secretary of the Air Force. Impressed by his drive and his educational résumé, the law firm of Jones Bird & Howell, later Alston & Bird, hired Bob to strengthen its environmental and commercial real estate practice groups. He eventually became partner in the firm that jockeys with King & Spalding for top billing in the city.
Bob left Alston & Bird in 1988 to join Hines Interests, which was then establishing itself as one of the prominent developers in the country, where he became the project manager for Ravinia. When Chip Davidson and Fred Henritze left Hines’ Atlanta office to open their own investment firm, The Brookdale Group, in 1994, Hines turned to Bob and asked if he would head its growing development interests in Atlanta and other cities in the Southeast. Bob agreed and for 10 years led Hines’ efforts, developing signature developments that help define the metro area, including:
– Deerfield, a large office and mixed-used community in Alpharetta
– Perimeter Summit, a 1.5-million square foot office complex near Perimeter Mall
– Overton Park, a planned 2-million sf office project near Cumberland
– 1180 Peachtree, a 41-story tower at 14th & Peachtree home to King & Spalding
While he immersed himself in the complex details of law, zoning and finance, Bob spent much of his free time building a sense of place for his wife and their four children. In 1985, he found a large tract of wooded property in Vinings in the hills above the Chattahoochee River and carved out a residential neighborhood for his family and a group of friends. Along a creek behind his house and at their Lake Rabun house, Bob pursued his love of gardening, nurturing legions of hydrangeas to enrich his family’s wooded refuge amidst the exploding Atlanta market.
In 2004, Bob sensed his position at Hines was becoming too institutional and he longed to get his hands back into the details of development. He left to start his own firm, Seven Oaks Company, LLC, drawing up plans to expand communities at Deerfield and Riverwood, before the 2008 Great Recession put some plans on hold. Today Seven Oaks manages Perimeter Summit, advises a number or high net worth families and institutional investors on land holdings around the metro area, and is working with Legacy Property Group to develop a “Times Square South” mixed-use tower near the Georgia Aquarium downtown.
Bob has devoted much of his time to serving regional issues, being a founder and six-year chairman of the Perimeter Community Improvement District as well as chairing a land development committee and being on the board of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority. He is a board member of the Livable Communities Coalition, the CID Coalition and the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Stadium Authority.
“When the Regional Transportation Referendum was passed by the state legislature – this 1 percent sales tax that is going to be voted on July 31 – they needed to raise $2 million from non-profit entities to support the program and I agreed to chair that effort. We were ultimately successful in raising that money among the CIDs and Michael Paris and I are leading the voter education portion of that initiative (MAVEN),” Bob said.
“And that is one small way that I can give back to this community and help address some of those concerns that my daughter first expressed to me 10 years ago.”
Meanwhile, Bob’s love of Atlanta and his family eventually prevailed upon his Virginia, who did settle back in Atlanta with her husband – and two years ago, their own baby daughter – giving Bob yet another generation to convince that Atlanta’s best days are ahead of her.
Disclosure: Chris Schroder is a cousin of Bob’s wife, Belle, and his agency occasionally represents Seven Oaks in media relations matters.
Next week in Moments: Tom Key, legendary actor and producer, about the time he almost left Atlanta for New York City.
Video by Reid Childers of Schroder PR.
Don’t miss previous 2013 Moments: Jay Smith, Jennifer Johnson, David Geller, Cynthia Jones Parks, Lee Katz, Keegan Federal, Brandi Helvey, Alwyn Fredericks, George McKerrow, Wright Mitchell, Shawn Wilson, Bill Bolling, Tracey Jackson, Fran Tarkenton, Drey Mingo, Andy Cash, Fred Northup, Wendy Binns, Ann Curry, Bill Clarkson, Alicia Philipp, Dennis Creech, Meredith Leapley, Raymond King, Jerry Farber, Larry Gellerstedt, Sally Bethea, Ken Thrasher, Herb Nelson.
Don’t miss previous Moments from 2012: Solon Patterson, Charles Ackerman, Santa Claus, Mark McDonald, Frank Skinner, Tom Murphy, Matt Arnett, Kasim Reed, Alana Shepherd, Charles Driebe, Hank Aaron, Kevin Rathbun, Larrie Del Martin, Mike Luckovich, Dan Matthews, Arthur Blank, Doug Hertz, Thomas Dimitroff, Jenny Levison, Brad Cunard, Joe Roberts, Plemon El-Amin, Bob Williams, Gary Price, John Dewberry, Bill Tush, Milton Little, Hope Arbery, Bo Jackson, Lisa Borders, Tom Key, Bob Voyles, Joyce Fownes, Joel Babbit, John Pruitt, Noel Khalil, Chuck Leavell, Bill Nigut, Eveylyn Winn-Dixon, Steve Nygren, Chris White, Josh Starks, Ryan Gravel, Shirley Franklin, Sam Massell and Clark Howard