Gilbert’s Power Ranch, Scottsdale’s DC Ranch and The ASU Scottsdale Center for New Technology and Innovation share a common link in DMB Associates and its CEO, Drew Brown.
Once a managing partner in a Phoenix law firm specializing in real estate issues, Brown co-founded DMB Associates in 1984 with Mark Sklar and Bennett Dorrance, a grandson and heir of Campbell Soup founder John T. Dorrance.
With letters taken from each of their names, Brown — the "B" in DMB — is the president and CEO of the privately held firm that has shaped the Valley’s real estate scene for more than two decades.
Brown eschews the spotlight, describing himself as a "low-key" person who would "rather have attention devoted to our projects than us as individuals."
"I am so uncomfortable in promoting myself," Brown said.
But Brown brokered the deal between Scottsdale, the ASU Foundation and developer Steve Ellman for the Los Arcos Mall property.
"I don’t view my role there as extraordinary. It wasn’t really a DMB activity. All I did, personally, was to help facilitate an understanding," Brown said.
The property had for years been subject to heated debates and was once a proposed site for a hockey arena and, later, a Wal-Mart.
"We had been through a number of false starts and heated battles, so there was concern on the part of the city relating to doing anything with the Ellman Companies," said Dave Roderique, Scottsdale’s director of economic vitality.
Brown, whose company has no stake in the project, found a solution by having the ASU Foundation buy the land from Ellman and then having Scottsdale buy the land from the foundation.
The city then leased it back to the foundation for development as the technology center.
"Clearly to get everyone to agree on a very contentious issue obviously requires a significant amount of finesse," Roderique said.
Roderique said Brown was able to get things done because of the reputation of he and his firm.
Brown "is considered to be very credible in the community. They have always done what they’ve said they were going to do," he said.
While DMB has expanded to own and manage health clubs, retail space and is developing projects throughout the West, the Valley still holds the firm’s attention.
Currently, the company is developing Verrado, an 8,800 acre master planned community in the West Valley. With Power Ranch reaching its completion, Brown said the company has its eyes on the East Valley once again.
"The south East Valley is a very important part of this community. Hopefully, over the next 20 years it will be an important part of our evolving business plan," Brown said.
Real estate movers and shakers
Marty De Rito: His firm, De Rito Partners, is involved in commercial management and development, including the proposed Riverview at Dobson in west Mesa and the Chandler 202 Auto Park.
Ross Farnsworth: A former member of Mesa’s City Council, Farnsworth was among investors who helped Jerry Colangelo buy the Phoenix Suns in 1987. The developer of Sunland Springs Village, a retirement community in east Mesa, Farnsworth owns several other firms that specialize in custom homebuilding, painting, renovation, property management and insurance and mortgage services.
Ira Fulton: A Tempe native, founded Fulton Homes in the 1970s after a successful business career. An Arizona State University alumnus and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Fulton is the largest private donor in the history of both Brigham Young University and ASU.
Dave Larcher: Executive vice president of Vestar, a retail property development and management firm that controls more than 4.6 million square feet of retail space across the Valley.
Bill Lund: Developer of Gilbert’s Spectrum at Val Vista, which will include Arizona’s largest auto mall, thousands of residences and Main Street Commons, an outdoor shopping mall.
Michael Pollack: With holdings estimated at more than $300 million, Pollack’s privately held investment firm specializes in the renovation and management of existing shopping centers.
Bob McNichols: Developer of the Dover Industrial Park and Longbow Golf Club in east Mesa, also owns several hundred adjacent acres targeted for a business park near Mesa’s Falcon Field Airport south of Loop 202. Founded the Falcon Field Area Alliance, a group charged with attracting industry to properties surrounding the airport.
John Graham: President of Scottsdale-based SunBelt Holdings. Residential projects include Pinal County’s Johnson Ranch, Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountain Ranch and, in partnership with DMB Associates, Gilbert’s Power Ranch.
Craig Willett: His UTAZ development company specializes in the construction of office condominium complexes. The privately held firm developed more than 250,000 square feet of office space last year and has an extensive presence throughout the East Valley
Conley Wofswinkel: A big player in the 1980s real estate scene, he was convicted of white collar crime in the 1990s. Has recently purchased 19,000 acres of land in Pinal County formerly owned by George Johnson that was to be developed as La Osa Ranch.