In the midst of an intergenerational transition for one of the most significant projects in North Texas, Zach Bright has found himself overseeing an empire within the Castle Hills development.
Bright, executive vice president of Multifamily Operations/Board of Managers at Bright Realty, oversees multifamily within Lewisville's sprawling Castle Hills, credited with entirely reshaping the city. Since Bright joined the company, Bright Realty’s leadership has transitioned from one generation to the next.
Founded in the 1950s by the late H.R. "Bum" Bright, Bright Realty is the full-service commercial and residential real estate arm of parent company Bright Industries. Bright Realty evolved out of a family office, when the Bright family decided to turn its property north of Dallas into a sweeping master-planned community. In 1998, the firm put its first single-family lots in the ground, and today there are more than 4,000 homes in the Castle Hills community.
Located west of the Dallas North Tollway and Park Boulevard, Castle Hills spans 2,900 acres. The firm’s vision was always to build out a residential community and then create commercial product surrounding it.
All told, the development will contain between 5,000 to 6,000 multifamily units by the time the dust clears. However, it will take some time for that dust to clear.
Bright grew up in Dallas. While he didn't pursue higher education beyond some time in community college, he grew up watching relatives work on Castle Hills.
“On weekends, my dad would be playing SimCity on the computer, and we’d think he was playing a game,” Bright said. “He would tell us, ‘I know you think I’m just playing a game, but this is me going through iterations of this city I’m trying to build.'”
Bright also traveled extensively in his youth, from New York to South America. Those experiences showed him the ways people prefer to live in different geographies, he said, and helped him think about how in-migrants would like to live in Texas.
When Bright first took his role, multifamily assets in Castle Hills were underperforming, with occupancy around 70% to 80% for existing assets. The firm was using an algorithm to set its prices, but the assets hadn’t achieved an occupancy level necessary for the program to run as it should. In short, the program bottomed out rents.
Today, those same assets are between 96% and 100% leased, and Bright Realty has added several new developments along the way.
“I couldn’t take all the credit for that, and I wouldn’t want to,” Bright said. “The market has worked well for us, and we’ve been able to take advantage of that and get our apartments filled up, while also … getting close to the rental levels (we need to) survive and thrive as a business.”
Multifamily assets on the ground today include traditional units and a build-for-rent community called the Cottages at The Realm. Several projects are under construction, including one with about 364 units and another with 375 units.
Commercial development within the Castle Hills masterplan includes The Realm at Castle Hills. The development currently features 1,062 multifamily and 72 single-family units, more than 130,000 square feet of retail and over 235,000 square feet of office space.
Upon build-out, The Realm at Castle Hills will feature another 500,000 square feet of office, another 500 to 750 multifamily units, 100 to 150-key hospitality and another 60,000 to 80,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment.
Crown Centre at Castle Hills, upon full build-out, has the capacity for 3 million square feet of office space, 2,000 multifamily units and up to 500,000 square feet of retail and hospitality. The company sees that development as a business park with mixed-use components. The development will likely take around 20 years to get to full density.
Full build-out of multifamily assets within the masterplanned community will depend on market conditions, Bright said.
The last year has been one of transition for Bright Realty. Previously, Chris and Clay Bright ran the company, but both passed within the last few years.
“We’ve had a lot of pieces we’ve had to move into place, and we’ve had to do it relatively quickly,” he said. “I think we’ve managed to do it relatively successfully and without dropping any balls.”
The firm’s leadership has had to learn how to think about the company from an ownership perspective, Bright said, as well as learn how to work with each other in new roles.
“We were all blessed to be born into a situation, with advantages and disadvantages, as every situation has, but clearly a good situation to be born into,” Bright said.
“To not do our best to facilitate that same upbringing for our descendants would be a disservice to those who spent so much of their time, energy and life force creating that situation for us.”