Design focus: Harris puts his best 8 feet forward

8 Feet Development Inc.

Mark Harris wants to preserve and protect the storefronts and structures that filled his Fort Worth upbringing.

With that in mind, the real estate developer hopes that 8 Feet Development Inc. takes a step in the right direction in preserving Cowtown architecture.

“We have so many underutilized properties in Fort Worth that are not being used to their best potential,” said Harris, lamenting what he considers dilapidated or neglected architecture that could see new life if redeveloped.

That’s where 8 Feet Development comes in. Named after his family – “There are eight feet in my family,” Harris said – the one-man operation started last November and operates out of an office at 2929 W. Fifth St.

From that location, Harris pursues projects outside the scope of his duties as vice president at James R. Harris Partners LLC, a Fort Worth real estate development company founded by his father in 1979.

The James Harris firm hired Mark Harris in 2006 to oversee Foch Street warehouse redevelopment in the West Seventh Street area.

“I was always in real estate, whether in home building or retail brokerage,” said Mark Harris, an All Saints’ Episcopal School graduate whose first industry job was as an electrician for Fox Electric at the age of 16. Working for a builder constructing one his father’s subdivisions in Quail Ridge near Mira Vista deepened Harris’ interest in Fort Worth real estate.

The new venture, 8 Feet, is the latest evidence of that deep interest; its four owners are Harris; his wife, Kay; and daughters Alice, 8, and Frances, 3.

Only days after 8 Feet’s formation, Harris already was busy updating and leasing several buildings along Camp Bowie Boulevard and North University Drive.

Within a 4,650-square-foot retail-office building at 4696 and 4698 Camp Bowie at Kenley Street is space that became fully leased after Harris and 4650 Camp Bowie LP, an investment group, acquired the site in November.

Businesses set to begin moving in in July are Byrd & Bleecker, a retailer specializing in custom social stationery, and House Essential, an interior design firm. Tucker Brown, a women’s clothing store, and Grit and Gold Wedding Coordination are moving in at 2060 and 2070 Kenley Street, respectively.

Rodger Chieffalo of Chieffalo Realty was leasing agent for the property.

The building sports a new facade blending Main Street and rustic revival architectural styles, as well as a new climate-control system.

The Camp Bowie-Kenley structure was built in 1940. “After removing the plaster and aluminum siding from the building, we found that bricks used in other structures that were built in the early 1900s had been reclaimed to use in this building,” Harris said.

At 311 North University Drive, Harris is transforming a 1950s-era church into a modern, open-concept office space with 7,472 square feet. Harris and 311 Partners LP, an investment group, purchased the building in December 2013.

Robert W. Kelly Architect Inc. is the project’s architect and Muckleroy & Falls is providing general contractor services.

When the building opens this fall, it will house 8 Feet Development along with James R. Harris Partners, which is relocating its corporate headquarters from 2929 W. Fifth St., and Anna H. Interiors, owned by Anna Harris, Mark Harris’ sister.

Meanwhile, 8 Feet also is updating two adjoining office buildings in South Main Village that were sold to Churchill Properties in April. They are a single-story, 4,600-square-foot structure at 215 S. Main St. and a three-story, 8,370-square-foot structure at 219 S. Main St.

Pulling double duty at James R. Harris Partners and 8 Feet Development doesn’t faze Harris.

“My goal is to continue finding interesting projects and underutilized buildings in great neighborhoods,” said Harris, who plans to continue as a one-man operation.

Published in Fort Worth Business Press, July 11, 2015; A. Lee Graham