How the Allen Morris Company has stayed alive for 60 years and counting
There are not many real estate development companies that have lasted as long as ours has. There are even fewer family businesses that have managed to survive more than one generation. As the new year dawns, we at the Allen Morris Company pause to recognize and to celebrate 60 years of continuous service in South Florida and throughout the southeastern United States.
From 1958 to 2018, the company started by my father, L. Allen Morris, is now enveloping a third generation into its ranks and actively expanding the company far beyond its original purpose and vision.
Left Photo: L-R: L. Allen Morris and W. Allen Morris
Right Photo: L-R: Spencer Morris, Mallori Morris, W. Allen Morris, Lisel Morris
How have we managed to survive the dips and swings in an oftentimes volatile market to reach this point and with a rosy forecast gazing into the future? In my opinion, it has a lot to do with our embrace of the proven philosophy of ‘adapt or die.’
Here is one of many examples from our archives:
In the early days, the Allen Morris Company only built office buildings. We’re talking the days before skyscrapers ruled the urban landscape. Those small and efficient office buildings of the 1950’s and 60’s made a lot of money, but they were not necessarily aesthetically inspiring.
Then came the day when the Bill Gates of the time, Mr. Arthur Vining Davis, asked my father, “Allen, how much do you know about regional shopping centers?” Since there were none in South Florida at that time, my father answered, “I don’t know a thing about regional shopping centers, Mr. Davis.” Then Mr. Davis asked, “How long will it take you to learn?” My father replied, “30 days” and immediately called his friends across the country who he knew were exploring this new retail concept.
He scheduled flights and crisscrossed America visiting them and gathering copies of their site plans, floor plans, marketing plans, proformas and lease documents. By the time he returned to Miami, my father knew everything that everyone around the country was doing and was ready to answer Mr. Davis’ questions about how to launch the first of several regional shopping centers in South Florida.
Mr. Davis was founder and the largest stockholder of Aluminum Corporation of America, later known as Alcoa, and was one of the wealthiest men in America on the level of a Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan, and was one of the biggest real estate investors in Florida.
That meeting resulted in a major pivot of our company creating the Northside Shopping Center in North Miami, which was the largest Sears & Roebuck east of the Mississippi River at that time.
The success of that project was followed by Dadeland Shopping Center on Dixie Hwy and North Kendall Drive.
Arthur Vining Davis and L. Allen Morris at Dadeland Mall circa 1968
What if my father had said, “I’m sorry Mr. Davis, I don’t build shopping centers, I build small office buildings” and never bothered to explore the concept further? By reaching beyond his comfort zone and being brave enough and willing to do the hard work in researching and exploring an unproven concept, my father successfully adapted the company to a new way of thinking, and by doing so, launched it to unforeseen heights.
Look for our one-minute videos about the history of the Allen Morris Company and where we are headed that will appear right here every two weeks throughout the year.
We’re proud of the Allen Morris story and we think you’ll get a kick out of our history – and the story it tells of all of us growing up in South Florida.