Real Estate Development as a Science & Art

Real Estate Development as a Science & Art

by Kevin Huber, President & CEO
October 13, 2021

For almost 35 years in early December, I made Italian sausage and salami with the Cortopassi and Avansino families. For many of those years, Dino Cortopassi was also making wine (much of which we consumed during our lunch on Salami Day). I remember Dino telling me that making wine takes two disciplines – science and art. Dino explained that the “science” of making wine was to pick and crush grapes that had ripened to a certain level of sugar, place that juice in a container and let the sugar ferment into alcohol – voila! You have wine. The “art” is making that science experiment taste good.

Since then, I have often thought about how real estate development and construction also include elements of science and art. Civil engineering, structural engineering, traffic engineering, Title 24, all the federal, state, and local codes, title matters, and legal matters are all part of the technical or “science” of real estate development and construction. Creating a project that is architecturally appealing to buyers or tenants, one that blends with the landscape and environment in a harmonious way, creating a sense of arrival and place, having it be the location where people want their wedding, prom, or graduation picture taken; these elements constitute the “art” of a project.

Long-term projects almost always face changes in the economy, demographics, buyer/tenant tastes, and political or legal dynamics that require the developer to adapt and make course corrections. The final project seldom looks the way it was initially envisioned. Adapting to these changes and being financially stable enough to weather them is also necessary to bring a project to fruition. Much like a winemaker adjusts each vintage based on that year’s growing conditions and other environmental influences on the wine while it is being fermented or aged, continual adjustments are made in the development and construction process in hopes that the final product is perfect.

When we start a project we take into account topography, surrounding land uses, existing infrastructure, transportation and access, the market and expected demand for the proposed uses, the existing general plan and zoning designations, which designations are needed for the intended use, and what the architectural look should be. I’ve been asked many times, “with all of the things you have to consider, how do you know what you are going to plan and build on a particular site?”

“The Sculpture is already complete within the marble block before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.”

– Michelangelo

We get a lot of projects presented to us, many of which we pass on immediately, and many of which we do further investigation on only to conclude that we don’t believe it makes sense to continue pursuing the project. When the Grupe Huber team has determined that we do want to pursue a project, we develop a philosophy and vision for what that project should look like when it’s complete. 

We then take all the aforementioned issues into account, and through our discussions with our architects, engineers, attorneys, city or county staff, and market studies, the vision begins to take shape. We begin to see the renderings of that vision in land plans, building elevations, landscape plans, and color schemes. This is where the dance between science and art truly emerges. Often, elements of your design are not feasible for one reason or another, so we push, pull, and tweak until we arrive at a plan our whole team approves. However, by holding true to a certain set of guiding principles led by our vision for the project and by the core values of our company, what we hope finally emerges is a project that was “meant to be”, and one that not only we are proud of, but that the entire community is proud of. If we accomplish this, then we feel like we got the “art” part right. 

I feel proud that Grupe Huber Company has the experience and expertise, the patience and perseverance, and the financial stability to undertake the projects we build, always with the mission to improve the communities in which we live and work.  


Focused on the Future

Focused on the Future

by Kevin Huber, President & CEO
March 29, 2021 

As I reflect on the last 12 months, I am reminded that on average it takes 66 days of a behavior change to form a habit. Think about that… 66 days, yet we have all had our behavior disrupted for over 360 days. If you are like me, there are definite changes that you’ve accepted as your “new normal.” Some of these may be positive changes, and some may be ones you hope to change “post-COVID.” Everyone has a story the past year and, just as I am, you are likely fatigued by all the COVID commentary, which is why I want to talk about the future and how I intend to think about it going forward.

I want my future to consist of at least these 5 things:

    • Maintaining a strong foundation.
    • Focusing on what is truly needed for success.
    • Taking care of people.
    • Having goals beyond financial success that improve the lives of others.
    • Taking risks.

As I sit in my office at University Park, I am watching the new 50-bed post-acute care rehabilitation hospital start construction. The first thing they have done is remove between 6’-10’ of soil and replace it with new soil and base rock that will allow for a much stronger foundation. This reminded me of the importance of a strong foundation. In our lives, I believe that a personal foundation mainly consists of four components: our Family, our Friends, our Faith, and a Good Education. When these components are bound together, they create the basis for a strong foundation. Without a strong foundation, anything we build can crumble.

When I reflect on past learning experiences, I am reminded of when my CFO/CTO for the corporate housing company I sold to Marriott in 1999 was designing a proprietary software for our company with an outside firm. When she presented the preliminary outline and budget, she broke it down into three categories. The first were things we absolutely needed to include, which became our base budget. Next were features that she felt would be nice to have and had the potential to add some value to our services, and that added an incremental increase. The third was what she called the “cool factor” which included features that were not necessarily going to add value, but that would seem cool. Of course, this added a third layer of cost. Since we were running on a tight budget, we chose the features that we needed and the ones that we had confidence would add value. We passed on the “cool factor” features. As I think about my personal and business decisions, I plan to focus on what I need and some things, that by having them, I am confident will add value. I’ll leave the “cool factor” for people cooler than me!

Through the pandemic, we did not layoff any employees, we created a new 401k plan with a safe harbor match, and an improved menu of health benefits. I have had multiple employees pull me aside and thank me for helping them make it through this past year and improve their financial situation. I know in my heart that if one of these people were recruited by another company, unless the opportunity was substantially better than their current situation, they will feel as loyal to us as we feel to them. Taking care of people when they need it will result in them taking care of others when they need it.

Our family has a history of community involvement with a variety of educational, charitable, and community organizations. Some of the most rewarding experiences and relationships we have built are through endeavors that aim to serve others. If your goals are focused only on you, then you will be the only one working on them. When you help others reach their goals, you’d be surprised how you find yourself reaching your own goals along the way. I plan to continue having goals that improve the lives of other people, not expecting anything in return. I have found that when I have done so, the reward is always returned to me in some meaningful way.

Finally, I believe that taking risks is part of what creates meaning in our lives. In a speech that I heard Senator Alan Simpson give he said “if you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t- then do!”.

Senator Simpson went on to quote Leo Buscaglia’s thoughts on Risks, which goes as follows:

To laugh is to risk appearing a fool,

To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.

To reach out to another is to risk involvement,

To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.

To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss.

To love is to risk not being loved in return,

To live is to risk dying,

To hope is to risk despair,

To try is to risk failure.

But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing.

He may avoid suffering and sorrow,

But he cannot learn, feel, change, grow or live.

Chained by his servitude he is a slave who has forfeited all freedom.

Only a person who risks is free.

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing. I plan to continue to take risks and experience another year full of meaningful experiences.

I hope my thoughts have helped you think about your future. What will you focus on? Share it with us on social media! 

My Warmest Regards for a bright future!



Our New Brand: Two Names, One Company, And a Family You Can Trust

Our New Brand: Two Names, One Company, And a Family You Can Trust

September 29, 2020
By Kevin Huber, President & CEO

Over the past few months, you’ve been introduced to the Grupe Huber Company, formerly known as Grupe Commercial Company. Neither of these two names are new to you — and that’s the point. Over the years, both the Grupe and Huber families have built strong relationships in the Central Valley and beyond. We’re native Californians, and our work with the land and the people who live here means something to us. We created Grupe Huber Company so we could continue to build upon that foundation and develop a legacy that will carry all of us into a bright future.

The projects Grupe Huber takes on are designed to strengthen our communities, enrich the lives of our employees, and return healthy profits to our shareholders and investors. We are continuing to develop commercial projects, expanding upon our existing 1.5 million square feet of office, retail and storage projects. In addition, with the experience of our leadership team, we are adding new residential opportunities to our portfolio — but we’re not going to build just for the sake of building. There’s a real meaning and purpose behind everything our company tackles.

A little more than a year ago, we sat down and really began to think through the core values of this new company. These reflect who we are as a business, but they’re much more than that. They reflect who we are as people, too.

Integrity. We will always strive to do what’s right, even when it’s not easy. That means no cutting corners, no sacrificing quality for quantity, and nothing built solely for profit.

Invested. We promise that we will use our financial strength and experience to create a better world. Our projects will benefit our loved ones, our employees, our tenants, and our communities.

Resourceful. Where other people see problems, we see opportunities. In an upcoming University Park newsletter, you’ll read about how the lake at University Park came to be. That was a logistical problem that became a source of pride and beauty. It’s a small example sampled from many years of work, but it speaks to how we approach and solve challenges.

Quality. If you know us, you know that we don’t do anything by half. We have a proven track record of execution and success, and we create projects that are built to last.

Service. We will leave this world better than we found it. That starts with treating our tenants and customers with respect and always overdelivering on their expectations.

These five core values may sound simple, but they give us a blueprint for our projects and for our future. Every single thing we do is designed to fit within these values, from the way we communicate with you in our newsletter to the way we work with municipalities on new design plans to the way we show appreciation to our tenants. What you see is what you get with Grupe Huber. We’ll always be genuine and transparent with you.

Our new company has a new home, too, and that home is a reflection of what we do. It’s in the Spruce Building at University Park, a 1929 structure that Sandy and our team of partners restored with a lot of care and attention. We could have put up a new building so we could start fresh — but that wouldn’t have been us. Spruce has great bones, great history, and a new mission and purpose. It will be solid for generations to come. You could say that it’s the perfect metaphor for Grupe Huber.

Our company name may be new, but we’re still the same people you’ve worked with for years. Grupe Huber is two names you know, one company, and a family you can trust.