April 26, 2023

Boyle Talks: Gary Thompson Talks Residential Real Estate Development


In this series of Boyle Talks, Gary Thompson discusses his experience of starting at Boyle to being on the ground floor of developing some of Memphis’s most renowned residential and mixed-used communities.


Tom: Welcome to another episode of Boyle Talks. I’m Tom Hutton, and today we’re visiting with Gary Thompson, Senior Vice President of Boyle Investment Company and the head of Our Land Development Division. He’s been here for 27 years and today we’re going to put him on the hot seat a little bit. Welcome, Gary.

Gary: Thank you, Tom.

Tom: You actually worked here at Boyle really before 1996 when you worked at a well-known engineering firm, ETI. Tell us a little bit about your relationship with Boyle at that time when you worked at ETI.

Gary: That’s sort of what I call the “world’s longest job interview.” Boyle was in the process of building or just opened the Regalia, which was the coolest retail thing going in Memphis, and I just identified Boyle as somebody I’d like to do that kind of consulting work for. The City of Memphis and Shelby County were coming up with a new tree ordinance. Rusty was a presenter at that presentation. I went up to him and talked to him after the presentation and said, “Hey I was impressed with your presentation, love what you all are doing over at Regalia. If you ever need any consulting help, I’d love to do that.” That sort of turned from one thing to the other, and so I started working with all these different departments. I didn’t realize what Rusty was really doing was seeing well how will I would mesh with the Boyle people.

Tom: You were hired in 1995 which was the start of the planning of Schilling Farms, a very complicated mixed-use 443-acre development. Tell us a little bit about how that started and how the process went up until now, where we are today.

Gary: That was really the genesis of me coming over because I had worked with Harry Smith, who was the owner of Schilling Farms. Collierville was just on the cusp of exploding. I had worked with Harry Smith on that project when he was trying to develop it himself, but I’d also been working for Rusty and Boyle now for several years. When they joined forces and created a joint venture to develop that project, I was hired, and I’ve been working on that ever since. For probably five or six years I didn’t miss a Planning Commission meeting, a DRC meeting, design review commission meeting, I didn’t miss a mayor and board of alderman meeting. There was this explosive growth going on, so those meetings would get very animated. Sometimes they would go to midnight and beyond, but I didn’t miss one of them for five or six years. It was just a tiger by the tail

Tom: Fast forward to today, Schilling Farms is a much different place than when you started. Tell us a little bit about what’s going on with the office retail and mixed-use side.

Gary: Schilling has become sort of this office destination in Collierville. We’ve had a number of corporate headquarters, as well as world headquarters. For these groups, that’s super exciting because those guys are really impacting the world, and they’re doing it in our development. We’ve got some stuff going on right now, we’re building some retail buildings that are within walking distance of these corporate headquarters. We have a new hotel that’s coming to support those kind of business travel or leisure travel type uses, so all of the things that we had wanted in the beginning was Live, Work and Play. We have churches. We have schools. We have businesses. We have housing, and we have a new development that’s happening in the northwest, which is really where the original barn was that Mr. Schilling had created. That’s what the farm operation that people were so familiar with where that really happened and now we’re coming to that area. It’s probably the most extensively planned project in my 30 years of being around Boyle. It is called The Water Tower District, which is an upscale residential community where they will take the old water tower that was an icon on the property. We’ll move it, and it’ll remain forever as history on the project.

Tom: As you know, many people in the Memphis area know Boyle for our high-end residential development. Now you’re working on the final phases of Spring Creek Ranch. Tell us a little bit about how that’s going and what that is going to look like.

Tom: I took over the Residential Development Group in 2002. To me that’s big shoes to fill, and Rusty Bloodworth, who’s been here for years and years and years, we’re in our 90th year. We’ll celebrate our 90th anniversary this year, and he’s been here for over half that. He, probably more than anybody else in Memphis, has raised the architecture quality. We try to create great communities where people will really want to live. We pick good locations, and then we do our best effort on creating and using those 90 years of experience to create communities that are unique. They’re not cookie cutter, and then you throw in the architecture on top of that, it just creates these places that really have long lasting value. People always ask why do your communities feel so nice, and I tell them, “It’s not five big things. It’s a hundred little things.”

Tom: I’ve really enjoyed the time that we could sit and talk about what you do at Boyle, and thanks for your time

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