Gerald D. Hines, founder and chairman of the global real estate firm Hines, died Aug. 23, at age 95. Hines was widely acknowledged as a visionary developer with a focus on quality architecture and energy conservation. In 1999, ENR editors selected him as one of the Top People of the Past 125 Years in ENR’s Special 125th Anniversary Issue.

His son, Jeffrey C. Hines, who has been running the firm as president, has assumed the role of chairman and CEO.

Gerald Hines built up his firm, which he started in Houston in 1957, into an international organization with developments across five continents. With more than 4,800 employees, Hines today is active in 225 cities in 25 nations.  

“Mr. Hines had a clear vision, a huge heart and a great intellect,” says Jon Pickard, a principal of Pickard Chilton. “He was a class act, a humble guy and his legacy is the team he built.”

Jerry Lea, a Hines executive vice president, joined the firm 39 years ago. “Gerry built a culture of integrity, trust and respect for others,” says Lea.

'I Want to Know Everything'

“He would walk quietly into my office, sit down and wait for me to look up and notice him. Then, he would say, ‘Hello, Jerry Lea, What’s going on? I want to know everything!’”

Hines was the first developer to team with major architects for commercial buildings. The list includes Norman Foster; Bruce Graham and David M. Childs of SOM; Gyo Obata; Philip Johnson and John Burgee; I.M. Pei and Henry N. Cobb; Cesar Pelli; Kevin Roche; Robert A.M. Stern; A. Eugene Kohn and William E. Pedersen; Charles W. Moore; Frank O. Gehry; Jean Nouvel and Pickard.

Hines was not a speculator. Instead, he would maintain a low debt ratio on properties and secure a major tenant before developing a project. The Hines firm has developed more than 907 projects, including 100 buildings taller than 25 stories, and the tallest office towers in Texas, Kentucky, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Italy and San Francisco.

A sampling includes 53rd at Third, known as the Lipstick Building, New York City; 101 California, San Francisco; One Ninety One Peachtree, Atlanta; Three First National Plaza, Chicago; Five Hundred Boylston, Boston; DZ Bank, Berlin; Porta Nuova, Milan; and EDF Tower, Paris. Houston landmarks are One Shell Plaza; The Galleria; Pennzoil Place; Bank of America Plaza; JPMorgan Chase Tower and Williams Tower.

Hines started as a child entrepreneur selling shoes to factory workers in Gary, Ind. He chose Houston for his base because of existing connections, but its “anything goes’’ mentality of the 1960s and ‘70s was a catalyst for self-made tycoons. 

In the early days, he developed warehouses on the side while working as a mechanical engineer. Hard work and good instincts generated success, but timing was pivotal. Hines sold his first buildings just before Houston’s real estate market bottomed in the 1980s.

“I feel very blessed having worked with Gerry,” says Lea. “He was a great friend and mentor and he changed so many people’s lives.”

This article was updated on Aug. 28, 2020