Cooper Morrison joined the Beauxwright team as a principal in 2016, bringing with him institutional capital raising and investment experience. At Beauxwright, he leads real estate investments including acquisitions, development, and redevelopment of residential and commercial properties across the Southeast. Cooper provides some background about how he got started in real estate, why he moved to Charlotte and what he thinks makes Beauxwright so special.
What drew you to the field of real estate development? And what led you to choosing to focus on residential development?
When I was about 12 years old, I wrote a letter to my grandfather asking if I could work for him during the summer. My grandfather, Bob Morrison Jr., along with my father and uncle, owned a convenience store business in Mississippi called Fast Lane. My father and I would drive an hour in the mornings from Jackson to Vicksburg, where I would do odd jobs in the warehouse or at the stores. On special days, I would get to spend time with my grandfather, and one afternoon, he and I went driving around the area scouting new store locations. That old-school, boots-on-the-ground diligence was my first taste in understanding real estate. My mom gave me the grit and determination it takes to make complex deals happen.
Later in college, I interned with a developer in Mississippi who was doing New Urbanist and mixed-use developments. I enjoyed the idea of creating something new, positively impacting the community and people’s lives. Interacting with different types of people from city planners to tenants, architects to contractors, property managers to bankers, I felt an energy around collaborating and working together to envision and create new places.
My background in the apartment business was coincidental. Out of college, I went to work for a public company based in Birmingham, Ala., called Colonial Properties Trust. I was attracted to their mixed-use development platform. I got a job working in the apartment group, and early on, I aspired to transition to the commercial development side of the business. The Great Financial Crisis changed all of that, and at the same time, Colonial began to focus its business on apartments. This all worked out favorably, because as I learned the multifamily business, I became more and more excited about it. It helped that after the 2008 recession, we began a decades-long rising tide in the industry, which has been a fun ride.
You also bring to the team experience in institutional capital raising and investments. How does this play a role in your overall approach to real estate?
I have been fortunate to be part of investments and developments on the capital raising side of the business all across the country. That experience has allowed me to see similarities and trends across the country as well as the uniqueness of neighborhoods and people from different places. The investment approach has provided a set of fundamental tools that underlie any real estate transaction.
I have learned to dig deep into who the tenant or buyer might be, their preferences in a home or business, and what a reasonable price point might be for a certain location. These attributes become the building blocks in not only determining a sound business plan, but also in bringing along important partners such as lenders or equity investors. Additionally, this experience has led to lasting relationships, a working knowledge of how to continue to foster and grow those relationships, and what makes good partnerships.
Beauxwright was built on the foundation of creating and cultivating long-term relationships. Why is this so important in what you do?
At Beauxwright, we value relationships, family and happiness in all that we do. We like doing work with good people who are aligned with our values. Relationships make what we do fun and exciting.
Real estate development is a complex endeavor requiring a variety of skill sets. Good ideas don’t just come from a single person, but through collaboration with a variety of strong team members and partners. Whether it be with community members, capital partners, consultants or others, long-term relationships lead to better projects and create a positive impact in the work that we do.
In addition to a degree in economics, you also completed a Master of Real Estate Development. Do you think your background influences your decision-making and day-to-day?
My degree in economics fosters my big picture thinking when I am contemplating a new idea, business strategy or project. My MRED at Auburn University provided both a global perspective on real estate and a detailed knowledge base of construction, architecture and finance.
In the Auburn MRED program, I saw projects from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, New York to Australia, and Seattle to New Zealand. This not only broadened my perspective but pushed my imagination around what is possible.
What drew you to Charlotte and how long have you lived here? How would you describe the growth in the city? What do you like most about living/working in Charlotte?
I moved to Charlotte in 2013 for an excellent opportunity to work at Crescent Communities, a top national developer. I got a ton of experience there, primarily on the capital raising side, and at the same time interacted with the development and construction teams on projects across the Sunbelt states. I made lots of good relationships there that continue today. Before becoming a resident, I was impressed with the growth of Charlotte, but came to understand it from a local perspective when I moved here.
What I enjoy most is the energy in Charlotte. There is a lot of excitement and opportunity. It’s changing fast, and there is also the ability to impact that change. There is a focus on things that matter and a willingness to work to change what’s not working. I love how neighborhoods and communities are being connected with greenways, bike lanes and alternative transportation. It’s exciting to see newcomers bringing food, music, art and culture from their places of origin. There is a history of leadership and community engagement to make our city better.
What about your job do you find the most rewarding?
I enjoy solving tough challenges with great partners, and at the end of the day, creating unique places for people to enjoy.
You’re very active in the community. Describe some of the organizations and causes that are most important to you and why.
The church has always been a bedrock for me. I grew up in the Episcopal Church. Into adulthood, as I moved to Birmingham first and to Charlotte later, the church has been a place where I’ve found relationships fed by a common spirituality and community in God. As part of my engagement, I have served in leadership roles over the years that taught me to be a compassionate and humble leader.
It’s become important to me as I have gotten older to think more about the church beyond the walls of the building and find where God shows up every day in my life. This causes me to focus on spreading the love of God, not just as a church cause or something that happens when I go to service on Sunday or sign up for an outreach project. I have a life calling to let that spirituality permeate every day in what I do.
The fun thing about our company is that we integrate our values, our passions and family into what we do. So we think about how we impact the community and how we might collaborate to help have a positive impact on the biggest challenges faced by our community. This has led to projects where we have included affordable housing, engagements with nonprofits such as Roof Above, and growing friendships and partnerships with neighbors and community leadership groups across Charlotte.
If you had to choose only five words to describe Beauxwright, what would they be?
Collaborative, creative, relationship-oriented, passionate and pioneering.
What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
Have fun, don’t take things too seriously, show love, slow down and enjoy life.
- Favorite restaurant: I had a really good steak at Supperland recently. The building is awesome.
- Beach or mountains: I like both. I grew up fishing on the Gulf Coast and hiking, camping and kayaking in the Appalachian Mountains. These days, the beach works pretty well for relaxing with my two kids and wife. The mountains are a great escape from the summer heat.
- Favorite day of the week: Every day is an exciting one. The work week brings an opportunity to focus on things I’m passionate about doing - an intersection of building relationships and teams, envisioning property in a new way. The weekend is a great time to relax with family and friends.
- Call or text: I like calling for a personal connection and text for convenience.
- Favorite hobby: Golf, music/guitar, hiking and the outdoors.