When it came time for the W.C. Bradley Co., to find a new president and chief operating officer for its Real Estate Division, it turned to a man familiar with its ongoing downtown Columbus project.

Pace M. Halter, 42, of Atlanta was announced on Monday as leader of the Real Estate Division, replacing Mat Swift, who is retiring after 31 years in the job.

Halter will begin his job on June 12. He will work alongside Swift, who plans to retire in October, shortly after his 70th birthday.

Halter brings an intimate knowledge of The Bradley Company and its current $52 million downtown residential, commercial and retail project, The Rapids at Riverfront Place. Through his Vinings, Ga., consulting firm The Halter Companies, he has been working with The Bradley Company for nearly two years, helping drive the design and master plan for The Rapids and Riverfront Place, which started construction on Monday. The first phase of the project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2018.

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Halter’s familiarity with The Bradley Company’s Real Estate Division and its ongoing projects was a major plus, said W.C. Bradley President and CEO Marc Olivié.

“First, his familiarity makes for a much quicker learning curve and he knows what he is getting into,” Olivié said. “We have seen him work with us — really work with us for two years — and we are convinced we know what we are getting. When you hire somebody from the outside, they always put their nicest hat on. But if you have seen him work for two years, you have a pretty good idea.”

Halter’s involvement with the project has been extensive.

“We were responsible for helping guide them, helping them select the architects, engineers, designers, as well as doing the master plan,” Halter said. “We have been involved in the project from Day 1, every aspect of it — unit mix, pricing and other elements related to it.”

Halter said even though he is now the president of The Bradley Company Real Estate Division, he is not looking at the downtown project under construction any differently.

“My responsibility — fiduciary and otherwise — as a consultant was to help them deliver the best project,” Halter said. “That doesn’t change now at all. I just have more decision-making authority.”

The Bradley Company conducted a national search before deciding to go with a known commodity, Olivié said.

“We had him do just like any other candidate, come in here and interview with all of the people we wanted him to interview with,” Olivié said. “He came out ahead. And on top of that, we knew him and we really liked how he had operated and what we had seen over the last few years.”

Swift made his decision about retirement known within the company at the end of last year, but the company kept the news in tight circle as it moved to find a replacement. Swift called Halter after he announced his retirement to the employees in the Real Estate Division.

“He didn’t want me to hear it through the grapevine,” Halter said. “It was a short conversation. Then he said, ‘We’re going to start a search if you have any interest.’”

Halter met with the search firm in late February.

“Coming out of that, so as not to waste anybody’s time, I made a decision we would take it to the next step and see where the conversations went,” Halter said. “… I was told point-blank ‘we are going to talk to other candidates.’”

Halter has been president of The Halter Companies, a real estate development, investment and brokerage firm. He graduated from Rollins College in 1997 with a degree in sociology and earned an MBA from Georgia State University. He and his wife, Eileen, have three sons and will be relocating to Columbus before the start of the school year.

The announcement of Halter’s hiring comes on the same day The Bradley Company begins construction of The Rapids, a 226-unit apartment and mixed-use building along the Chattahoochee River just north of the 13th Street bridge in downtown Columbus. The project, the first of multiple phases on a 7.5-acre tract that will be called Riverfront Place, is the largest single-building construction project in the history of The Bradley Company.

“I think that is what attracted him: to see what the next steps are, what the next opportunities are to really make a mark here,” Olivié said.

Swift said he is excited to be handing over the operation to Halter.

“Not only is Pace the visionary that our future development efforts require, but he also embodies the values and culture that are the bedrock of our company,” Swift said. “He will be a great asset to the company and the community.”

It is the second major hire by The Bradley Company in the last four years in which Olivié has turned to someone outside the operation.

“I don’t think we are trying to make a statement here,” Olivié said. “What we are saying is we want to make sure we have the best possible talent to take this company forward in all areas. As we grow and we become significantly larger — and we have become significantly larger over the years and decades — you have to look outside for key talent. But you have to find talent from a personal values perspective that fits with what this company stands for. We are careful to make sure from a values perspective they fit with what we stand for and what the family and what the shareholders stand for.”

The Bradley Company was founded in 1885 as a cotton brokerage business and is a family-controlled enterprise that owns Char-Broil, Zebco Brands, Lamplight Farms Inc. and the Real Estate Division.

W.C. Bradley has significant holdings in downtown Columbus and Phenix, much of the property along the river on both sides.

“It is so rare to find this opportunity on the whole, with a company with their background, with the family that is involved here, with the real estate portfolio that Mat and his team have built over his 30-year career, and in a city like Columbus and Phenix City,” Halter said. “… I think that we are right on the edge of something that is going to be a whole lot of fun.”

Chuck Williams: 706-571-8510, @chuckwilliams

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