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An independent, coed K-12 day school in Atlanta

From the Riverbank to Real Estate

From the Riverbank to Real Estate
Scott Butterworth, Contributing Writer

When it came time to explore the potential of Lovett’s riverside home, the School enlisted the help of those who know Lovett best: our alumni. Specifically, four alums who have strong backgrounds in commercial development, real estate, and construction planning. Using their professional experience and knowledge of our community, these alums provided vital guidance through our campus master planning process.

David Allman ’72

David Allman ’72 and his Regent Partners company have made their mark on the Atlanta skyline, constructing or managing the Tower Place complex and Sovereign building in Buckhead, and the Concourse Corporate Center in Sandy Springs with its signature “King and Queen” towers.

Less apparent is the work by David and Regent Partners to encourage more affordable housing in Atlanta. He helped launch the city’s first affordable housing impact fund, underwriting low-interest-rate financing for these desperately needed projects. And he was the founding chairman of the Buckhead Community Improvement District.

The through-line of such projects, David suggests, comes through asking, “How do we make this a thriving community?”

That approach, combined with David’s wide-ranging expertise and his decades-long connection to Lovett made him a natural member of the campus master planning committee.

“It was a fairly seamless transition from what I do week-in and week-out in my profession,” he agrees. “For me, and I think for my fellow real estate cohort that were involved in this process, it was an enjoyable exercise to be able to use our professional experience and skills to help Lovett.”

With this project, David recalls, “the design themes emerged almost universally from all of the stakeholders.” Creating enticing natural spaces that make the most of Lovett’s location and geography was a priority. So was providing more indoor-outdoor spaces and better connecting Lovett’s three divisions.

David also felt a responsibility to safeguard aspects of the School’s legacy—and for good reason. He’s an alum who met his wife when they were students at Lovett, he remains friends with classmates he’s known for 60 years, he’s a parent of four alums, and he’s a longtime trustee.

“You want to have a campus and facilities that address the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s kids,” he says, “but you also want to respect history.”

Architectural consistency became a theme of the planning committee. So did honoring Lovett’s spiritual heritage through redeveloping the Chapel as a sacred space. Thinking through these various needs and opportunities presented a sort of puzzle, David suggests.

“It had a lot of fingerprints on it, but to a person, I think we’re very pleased with the end result,” he says.

Cleo Chang ’15

When Cleo Chang graduated from Lovett in 2015, she intended to use her studies at Clemson University to prepare for a career in industrial engineering. Fate—and, specifically, football—had other plans, though.

Back-to-back summer internships with AECOM Hunt, a construction management firm, placed Cleo on the project building Mercedes-Benz Stadium, an opportunity for her to observe every day “what it takes to build something to that size and scale.”

It gave her a taste of the possibilities of a career in real estate development—the variety of projects and an industry in continual evolution. She also found her personal strength at project management meshed well with developers’ needs.

Today she serves as a director at Impact Development Management, where she manages clients’ overall development process. Impact is the project management firm for Lovett’s campus master planning project, and Cleo’s ties made her a natural asset for the assignment: She attended from kindergarten through graduation, and, she says, “After being there 13 years, I know the school pretty well in and out.”

Through the project, Cleo has contributed not just as a Lovett expert but also as one of the younger voices in the room.

“They tend to lean on me from a student’s perspective—‘How do you think this will impact the students’ day-to-day lives if we were to go this way vs. that way?,’” she notes.

Discussions have examined, for instance, the extent to which heavy machinery at work would affect students’ learning. Cleo has advised, “When I was at Lovett, the School seemed to be constantly under construction: They built the Lower School, and then the Middle School, and then the athletics facility. I don’t remember it being that big of an issue.”

Throughout this project and, indeed, much of her work at Impact, Cleo says one of the best lessons learned at Lovett helps her often: Be brave enough to remain curious and to ask questions.

“Lovett did a very good job of teaching that it’s okay to not know the answer to something, that you can go ask someone and they’re going to be willing to help you,” she says. “Even though I have been in the construction industry for a while, I’m still very new to it, compared to peers and colleagues who have been in the industry for 20 or 30 years. Because of Lovett, I don’t have the fear of asking a question.”

John Holder ’73

Shortly after John Holder ’73 joined Lovett’s Board of Trustees in 2000, board chair John Glover asked him to assume leadership of the Board’s facilities committee. It was a logical request: Through Holder Properties, he had extensive experience working with every facet of building development and management.

“I thought, ‘Why not? That doesn’t sound so hard—not too much going on here,’” he recalls. “I quickly found out I was mistaken.”

Lovett was about to launch a strategic plan that would result in new Lower, Middle, and Upper School buildings and more. Over the next dozen years on the Board, John would help guide much of this development work, including for five years as board chair himself.

Looking back on that time, he says candidly, “We didn’t have the resources, and maybe even the vision, to give the School a better sense of identity. We were so focused on repairing and rebuilding 40-to-50 year-old buildings that needed immediate attention. We certainly weren’t thinking of taking a clean slate and redesigning the campus of the future.”

The new campus master plan provides that clean slate, and John is excited about what the plan will produce: “This is transformational. Lovett has outstanding leadership and they’ve put together an excellent team to design a very innovative and creative plan. Once everyone sees how this will tie the School together, it will be a game changer.”

John’s road to real estate development was a bit circuitous. Upon graduating from Lovett, he went to Furman University with the intention of going into banking. That career didn’t quite grab him as he’d hoped, so he shifted into construction, his father’s line of business. The combination of financial experience and construction experience led him to real estate development.

“Learning how the construction business works was an invaluable experience towards my career of being a real estate developer,” he says.

For more than 40 years, Holder Properties has developed millions of square feet of commercial and residential properties including numerous offices, student housing, and mixed-use projects.

Leonard Wood Jr. ’94

For Leonard Wood Jr. ’94, the best part of working as a real estate developer lies in the job’s creative possibilities— of “starting with a few pieces of paper and going from there.” 

One of Leonard’s earliest projects in Atlanta with Trammell Crow Residential was producing the multifamily component for the Krog Street Market development. By that point, he had spent years in real estate in both Dallas and Washington, DC, but this project spotlighted for him the opportunity through construction to provide both a sense of place and a vision of the future.

“It was just exciting to be part of that placemaking in a very old, traditional Inman Park neighborhood,” he adds.

One element of placemaking involves the need to get people into and out of it—what traffic planners call “circulation.” As a senior managing director with TCR, Leonard thinks a lot about circulation, and this was an important consideration for Lovett in its master plan.

How should families navigate campus? What accessible options could the School provide? These questions and more went before its master planning committee, which thought carefully about the options.

“We had a lot of discussions about what’s the right parking configuration, what’s the peak demand for those parking spaces,” Leonard says. “And, then, how do we solve it?”

In what he calls “an aha moment,” Head of School Meredyth Cole ultimately hit on a loop road concept. This unlocked a lot of other potential in two particular ways: Plan architects could now make greater advantage of the Riverbank’s natural beauty, and the School’s divisions would be able to come together as never before, producing a greater feeling of campus connection.

“The sharing of ideas, the learning from one another—it’s going to be subtle but a key part of what makes this plan feel really good,” Leonard says.

That connection is a quality Leonard recognizes as central to his own Lovett identity.

“There’s a deep sense of community here,” he says. “One thing I’ve always been proud of is keeping in touch with my high school peers. We’re still really close friends.”

And he’s proud that the School continues to embrace a value of preparing students not only for college and adulthood but also to be “good citizens of the world, developing the people who will move our community forward in a positive direction.”