Broward Small Business Leader: Alan C. Hooper, Hooper Construction
Sun Sentinel Excalibur Award
Source: Sun Sentinel | Author: Paul Owers | Published: April 19, 2015
It was the job Alan C. Hooper didn’t get that defined his career.
In 1987, Hooper called a Fort Lauderdale developer to ask about a job. In the midst of a lackluster economy, the firm wasn’t hiring.
So Hooper set out to sell and rent houses and apartments, which later led to building homes. And that led to a business that redeveloped and revitalized sections of Fort Lauderdale, including the creation of the Himmarshee entertainment district.
“If I had gone to work for someone else, it might have been a lot easier,” Hooper says now from his office on Andrews Avenue. “But I probably would have been stuck in a box that wouldn’t have allowed me to be creative or persistent.”
In addition to his redevelopment pursuits, Hooper has served as chairman of the Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority and as a volunteer chairman on civic boards. He also is part of a group that donates money and time to the Jack & Jill Children’s Center and is a board member for the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
For his entrepreneurial success and community involvement, Hooper, 51, won the Sun Sentinel Co.’s 2014 Excalibur Award for Small Business Leader of the Year in Broward County. The award was presented Thursday evening at the Boca Raton Resort & Club.
In 1991, Hooper founded Hooper Construction, one of the few firms that handles all aspects of a project — land acquisition, leasing, sales, property management and design and build. The company has overseen 1.2 million square feet of redevelopment.
Hooper also is co-founder of The Restaurant People, a dining, hospitality and entertainment venture that owns and operates Tarpon Bend Food & Tackle, YOLO and O Lounge and Vibe Las Olas. The firm’s latest restaurant, Fork & Balls, opened in June 2014.
“He’s a really passionate guy about what he believes in,” said Tim Petrillo, a longtime business partner and CEO of The Restaurant People. “Many times, I don’t see the opportunity he sees, but his passion sways you to believe.”
Hooper also displays an even temper that complements his intensity, said Doug Eagon, president of the Stiles development firm.
“You have to have a lot of patience in the redevelopment game, and his style and personality are well-suited for what it takes,” Eagon said. “It’s not a quick road.”
Hooper grew up in Fort Lauderdale, attending the Nova schools in Davie from first grade through 12th. He now lives on the same street he did as a kid.
A career in real estate seemed likely because Hooper learned about the business from his parents, who owned a small brokerage that catered to South Americans buying condos in the mid- to late 1970s.
After graduating from Florida State University in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in international affairs, he lived in Atlanta for two years, then moved back to Fort Lauderdale because he had more contacts there.
Hooper handled sales and rentals and managed apartments for his mother’s clients before he and a business partner bought an old home in the Rio Vista neighborhood. Hooper did as much of the renovation as he could, but he hired a general contractor for the rest. That cut into his profit and persuaded him to get his own contractor’s license.
Hooper later bought vacant land on Himmarshee Street for $300,000 and built a commercial building that included the Himmarshee Bar & Grill. Another land deal followed nearby that turned into Tarpon Bend.
In his free time, Hooper took quick trips to New York, often attending parties in warehouse lofts. He started marketing commercial office lofts in Fort Lauderdale — except people wanted to know whether they could use them as apartments instead.
In 1998, he acquired four acres in an old downtown warehouse district. The distressed property had been for sale since 1978, but Hooper found it the perfect place for urban apartments, though he did have to spend two years getting lenders to embrace the same vision.
In the next six years, he built and sold the Avenue Lofts, Foundry Lofts and Mill Lofts. The neighborhood today is known as FAT Village.
“When it’s your skin, when you have something to lose, the conversations you have with people are just different,” Hooper said. “It’s a more serious conversation that results in action.”
About the company
Founded: 1991, based in Fort Lauderdale
Number of employees: 25
What they do: Hooper redevelops urban areas and builds commerical and residential buildings
email@example.com, 561-243-6529 or Twitter @paulowers