Path to the Lowcountry

He doesn’t own a gun, a horse, or a boat—so who let this New England native into Charleston? Rumor has it he has lots of friends on the golf course and those friends have the boats, guns and horses.

Pete Harper was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the youngest in a family of four. He grew up in Connecticut until he headed to college at the University of Vermont—mainly drawn to the school for civil engineering studies and the ability to hit the ski slopes after class. After graduating in 1988, Pete moved to Boston to take part in the “The Big Dig”, a massive infrastructure project that started at $5 billion but crept its way up to $18 billion.  Pete was trying to help save money, not spend it for the City of Boston. His part in this behemoth of a project included working for a general contractor as a civil engineer turning a transit and providing line and grade for large concrete structures. During his time on “The Big Dig”, he became acquainted with some large commercial developers and realized that they were the ones being the most creative and making most of the money.

Then came 1991. The development world was battling a recession, making jobs scarce and taking the fun and the money out of his career. Pete shifted back to education and decided to obtain his MBA. His decision to attend Vanderbilt University may or may not have been based on a run-in with Bob Dylan (but Pete only discloses those details in person!) while visiting Nashville.  He also made the life-changing decision to ask his girlfriend to marry him and follow him on the next step of his career and move to Nashville.  These were the two biggest decisions that would define the direction of his future.

Pete interned with Trammell Crow during business school, where his diligence and dedication paid off—he was the only intern to ever survive multiple months of cold calling in the face of constant door slams from the tenants. His perseverance resulted in a full-time job offer with the company before his second year of graduate school. He would go on to spend fifteen years in retail, five of which were with Trammell Crow. In late 1999, Pete then went to work for a power center developer in Atlanta, where he leased small shop space in large shopping centers all around the southeast. He left Atlanta in 2003 for Charleston, having leased more than 350,000 SF of shop space in five years.

The Lowcountry was a huge draw to Pete and his family. He came to work for the James Doran Company as their COO, where he was responsible for growing the company and managing the debt and equity on $250 million worth of developments. He spent his time working on town center projects around the southeast until the economy decided it had other plans in 2009. That economic downturn led Pete in a more stable direction of working to develop 600 units of affordable housing in South Carolina and Virginia.

In August of 2011, Pete made the shift back to commercial brokerage that landed him at Lee & Associates. Even with an extensive retail background, he decided to focus on the office market of Charleston and started by working on third-party-managed office properties. Pete now has two children and has been married to his wife, Lee, for 24 years. He has been with Lee for 7 years, has leased over 4 million square feet of space, and sold over $20 million worth of properties. He is an asset to the Lee team and we invite you to give Pete a call for any of your office leasing or sales needs—or simply to ask, “What happened that night with Bob Dylan?”

Pete Harper


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