• Americas

Milestone Memories: Nuclear Bomb Shelters, Mardi Gras, and Houston Property Tours. A View Into 35 Years at Cushman & Wakefield With David Moeller.

by Eric B. Lewis, MAI, FRICS
President, Valuation & Advisory Americas

We’re recognizing the individuals within our Valuation & Advisory (V&A) group who have hit major anniversary milestones. I had the chance to talk with David Moeller, who has worked at Cushman & Wakefield for the last 35 years…

You’ve been with Cushman & Wakefield for 35 years. What drew you to Cushman & Wakefield originally? And what has made you stay with the company throughout the years?
I began my commercial appraisal career with a local Houston firm and after five years was offered a position with Cushman & Wakefield and jumped at the chance! I have stayed with the firm because of the opportunities to work on high profile and trophy properties, for major banks and clients, from all over the world. Through the years, Cushman & Wakefield has maintained an excellent reputation in the industry with the highest integrity.

What aspect of your role do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy being out in the field inspecting properties, interacting with clients and property owners, and driving through the neighborhoods of the properties. On-the-ground observation is the most educational characteristic that ultimately broadens your understanding of the immediate surrounding real estate market. I am always amazed at the interesting properties you see from being observant on a property tour.

What advice would you give to recent new hires?
I would recommend a new employee to do stellar research, drive the neighborhood, and confirm sales and listings yourself to get the inside story. I’d also tell them to talk to brokers to establish a rapport. This way, they’re able to obtain key details on the sales and neighborhoods. In addition to research networks, my best and most recent sales are obtained from driving the area and following up on all comparable listings that frequently reveal pending contracts.

Name a career lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Always verify your facts. Information might be presented from various databases and resources, but don’t rely on it without double checking.

What was the most interesting or unique assignment you’ve been a part of?
The most unique and interesting assignment that I was part of was one Cushman & Wakefield did not get to appraise but were fortunate enough to inspect anyway. The property was an office building, surrounded by 2,000 acres, with an underground nuclear bomb shelter. The client in this case was a recluse, Chinese multi-millionaire oil producer and his oil company employees and their families.

Adjacent to the 90,000-square-foot, four-story office building, underneath a lake, was a 40,000-square-foot bomb shelter that could comfortably accommodate 500 people for six months. Fearful of a nuclear attack by Chinese communists, he outfitted this bunker with entrance tunnel blockhouses (disguised as pagodas) complete with bank vault-quality blast doors, numerous gun ports, and rooftop-mounted machine gun nests, which in the event of a security breach had collapsing entry tunnels. The bunker was equipped with dormitories, hospital facilities capable of any type of surgery, a commercial kitchen, cafeteria, and even a jail. Two 700-foot-deep water wells supplied the bunker with an unlimited and un-contaminable water supply. Diesel generators with 30,000 gallons of fuel provided electricity in the event of a power failure. The bunker’s floors, walls, and ceilings were constructed of two feet of heavily reinforced concrete. The facility’s double-redundant air purification system could withstand chemical, biological, and radiological assaults. Decontamination showers were available for nuclear radiation cleansing prior to entering the shelter. The bunker was designed to withstand the effects of a 25-megaton nuclear bomb strike within four miles of the shelter.

His obsession with security wasn’t limited to the bomb shelter as every window in the office building had bulletproof glass, and the concrete floors and steel structure far exceed normal construction standards. He had four bodyguards around him at all times.  The 2,000-acre complex was constantly patrolled by his private security force. Although a recluse on the level of Howard Hughes, he was very generous to his employees and their families. He provided free breakfast, lunch, and dinner to all employees in the company dining room, which was complete with full-time chefs, a special pastry chef, and a full-time piano player. There were free, daily happy hours in the buildings’ seven bars for all employees. Employee facilities also included three hot tubs, two saunas, two steam rooms, and an outdoor Olympic-sized swimming pool (doubling as an emergency back-up water supply for the fire-sprinkler system).

He lost the property in 1987 when the oil boom went bust and his company went bankrupt. The facility was purchased and retrofitted into a computer data center touted as the most secure computer data center in the world.

Moral of the story: There is always an alternate use for any property type with some creative thinking!

When you’re not out inspecting an asset or writing a report, what do you like to do?
I enjoy touring the national parks across America. An awesome recent trip included visiting Death Valley, Sequoia, Yosemite, Redwoods, Crater Lake, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Rocky Mountain national parks in two weeks and driving 4,000 fun-filled miles. I also enjoy listening to jazz and classical music, walking in nature, March Madness basketball (Go Illini!), Mardi Gras in New Orleans (more times than I can remember ), and spending quality time with my wife, our four children, and one awesome granddaughter.

Eric Lewiseric-lewis-valuation-advisory-president is the President, Valuation & Advisory Americas. In this role, Eric is responsible for the overall operations of the Americas V&A group, which spans 600 professionals across 6 core services, 17 practice groups, and 70 offices. He drives the primary business objectives and activities for V&A in the Americas, including our aggressive growth and technology initiatives. In 2017, the group appraised more than 50,640 properties valued at over $1.29 trillion USD.

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