Thomas Hartland-Mackie never intended to buy a highrise, much less that grayish blue one over near Union Station that, frankly, few people outside of Belo employees ever had a reason to be in. But Hartland-Mackie was running out of space at Saint Anne Court to house the headquarters of his wholesale electric materials company, City Electric Supply.
He didn’t even recognize 400 S. Record St. when a buddy at Cushman & Wakefield told him the diamond-shaped, 17-story office tower was on the market. It is in a pocket of downtown that for decades had been known for four things: Union Station, The Dallas Morning News, WFAA-TV Channel 8, and the George L. Allen Sr. courthouse. Property owner Gannett, a Virginia media conglomerate that bought Belo in 2013, had gotten some nibbles on the tower from a few suitors, but no one bit until Hartland-Mackie. His acquisition closed in October of 2014. City Electric Supply has reserved 10 floors for its own operations. And with a few tweaks, he believes more people will have reasons to visit the tower.
Hartland-Mackie, 28, is telling me why from a corner table at CBD Provisions while he dives into a bowl of chili. “It’s killer,” he says of his meal, but he doesn’t touch his cornbread. Hartland-Mackie is wearing a royal navy suit with a pressed, white button-down and no tie, the top two buttons left loose. His family is from England, and Hartland-Mackie was born in Switzerland. He moved with his mother to Colorado when he was nine, which explains the lack of an accent. I wouldn’t have batted an eye if he told the waiter to bring him a bowl of Texas Red. But a few words creep in—he says he met his wife “on holiday,” for instance—that remind you where he’s from. He spends three months of the year in London, about 100 miles south of Coventry, where City Electric Supply began in 1951. Hartland-Mackie’s grandfather grew the company from a former horse stable into an international dealer, selling things like light fixtures, cables, and conduits to contractors and outlets in six countries.
In 2005, Hartland-Mackie followed a girlfriend from Colorado to Southern Methodist University. The relationship didn’t last, but he gained a love for Dallas and an opportunity to inherit the company. His grandfather put him through a training program to teach him all facets of the organization. He left SMU after his freshman year, working at the manufacturing and wholesaling facilities in places like the U.K. and Spain. But Dallas was home. The kind people, the booming art market, the ease of getting a table at one of the nice restaurants in town—he says he loved his life here. He recently left Uptown for a Park Cities mansion, where he lives with his wife and 20-month-old—Tom Tom, they call him.
Part of the reason his Dallas home base works is its proximity to DFW International Airport, a necessity considering that the company, which has more than 900 locations, opened 18 branches last year and has plans for another 35 in 2016. He’s grown its North American revenue from $494 million in 2009 to $1.02 billion in 2015. Hartland-Mackie largely operates under the radar, outside of a brief moment in 2014 that found him in the headlines for wrecking a $1.15 million McLaren P1 after overcorrecting on a patch of water on the Dallas North Tollway. (“I’m thankful things weren’t worse from that situation, but I certainly learned a big lesson from it,” he says.)
With his redevelopment of 400 S. Record St., he can reverberate beyond his industry. Union Station offers quick access via DART. Gensler is the architect. Bruno Davaillon left the kitchen at The Mansion at Turtle Creek to open his own French brasserie in a space above the lobby. Benjamin Godsill, a former curator for The New Museum in New York City, consults on art for the building. There are also plans for a gym and other amenities.
So, no, he didn’t anticipate buying a tower. But, then again, Hartland-Mackie didn’t expect to be leading a global company at age 28, either.