The retail innovator and expert pioneered the first transit-oriented development in Texas.
By Archana Pyati
Kenneth H. Hughes, a ULI Foundation governor and former ULI trustee, died November 29 in Dallas after a brief illness. He was 69.
Hughes, a Dallas-based real estate developer, had as his signature and pioneering project Mockingbird Station, the first transit-oriented development in Texas. The 1997 redevelopment of an abandoned Western Electric facility, Mockingbird Station was the first mixed-use project in the state designed specifically to accommodate a light-rail station—for a Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) line. His company, Hughes Development LP, specialized in urban, mixed-use projects in the U.S. Southwest, Hawaii, and Mexico.
Hughes was known widely as a retail innovator and expert, and he shared his expertise widely within ULI. After joining the Institute in 1973, Hughes served on councils, juries, and panels in the decades that followed. He joined the Community Redevelopment Council in 1979, chairing its Gold Flight from 1989 to 1990, and was a member of the Urban Development Mixed-Use Council (Purple Flight) from 2009 to 2011. He served on the ULI Hines Competition jury in 2004 and the ULI Global Awards for Excellence/Urban Open Space Awards jury from 2010 to 2012. He was an Advisory Services panel member and also shared career insights through speaking engagements at district councils.
“Ken Hughes was a creative, energetic, and visionary developer who had terrific taste, a great sense of humor, and was a pleasure to work with,” said Patrick L. Phillips, ULI global chief executive officer, who served on Advisory Services panels with Hughes and considered him a good friend. “Ken was dedicated to quality in everything he pursued. He took on complicated, messy projects and no matter how high the hurdle, Ken was always confident that he could find a solution.”
Hughes graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1967 and began his career in Dallas with the Henry S. Miller Company. He also attended the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture and served on the school’s advisory council. Hughes was a guest lecturer on urban housing and mixed-use development with the Real Estate Academic Initiative at Harvard University.
ULI recognized Mockingbird Station in several publications, including a 2002 case study and in Ten Principles of Successful Development Around Transit, published in 2003. It reads: “Recalling trips to New York City and Paris during his youth, developer Ken Hughes consciously sought to tap into the transit system to bring the ambience and energy of other-worldly places to Dallas: ‘If you look at the chemistry you have in London, Paris, Mexico City, or wherever there is mass transit, you find a kinetic activity created by those transit stations. A little of that will happen here with the trains.’”
Indeed, Mockingbird Station offered European-style cultural attractions as much as it did traditional retail options—its Angelika Film Center and Café screens independent films—and the project is easily reached by pedestrian bridge from the DART station and buses. Other notable Dallas projects developed by Hughes include the Quadrangle, the The Plaza at Preston Center, and Berkshire Court.
Longtime friend and colleague Clyde C. Jackson remembers Hughes as a devout Christian who was committed to his faith and place of worship, Highland Park United Methodist Church.
Jackson praised Hughes for approaching real estate development through a creative lens, which gave him the confidence to create visionary places rather than merely functional developments.
“As a classically trained pianist and artist, Ken viewed real estate development through the eyes of an artist,” said Jackson, chairman and CEO of Dallas-based development firm Wynne/Jackson Inc. “That accounts for a lot of things that he did that were visionary, that had great impact, and that others thought couldn’t be done.”
Preceded in death by his wife of 40 years, Diane “Dee” Kadane Hughes, Hughes is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Taylor and Jeb Mason; his son, Hunter; granddaughters Neely and Mary Hicks Mason; and a brother and sister-in-law, Bob and Harriet Hughes. A memorial service was held December 4, at Highland Park United Methodist Church.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to Highland Park United Methodist Church or the ULI North Texas’s Kenneth Hughes Scholarship Fund. Please contact ULI North Texas District Council Coordinator Jennifer Backover at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.