Anyone who has been around Arlington knows the mark that architect and developer Mojy Haddad has left on the city. But many may not realize the mark that Arlington has left on Haddad.
Haddad came to the Dream City to get a degree in architecture at the University of Texas at Arlington. He stayed and put his skills to use, designing and developing the Arlington Chamber of Commerce complex, prominent shopping centers, religious and office buildings, mixed-use developments, schools and hospitality projects around the United States and the world.
And he’s not planning to stop anytime soon.
“Arlington’s future looks great,” Haddad said. “I love Texas, I love Arlington and I love North Texas. I would not want to live anywhere else.”
But Haddad didn’t have Arlington in his sights when he came to the United States from Iran in 1972. After attending school in Houston to perfect his English, Haddad headed to Georgia Tech to study architecture, for which he had a passion.
But the architecture he was studying didn’t sync with Haddad’s vision, the study was too technical. So he got in his car and drove to different schools (no internet in the 1970s) to check out other architecture programs.
When he got to UT-Arlington, he knew he was home.
“I fell in love with it,” he said. “I liked the school of architecture, which was more design oriented,the caliber of professors and the design style they taught. The other thing that attracted me to Arlington was that it was a small town between two big cities so there was a lot of opportunity.”
By 1981, Haddad had earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture and a master’s degree in city and regional planning. While attending school, he interned in the design department with real estate developer Trammell Crow. After graduation, he worked with large architectural firms in Dallas.
“It didn’t take me long to figure out I wanted my own firm,” he said.
With two partners, he opened CHS (Caldwell, Haddad and Skaggs) Architects in 1984 in Arlington. By 1989, the business had grown to 40 employees in Arlington and 65 in the Houston office, national and international projects, from Florida to Hawaii, Japan, Europe, Australia, Mexico and Canada.
“Business was thriving,” Haddad said.
By 1990, Haddad bought out his partners and started the Oakhollow Group, a real estate investment and development company, and began designing his own development projects through CHS Architects and Oakhollow Group.
“I’m not a very large developer, but I study carefully when I buy a piece of property,” he said. “One advantage I have as an architect/developer is that I can see the potential of the property and see it in 3D.”
In addition to growing his companies, Haddad was also growing his family. He met his wife, Julia, while he was in college. Nine months later they were married and will celebrate their 44th anniversary this month.
The Haddads have four children: Sheila, who has three sons; Cameron, who has a daughter; Cheyenne, who is married; and Sophia.
“After our kids were born, I decided I didn’t want to travel as much,” Haddad said. “So I cut back quite a bit and started on local projects. That’s when I saw the opportunity for development within a 60-mile radius from my office in Arlington.
“I scaled down and got rid of the Houston office and cut back in Arlington as well,” he said. “I wanted to focus on development and do it for myself. I occasionally do design and architectural work for friends, like Hearsay and Mercury Chophouse for (Mayor Jim Ross), but I prefer projects of my own. I still do projects in the entire DFW area, but the majority of my projects are in Arlington.
“I build high-quality shopping centers with the intent to keep them,” he said. “Having said that, I’m also a businessman and if I get an offer I can’t refuse, I sell and build more.”
Haddad does not build strip centers, he builds high-quality, pedestrian-oriented shopping centers that focus on his tenants and not a sea of cars and parking lots, he explained.
“My shopping centers are like a lifestyle center with wide sidewalks, fountains and lots of landscaping, which makes them more pedestrian oriented,” he said. “A strip center is a cookie cutter that a lot of developers do. The tenants benefit from a good design and high-end development. They attract high-end clients and stay busy and leased up. A good design doesn’t have to be expensive. You can achieve a great design without breaking the bank.”
Haddad enjoys traveling in Europe and admires the architecture there, which has influenced his designs by putting a unique flavor in all of his developments, such as the Venetian tone of The Village at Sports Center on South Cooper Street, the clean lines and classical architecture of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce complex and the contemporary architecture of Waters Edge and Legacy at Viridian, currently under construction. He admits that Italian and Mediterranean architecture is a favorite.
“My favorite architectural style is classical Italian architecture,” he said. “I also do lots of contemporary designs with some classical design influence.
“What is interesting is that I grew up with many historic buildings around me and within walking distance,” Haddad said. “Then, I come to UT-Arlington and I’m studying these buildings that I passed every day (at home).”
In addition to planting his companies and many of his developments in Arlington, Haddad has also invested in the community, being named to multiple boards and commissions, including being Chairman of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the Planning & Zoning Commission, UT-Arlington School of Architecture Advisory Board, UT-Arlington President’s Advisory Board, President of the Arlington Sports Authority, Vice President of the Economic Development Corp. of Arlington, Super Bowl Host Committee and City of Arlington Zoning Board of Adjustment.
“I believe in giving back to our city and our community that has been so good to me and have encouraged my children to do the same,” Haddad said.
“Mojy’s involvement in Arlington has been going on for decades, from being a small business owner to developing local projects to serving on many boards in various capacities,” said Arlington Mayor Jim Ross. “His love of this community has been demonstrated by his continual service and investment.”
Haddad also currently serves as Vice Chair of North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) and he is a member of the Regional Transportation Council (RTC).
“Transportation systems and planning is the backbone of every community,” he said. “Without transportation, there would be no development.”
Arlington has long been touted as the largest city in the U.S. without public transportation, but buses are not the answer, Haddad said.
“I see empty buses driving through other cities every day and that is not what we want in Arlington,” he said.
“Arlington was not built around buses,” he said. “The city was not built to accommodate bus routes. (Busing) has gone before the voters three times and been defeated. Residents don’t want it.
“Via (on-call transportation) is one method that could be a solution for on-demand transportation,” Haddad said. “I believe there are other ways to provide modes of transportation without going to such antiquated people movers like buses. In the age of fast-moving technology, we need to be forward thinking with our transportation options and that is not buses.”
So what’s next for Haddad?
“I’m working on more shopping centers, mixed-use developments, more townhomes like Main 7 in Arlington and DFW,” he said. “I definitely like the ones I’m doing at Viridian (in North Arlington). They are streamlined and have clean contemporary designs. They stay full. The most beautiful shopping centers are when they’re full.”
And what does he see for the future of Arlington?
“The future looks fantastic for Arlington,” Haddad said. “People from all over the state and outside are looking at Arlington. Most recently, a lot of the attention has been attributed to the Entertainment District – Texas Live, Globe Life Field, AT&T Stadium and the Medal of Honor Museum.
“I interact with people from other states regularly,” he said. “I’ve been going to ICSC (International Council of Shopping Centers) conferences for 35 years. In the past, people wouldn’t care to talk to me about development in Arlington. Now Arlington is on their map and their radar. People are eager to talk about what is going on in Arlington, the entertainment district and development opportunities.”
All four of the Haddads’ children attended UT-Arlington, with three graduating from the school and the fourth transferring and graduating at Texas Christian University. All four live within minutes of their parents.
“I encouraged them all to stay here,” Haddad said. “I told them how many opportunities are here as opposed to somewhere else.
“The economy is fantastic,” he said. “For us in North Texas, recessions have been bumps in the road, but I cannot say that about the rest of the country. Right now, the economic conditions are ripe for investment, in particular in Arlington, where everything is happening.”
Haddad is credited for bringing many national, regional and local brands, from restaurants and hotels to medical and personal services, to Arlington, including his favorite Mexican cuisine, Maria Cuca’s in Waters Edge at Viridian, Chill’s Coffee and Wine Bar, Lac Bleu, a breakfast and lunch restaurant, Magic Cup, Nanglo’s Indian Restaurant, Spazzio’s Italian Kitchen, R-Haan Thai Cuisine, First Watch, Mr. Hibachi, Chipotle, Nothing Bundt Cakes, A Loft Boutique Hotel in North Arlington, UPNT (Urology Partners of North Texas) at The Village at Sports Center, Physicians Ageless Solutions, Matlock OBGYN in Waters Edge at Viridian and HotWorx, just to mention a very few. Haddad enjoys in particular working with small local and regional tenants to help them grow.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. The majority of my tenants are small and minority-owned businesses,” Haddad said.
His passion for high-quality development doesn’t stop with his commercial projects. Main 7 Luxury Townhomes at Main and Cooper streets in Arlington is an example of Haddad’s talents in townhome development. Main 7 is the first single-family attached luxury residential development in downtown Arlington, Haddad said.
Haddad has left an indelible, positive mark on Arlington’s economy and the best is still to come.
“Mojy is a remarkable man, having great success in his business, while also caring for his family! All the while he understands the importance of giving back to the Community! We are very fortunate to have Mojy and the Haddad family in Arlington.”
W. Jeff Williams, P.E.
Former Mayor of Arlington