- SMALL BUSINESS, BIG MISSION: Weyland Ventures on Being ‘More Prepared for the Next Surprise’
Bill Weyland and Mariah Gratz were profiled in Louisville Business First’s Small Business, Big Mission.
Hear their thoughts on how the pandemic affected business here.
- Family Business Magazine Names Mariah Gratz as Family Business CEO to Watch
Family Business Magazine has named Mariah Gratz as one of their 28 Extraordinary Family Business CEOs To Watch in 2020. Mariah is a second-generation CEO and is featured in the magazine’s November/December issue.
Originally responsible for leading a cross-functional development team in the planning, design and construction of urban real estate development projects, Gratz held leadership positions in several departments of the organization before becoming Weyland Ventures’ CEO.
Weyland Ventures is a multidisciplinary real estate development firm known for creating mixed-use properties in urban areas across the nation. In Louisville, the firm is known for challenging historic renovations and iconic projects such as the 10-story baseball bat at the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum, The Henry Clay and the Glassworks District. She has expertise in real estate financing mechanisms such as historic tax credits, new market tax credits, tax increment financing and economic development incentives.
Gratz holds degrees in biomedical engineering as well as an MBA. She started her career in a corporate setting at a company outside Boston and returned to Louisville to join her family business in April 2009. She became CEO in 2016. Today she works with her parents, siblings and husband along with dozens of non-family team members.
“Mariah has brought her previous experience as a biomedical engineer and project manager to help her family business succeed,” says Isabel Botero, director of the Family Business Center and an associate professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Louisville. “From previous experiences she learned that understanding processes and being adaptable to the environment can help any business survive and excel. The resilience that she learned as an engineer has helped her continuously adapt to the changing environment.
“From her outside experience, she also learned the importance of teamwork. Although she is the CEO, she works with her siblings as a team to ensure the future of their business and their family legacy in the city of Louisville.”
“One of the impressive things about Mariah is that she came into a family business that was almost wholly associated with her dad,” says Rebecca Matheny, executive director of the Louisville Downtown Partnership. “She has worked extremely well with her siblings to carry that legacy forward, but at the same time, really put an individual stamp on what she sees as the vision.”
In addition, “She has taken civic responsibility very, very seriously and has been involved in a number of local organizations that are all doing very important economic development work,” Matheny says.
At the same time, “She has two really small children, and her husband works for the company as well. They seem to have navigated that very, very well.
“I can’t imagine where she’s going to be in five years.”
“Weyland Ventures is an organization created to plan, design and develop unique and special urban places,” Gratz says. “We believe great urban places require long-term vision. We imagine thriving neighborhoods where others can’t and leverage our decades of planning, design and development expertise to make them happen.
“The key for us is to think long-term. I think this is something private family businesses generally excel in versus publicly traded companies.
“I am blessed to work every day with my father, brothers, sister, mother and husband. Coming from a corporate background, it took time for me to accept that the family and the business go hand in hand and can’t be separated. This is our greatest strength and our Achilles heel. I work to make sure the family is proud of the business and that our employee team is proud of the family.”
See Family Business Magazine’s list here.
- Bill Weyland Reflects on 25 Years of Reimagining Downtown Louisville
Rome wasn’t built in a day, as the old saying goes. Nor was downtown Louisville reimagined in a day.
But it was the inspiration of Rome on young architecture student Bill Weyland that provided the impetus for downtown Louisville to experience a sustained renaissance that started in the early 1990s with the restoration of what is now the headquarters of Hillerich & Bradsby and the Louisville Slugger Museum.
Bill’s passion and inspiration led to a career focused on bringing languishing properties back to life in his beloved hometown. These revitalized structures have, in turn, re-energized the blocks around them.
For the past 25 years, Bill has put his University of Notre Dame degree in architecture to use in pursuit of redevelopment efforts through his firm, now known as Weyland Ventures. Whether operating as Design/Build Partners or City Properties Group, LLC, Bill’s firm has never wavered from its mission to remake once glorious buildings into purposeful, beautifully restored structures. And if they happen to be mixed-use projects, combining residential, office and commercial uses, better yet.
Typically, Bill’s vision doesn’t stop at restoring a building. He wants to see the surrounding neighborhood flourish as well. And if that ripple effect requires complementing a renovated building with new structures to accentuate and support its use and bolster the block, Bill makes it happen.
Consider what’s now known as the Clay Commons District in the area around Fourth and Chestnut streets. It includes The Henry Clay, the Hilton Garden Inn, the PARC parking garage, the Mercury Ballroom, and the Guthrie-Coke Building. Bill’s fingerprints are all over the creation of that downtown “neighborhood.” Since he literally saved The Henry Clay mixed-use property from scheduled demolition in the early 2000s, the neighboring Weyland projects followed, and a reawakening of a stretch of Fourth Street that was mostly dormant since the 1970s has emerged with a vibrancy that any downtown would be proud to claim.
The same could be said for the Glassworks District on West Market Street, Whiskey Row on East Main Street and multiple redevelopments in the NuLu area on the eastern edge of downtown.
Don’t underestimate what it took to achieve any one of these revitalizations. Not only has Bill transitioned from staff architect to business owner and real estate developer and landlord, he also has become an accomplished financier. Renovating deteriorated structures and restoring their original integrity is an expensive objective — more costly than building something new.
Undaunted, Bill and his team became adept at using creative financing approaches to fund their redevelopment projects. They find investment partners with like interests in preservation. They use historic tax credits. They apply for tax-increment financing districts. They pursue gap financing options of all kinds. In fact, he and his Weyland Ventures staff have become well known for their creative financing expertise that’s matched only by big concerns on the Coasts. As such, Bill and team serve as consultants throughout the country and in recent years have begun to take their downtown reimagination work beyond the borders of Louisville.
This isn’t just good work. It’s hard work. It’s the kind of painstaking endeavor that only someone with a serious passion and a lot of patience would ever pursue. And Bill Weyland delights in seeing his firm’s projects through to completion.
Mayors, business executives, fellow architects and preservationists duly credit Bill for his achievements. His efforts have earned him awards of all kinds. Examples of local and national honors for design and leadership he has received include the Preservation Alliance Award for Design Excellence, the Forbes National Innovation Award, a 2006 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, the 2015 Visionary Award from the Louisville Downtown Partnership and Louisville Business First’s 2009 Eagle Award of Excellence as Small Company Leader of the Year.
But Bill doesn’t do this work for the acclaim. It’s not pats on the back or trophies that drive him. It is his desire to revive the vibrant downtown Louisville of his childhood that pushes him to bring to life what he sees in his heart and his mind where others see deterioration and demise.
And his mission is not complete.
The next generation of Weylands has picked up the baton and is pursuing Bill’s desire to wrangle with complex financing, repurpose solid, well-built structures for modern purposes and manage their holdings. Is it in their DNA? Is it a witnessed passion woven into who they are? Perhaps it’s a combination of both. Today, three of Bill’s five children are not just carrying on their father’s vision — they are carrying it forward into other cities and states.
When the Weyland Ventures brand was launched two years ago, that transition signaled a realignment of company leadership that put daughter Mariah Weyland Gratz in the role of CEO. Younger brothers Kent and Lee Weyland complete the triumvirate of second generation Weyland leadership.
Already the new leadership has staked claims on projects in Dayton, Ohio, and the outskirts of Minneapolis, Minn. And they maintain an eye on opportunities throughout the Midwest that match their interests and expertise.
Bill may have moved out of day-to-day leadership of his firm, but he remains Chief Strategy Officer. In this role he spends more time on deal making and dream making where Weyland Ventures opportunities are concerned. He also has a bit more time to spend with wife Edith and their grandchildren — likely inspiring a third generation of Weylands about the significance of loving and investing in their hometown and making the world a better place.
Learn more about Bill Weyland in these videos:
- Tenant Tasting Experience Poured It On
Weyland Ventures treated tenants of its residential properties to a special Tenant Tasting event, featuring Rabbit Hole Distillery, on Thursday, Aug. 23, at The Henry Clay.
Chris Wilkins, Market Manager for Rabbit Hole, kept attendees engaged with his storytelling skills as he told the back story to the creation of the relatively new bourbon, launched by former Chicagoan Kaveh Zamanian, whose love for bourbon and his wife, Heather, drew him to Kentucky and this new adventure in the bourbon industry.
Then Chris led attend a tasting experience where attendees were able to savor Rabbit Hole’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey and Straight Bourbon Whiskey finished in PX Sherry Casks.
A bottle of Rabbit Hole was raffled off, and all attendees got a Rabbit Hole branded glass for enjoying Rabbit Hole spirits at home.
Rabbit Hole, located at 711 E. Jefferson St., recently launched tours at its unique facility, complete with a bar with expansive views of downtown Louisville. Learn more about the tours and Rabbit Hole here.
- Edison Center Hosts FTFA Festival
The weather was just right for the 2nd Annual Louisville Food Truck & Craft Beer Festival held at Weyland Ventures’ Edison Center on Sunday, Sept. 16. The event was hosted by Food Truck Festivals of America, which takes its show on the road to cities across the country.
Organizers estimate that close to 3,400 people experienced the Louisville festivities, which featured 26 food trucks and almost two dozen craft beer vendors.
A diverse mix of attendees enjoyed the Louisville Food Truck & Craft Beer Festival. Plenty of families, some with children and dogs in tow, were on hand. A wide spectrum of ages were represented as well.
Food Truck Festivals of America officials were pleased with the Edison Center location. Look for a repeat next September.