On a visit to Friendswood in 2014, Louis Tannos looked around the downtown area, and instead of a vibrant small town, he saw empty lots.
With 20 years of construction and commercial development experience, he also saw opportunity. He began to acquire land along Friendswood Drive and opened a retail center in 2015, where his office is located now, then built another. All told, he will have about $40 million invested in Friendswood once his next two big projects get underway.
In a June interview with Community Impact Newspaper, Tannos explained his approach and what he has planned for Friendswood.
How did you come to be a commercial developer?
I started out as an oilfield deep sea diver in the Gulf of Mexico for several years. That was heavy steel construction and demolition, a lot of zero-visibility diving work for the oil companies.
I had a near-death experience and decided to get out of the business. My first project was a $100 fence repair I got from placing a Greensheet ad. From there, I moved on to what was becoming big—flipping houses—and rebuilt homes for investors who were flipping them. We moved into custom homes after that. Then I got a job working with a commercial developer and learned the business as a project manager and built several really large projects. Then we started our own outfit. Since then we’ve done industrial, steel buildings in the Port of Galveston, we’ve done commercial, restaurants, all with steel.
Why did you choose Friendswood to relocate and build your business?
I’m from League City. We were happy there. Once we built our first building here, my wife and I realized we really liked it here, so now we have two acres to build a new home here.
What I saw is a really great opportunity to do something special and something that’ll last. Some developers are in this for the short term—they build, they sell, they don’t care. We’re in it for the long haul. I have no intention of selling these projects. We’re a family. Everyone is involved—my 2-year-old has a hard hat.
And we live here, so we’re very conscious about what we’re doing and having a very well-thought-out plan. That’s what development should be about.
You have received pushback on your big projects. How are you responding to that?
First of all, I have an open-door policy. Anybody can come on over. My name’s on the building. They can call. They can email.
For the residential-retail project next to the library for example, I was told that based on what we planned, there was no way those trees [several trees planted around 1901 behind the library lot]could be saved. So, we started to look into it. I visited with the historical society, learned about the significance of it. When it comes down to it, I’m not here to harm the city, so we’re sparing no expense—it’s going to cost $200,000 to relocate the trees. … But also, as I learned more about the history, I decided to incorporate that into the design, so we’re inscribing the names of Friendswood’s 16 original families onto the side of the building, all around the building.
What kind of look should downtown Friendswood have?
To me, that’s looking at San Marcos and Fredericksburg and using some of those ideas. I think that’s what people here want to see. So, people said the office building looked too sleek or modern. Well, I’m going to tweak the design on that to soften it up a bit.
There are some people who don’t want Friendswood to grow too much, but that cat’s out of the bag. You have a great school district, a great community. The growth is coming whether you like it or not, so you need to work with developers to do it well.
I’ve been called the ‘King of Compromise,’ and I think that’s the way it’s supposed to work.