CRE Consulting Corps: Making a Difference in Houston, Texas

“The CRE team were exceptional professionals offering the unbiased analysis we needed.”

Pastor Jeff Smith
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church

We asked Bill Brownfield, CRE, about the St. Andrew’s assignment.

The Client

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, West University Place, Texas, founded in 1945, has an active membership from within West U and nearby communities. St. Andrew’s is highly regarded for its community involvement, adult and youth ministries, and strong commitment to music and to local and international outreach programs. Pastor Jeff Smith has led the congregation for 15 years.

West U, pop. 15,000, is a two square mile community surrounded by Houston. In 2018, West U was designated the best small town in America by USA Today. It has a highly educated community and desirable location close to downtown Houston and the Texas Medical Center. West U is located just west of Rice University, hence, the city’s name.

The Challenge

With strong community presence and active outreach and youth programming, the leadership was seeking strategic guidance on the best use of its land and facilities. In addition to Sunday services, St. Andrew’s provides a burgeoning early childhood education and childcare program, as well as group and private music and arts classes. Considering space utilization and optimization for these schools was part of the charge. Unlike the City of Houston, which is known for having no zoning, West University Place does have regulation, so church leaders asked the Consulting Corps to evaluate the effect of municipal zoning related to signage and facilities. The request was for the team to develop a strategic plan for the church’s real estate assets, consider how the congregation could address future needs, and plan for predictable financial stability.

The Assessment

Prior to the on-site visit, team members analyzed church financial reports and reviewed market data and municipal zoning policies. On-site, the team toured the property and met with stakeholders, including church and school leadership and staff, area business leaders, and real estate professionals. The team first focused on understanding St. Andrew’s core values, then incorporated market observations and conducted a SWOT (strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats) analysis. On Thursday the team sequestered itself to brainstorm and develop final recommendations. An exit briefing was presented on Friday, and a written report was submitted after the team returned home.


To guide their work, the CRE team identified the church’s core values of gospel, community, and mission. The team crafted recommendations rooted in these values. The team recommended that the church develop a space allocation strategy that separates the school of fine arts from the preschool, focusing on distinct space needs and priorities of each. In addition, the team recommended adoption of financial and operational performance metrics. Other strategies related to optimization of the church real estate holdings and approaches to maximize efficiencies.

“The scope of the assignment was to develop a strategic plan for the highest and best use of St. Andrew’s real estate assets and recommend solutions to accommodate future growth.”

Steve Norris, CRE, MAI
St. Andrew’s Consulting Corps Team Leader

The Team

(Left to right) Robert Dietrich, CRE, MAI, Kidder Matthews, Los Angeles, Calif., Steve Norris, MAI, CRE (Team Leader), Norris Realty Advisors, Pasadena, Calif., Brent Palmer, CRE, MAI, Newtower Trust Company, Chelan, Wash., Jerry Turner, CRE, MAI, T-4 Investment Solutions, Houston, Tex., Ted Whitmer, CRE, MAI, Ted Whitmer Companies, College Station, TX. Thanks to Bill Brownfield, CRE, for bringing this project to The Counselors. Thanks also to Reid Wilson, CRE, for being an important resource of legal expertise to the team.

“I can’t thank my fellow Counselors enough for allowing me to work closely with them on this project. I can’t stress enough that projects like this should be experienced by all Counselors.”

Ted Whitmer, CRE, MAI
St. Andrew’s Consulting Corps Team Member