Developing a Legacy
"Atlanta was really booming."
Carson said he was sold the idea of entering real estate by a good salesman who turned into a mentor and taught him excellent values about cultivating relationships that spilled over to business.
“While I knew nothing about real estate,” Carson said, “he had a very good business plan and the industry was really interesting.”
Carson identified the salesman-turned-mentor as Frank Carter, who also evolved into a business partner.
“The northern arc was then beginning to open up, and it was opening a lot of new development opportunities at new major intersections,” Carson said. “It was just a time when Atlanta was really booming.”
That boom saw Carson’s company help develop Northlake Mall, Cumberland Mall and Southlake Mall, all regional malls that served as major suburban mixed-use development anchors. Carson said real estate in general is often driven by new transportation arteries, and in Atlanta, that means roads which pull a lever on a “magnet” for new development.
"Real estate is a place for people to do business, and a place for people to live."
The same can be said for MARTA, which opened the door for the growth of Midtown and Buckhead as huge development centers, Carson said.
Carson retired in 2002 after 34 years from active management and ownership at Carter & Associates where he held a host of senior management positions.
Throughout his career, Carson watched the real estate industry evolve from something that attracted speculative entrepreneurs, to the publicly traded real estate investment trusts, or REITs, of today. Now, more than a decade since his retirement, Carson points to the walkable communities like the Beltline, and people living over stores and much closer to where they work, a seismic shift and generation removed from the new bustling suburbs outside of the Perimeter.
“Real estate is a place for people to do business, and a place for people to live,” he said. “How they live, what they desire in their lives really drives what real estate’s all about. Change like that doesn’t happen overnight. Atlanta is probably a perfect example of what’s happened. The social fabric of the way people associate with each other. The way they shop. The things they value in their lives are what drive the trends and how we use our assets. Our land, our buildings and so forth.”
A one-time Emory University trustee and member of the Goizueta Advisory Board, Carson received his bachelor’s degree from Emory. Following his Emory graduation, Carson served an active duty role in the Army before he enrolled at Harvard Business School, where he earned his MBA. But he chose Emory to pursue a career as a physician, only to change his mind entering his junior year after a summer job working in a research lab at a hospital revealed to him that he didn’t like being around sick people.
After Harvard, he briefly considered a banking future in New York before he elected to begin his short banking career with the Trust Company of Georgia.
Carson was also involved in several metro Atlanta real estate and leadership organizations, and in 2005, Gov. Sonny Perdue named him to the Capital Asset Management Advisory Council. Through his involvement in these entities that overlap some 20 counties and dozens of municipalities without a consolidated government, Carson hoped to generate dialogue to foster mutually beneficial answers to challenges like transportation.