Terry Stiles, who kickstarted Fort Lauderdale's real estate boom, dies

Terry Stiles, the developer whose vision essentially led to the creation of the Fort Lauderdale office and multifamily markets, died Monday. He was 70.

The cause of death was cancer. Diagnosed in 2015, the chairman and former CEO of Stiles Corp. initially took a six-month leave and returned to work 80 pounds lighter but determined to remain involved. In 2016, his son, Ken Stiles, was named CEO in a previously-announced leadership transition. The South Florida Business Journal reported the elder Stiles' death Monday.

Credited with kickstarting the development of "Class A" office towers in downtown Fort Lauderdale, Terry Stiles was responsible for building some 43 million square feet of commercial and multifamily real estate in South Florida. As an architect, property manager and general contractor, the company constructed sprawling office parks in Broward County and worked with companies like the supermarket chain Publix and car retailer AutoNation.

AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson told the Business Journal that he met Stiles at a party. "I am there for 15 minutes and this burly charismatic individual sticks his hand out and says 'I'm Terry Stiles and I want to build your headquarters for you,'" he recalled. "Terry had an infectious leadership style. You wanted to say yes."

Stiles went into business in 1968, working with his father, Howard Stiles, building homes and small warehouses in rural Broward County. In 1971, Stiles launched his own company. "We were fighting for our lives," he recalled in a 2016 interview. "I was making $123 a week."

He got his first big break when real estate investor Maurice Finkle hired him to build a 35,000 square foot warehouse. In 1979, Stiles embarked on a signature project: turning cow pastures at Fort Lauderdale Cypress Creek into an office park. Today, the area has 7 million square feet of office space.

Last week, the company received the green light from the Fort Lauderdale City Commission to build a 27-story rental tower in downtown.

Stiles was also a fierce advocate for the region, Bob Swindell, chairman and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, told the Business Journal. "He never wanted to lose a deal, but even if he didn't win the deal, his next priority was to make sure the project stayed in Broward County." [SFBJ]E.B. Solomont