Out of the woods.

Author:Shackelford, Susan
Position:Real estate developer Roger Perry
 
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After a spell in the rough, Roger Perry tees up two of the biggest subdivisions in the state.

In 1983, after a decade of selling new subdivisions in South Carolina and Virginia, Roger Perry was thrilled to be back home in North Carolina. His timing couldn't have been better. Benefiting from pent-up demand after the recession as well as continued expansion in the Triangle, Perry and his two partners in East West Partners hit a home run with their Woodcroft development in south Durham.

The 800-acre, 3,000-unit community of apartments, condominiums and houses sold out in three and a half years, confounding naysayers who doubted enough people wanted to live in south Durham. "We caught the market perfect," says Harry Frampton, one of Perry's partners. "That made us overly optimistic. We began to believe we had special powers."

Spurred by Woodcroft's success, Chapel Hill-based East West Partners began putting together big residential deals around the state: Adams Farm near Greensboro, Davis Lake in Charlotte and Old North State Club at Uwharrie Point in Montgomery County. Then, like many in the business in the late '80s, Perry's hot touch turned cold. He had to turn Adams Farm over to its lender, Davis Lake stagnated while its lender was taken over by the Resolution Trust Corp., and the Old North State Club has developed more slowly than planned because of unforeseen difficulties.

A less-resilient person might have packed his bags. More likely, his partners, lenders and investors would have sent him packing. But he hasn't, and they haven't.

Instead, with residential real estate perking up, Perry, 44, is leading two big developments likely to make their marks on opposite corners of the Triangle: Meadowmont in Chapel Hill and Falls River in North Raleigh. Prospects for Davis Lake and Uwharrie Point are looking up. What's more, Perry says East West Partners will be scouting for a substantial project in Charlotte during the next year.

"Everything he's touched hasn't turned to gold," says Gene McDonald, president of Duke Management Co., the university's investment arm, which hired Perry this spring to develop the 1,100-acre Falls River residential community. "The Adams Farm project in particular wasn't a rousing success by any means, but the lenders speak very highly of his commitment to work through the problems."

Perry grew up in Spring Lake, near Fort Bragg, the son of a Carolina Power & Light manager who was a devout N.C. State fan. Friends at Pine Forest High School learned that he could grasp key information quickly. "In English class we had required reading every day," recalls classmate John Gilchrist, now project manager at Davis Lake. "He would pick his friends' brains about what we read the night before, and as the course progressed, Roger would wind up with an A, and we would make B's. He was able to pick out the important and significant from the insignificant."

Perry must have broken his old man's heart when he enrolled at Carolina, where he pledged Sigma Phi Epsilon and earned a bachelor's in political science in 1971. He got his start in sales after his sophomore year, selling dictionaries door-to-door in Missouri for Nashville, Tenn.-based Southwestern Corp. He didn't realize what he'd gotten himself into until he had to summon the courage to knock on doors that first day, Perry recalls. "I threw up at breakfast. ...The first two days I thought I was going to die."

But he got over the growing pains, finishing in the top 10 of first-year sales reps, then spent the following summer in...

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