Real Estate: Brent Torstrick

By Laura Williams-Tracy

When Brent Torstrick negotiates leases for longtime client and mall developer Faison Enterprises, he doesn’t just offer legal advice. “His brain is an archive of past real-estate deals,” says Jensie Teague, senior managing director of Carolinas retail development for Faison. “Often if people say we can’t do something, Brent will say, ‘Well, you did it here before.’ It advances the negotiation so far so fast that he earns his fees within the first 15 minutes.”

But don’t take Torstrick for a heartless analytical machine at the conference table. A polite and erudite son of missionaries who once won a prize as Duke University’s most-outstanding math undergraduate, he says his skill in reaching a deal comes from an aptitude for problem solving. “I can manage a lot of variables at a time, such as when we’re in a frenzy to get all of the leases signed before a closing. It’s like a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle where the puzzle pieces keep moving.”

Torstrick manages lots of puzzle pieces these days as chair of Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson’s real-estate practice and as the father of two young daughters. He spent his own early childhood in Chile, where his parents were missionaries. When he was 8, his family moved to Richmond, Va., where his father took up a career with the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board.

Torstrick went to Duke University, majoring in math and economics. One summer back home working in the mailroom at Wheat First Securities brokerage, he rode to work each day with a friend who was working at his father’s law firm. Torstrick listened as they discussed their work, and he thought he too might be good at law.

After law school at the University of Virginia, he joined Robinson Bradshaw as one of five recruits. The new guys were asked to select an area of concentration, and Torstrick was offered bankruptcy or real-estate law. He chose real estate. “I liked it from Day One because there’s a lot of problem-solving to get from point A to point B. You feel like you are guiding someone through a maze. And there’s the tangible because you see a building come out of the ground.” For some long-term clients, Torstrick has overseen the legal details of develop-ing a building and then helped to sell or dismantle it. Torstrick helped Faison divest itself of five shopping malls in late 2003, including SouthSquare Mall in Durham.

He focuses on commercial developments in the Southeast. He helps buy the land, secure loans and conducts due diligence for environmental surveys, easements and zoning permits. He also has done work for condominium developers and is known for his expertise in writing documents that outline the responsibilities of condo owners and their relationship with others in a building. “I try to draft a document that 10 years from now will resolve those challenges that might not be foreseen.”

“I think Brent has written most of the condo documents if not in North Carolina, at least in western North Carolina,” says Chris Branch, president of The Boulevard Co. in Charlotte, which develops condos and mixed-use projects. “Other attorneys literally scan them in and use them.”