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Westchase manager: low key, powerful

Published Sep. 28, 2005

While Westchase is owned by a mammoth, $1.5-billion real estate company in Dallas, the day-to-day operations and future of the development are largely managed by one single person here in Tampa.

He is Brian Sewell, the 32-year-old general manager of Westchase since May. Sewell is responsible for everything from the architectural specifications for new homes to selling land to businesses.

He is also one of 11 board members sitting on the homeowners association board. In that post he casts his vote on issues dealing with the budget, renovations to the swim and tennis center, deed restrictions and everything in between.

For all he has on his plate, Sewell remains low key and low profile. He speaks rarely at homeowners meetings, though when he does he speaks decidedly. Neither his name nor face is recognized by most residents, though he largely determines their way of life as well as property values.

"It's fun and it's very challenging," Sewell said of his job. "I don't consider myself the only one who runs Westchase. We've got a great team, so it's not all me."

The team he refers to is the small Tampa office of Terrabrook Communities, the Dallas-based owner of Westchase and a slew of other planned communities around the country. Sewell came to Westchase in 1995 as the assistant project manager to Jack Rowlett,who left Westchase in May to run a Terrabrook development in Puerto Rico. (Rowlett was seriously injured in an automobile accident recently and is now recovering in Tampa.)

Sewell earned an undergraduate degree in finance and real estate from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, then received a graduate degree in operations management from Auburn University in Alabama.

In 1994 he got a job at the Houston headquarters of American General, the original owner and developer of Westchase. In the land development division, Sewell worked with general managers of numerous master planned communities and met Rowlett, who was heading up Westchase, at a meeting. A few months later Rowlett asked American General if he could recruit Sewell from headquarters to Westchase. Sewell came onto the scene just as the Shires was almost sold out and the Fords was getting under way.

Sewell's biggest undertaking these days is planning and development of West Park Village, the neo-traditional phase of Westchase that promises 500 single-family and 1,200 multifamily homes with architecture reminiscent of Charleston, S.C., Savannah, Ga., or South Tampa.

The project is fitting for Sewell; he lives in South Tampa with his wife, Laura, and daughters Rachel, 2{, and Cathryn,6 months. They just moved to a house built in the 1920s, the fifth house Sewell has bought and renovated since college.

Even though he makes his livelihood in brand-new houses, Sewell said, "My hobby and pastime is in remodeling old houses. But all real estate is my passion. The remodeling and renovation is an avocation and the master plan community is my vocation."

With the roads and home lots in place for West Park Village, Sewell will focus more on developing the mixed use section of the new phase that will combine shops, offices and multifamily housing. The commercial area is being called a "town square" and should resemble Old Hyde Park Village.

"West Park Village is going to take up the big majority of my time next year, but we are very seriously investigating new master planned community locations in Tampa," he said.

After all, another four years or so and Westchase will be sold out.