Building management a labor of love for one Victoria man
By BY ALLISON MILES - AMILES@VICAD.COM
Feb. 16, 2013 at midnight
Updated Feb. 15, 2013 at 8:16 p.m.
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A closer look at 120 Main:
Constructed in 1939. Between then and 1959, builders added on to it twice. A helipad sits on the roof.
Levi Bank and Trust was the building's first tenant.
Bill Wendlandt purchased the 160,000-square-foot building in 1988, and today, it houses about 17 tenants.
Wendlandt donated building space to the Victoria Main Street Program and African-American Chamber of Commerce and offers lower rental rates to some nonprofit groups, such as Mid-Coast Family Services.
The building's ground floor, which currently sits vacant, boasts about 35,000 square feet.
SOURCES: BUILDING MANAGER LEE DEAN AND BUILDING OWNER BILL WENDLANDT
To some, the six-story building with the marble facade is a downtown Victoria landmark. To others, it's where they venture to work day in and day out.
Both might be true for Lee Dean, a Victoria resident with smiling eyes, but he said it's much, much more.
The building, 120 Main Place, is a source of pride.
"This has been my baby for 39 years," the building manager said from his fifth-floor office. "It's hard not to be proud of it."
Dean, a Mississippi native, joined on to manage the building at 120 S. Main St. on April 1, 1974.
"April Fool's Day," he said with a laugh. "I was brave."
Victoria Bank and Trust called the place home at the time, he said. And although he liked his boss, he admitted the man had an interesting way of expressing himself.
Every other word was a curse word.
"He'd come in and just yell at you for something you had done, but a little while later, you'd get a call saying, 'Lee, it's coffee time. Where the hell are you?'" he said, laughing. "And that was it. It was all forgotten."
It was about that same time, he said, that employees enjoyed a favorite tradition at the bank. For every $5 million in deposits the place brought in, workers got a rib-eye meal.
"Sometimes it happened twice a month," he said. "Those were good times."
When Bill Wendlandt purchased the 160,000-square-foot building in 1988, he inherited Dean, too. He said he soon realized what an asset the building manager was.
The man views the building with an owner's eyes, Wendlandt said, and treats it with the respect he would show his own property.
"He's seen every transition and tenant that's come and gone," he said. "He's the permanent structure there."
Although the tenants have changed and renovations have been done, Dean's work now is much the same as it was at the start.
He rises early, arriving at 6 or 7 a.m. to unlock doors and walks his rounds to make sure things are in working order. If there are issues - such as the tree branch that clogged a drain and brought flooding in 2006 - he addresses them.
The main goal is to keep tenants happy.
"It's not always an easy job, but it's a good job," he said, smiling. "I like what I do."
Looking forward, the 63-year-old said he plans to keep working, at least for a few years. As for his building, he wouldn't mind seeing something new.
Some upgrades might be nice, he said, along with a new tenant to occupy the bottom floor vacancy.
"The only thing constant is change," he said.