BPG gold lamp

Biltmore Property Group, LLC (BPG) and its affiliates  develop, own and operate community-oriented shopping centers and mixed use destinations. BPG primarily focuses its development efforts in well established and proven retail areas where there is an additional need in the community and demand from our retail partners.

BPG has plans to develop projects, using both innovative and timeless architecture, that both the community and our retail partners can be proud of.

“We build and manage projects for long-term ownership and have a track record of not cutting corners.

BPG is well financed with its financial strength being backed by its parent company, The Columbus Group, Inc. and affiliates, a long established financially sound operating company. This helps ensure that BPG’s planned projects will achieve financing and come to fruition, thus eliminating the retailer’s frustration of wasting time and money on lease deals for projects that are significantly delayed or never developed.

With our parent company’s long history of operating retail stores, BPG has perspective from our retail partner’s side and we truly understands what it takes to make a retail store successful. This extensive understanding of retail is rare for a real estate developer. BPG believes that having this understanding enables them to do an exceptional job of fulfilling the needs of its retail partners thus greatly increasing the prospects that a BPG development will be highly successful.

BPG continues its aggressive but prudent growth.  Recently BPG purchased four new properties totaling over 260,000 square feet. BPG is in the process of re-developing and re-positioning these properties.

Biltmore Property Group, LLC was formed to direct, manage and expand the real estate development efforts of The Columbus Group, Inc. and its affiliates (CGI). CGI, Biltmore Property Group’s parent company was formed in 1996 to leverage the unique heritage, expertise and holdings of the Bell Family, John August Batt and John Fenner French. 

John W. Bell, III (John) is CGI’s CEO, Director and Principal. John has had a leadership role in both the real estate business and retail business for more than 28 years. John’s grandfather, John W. Bell, Sr., founded The Bell Company in 1929 and built a chain of general stores serving rural North Carolina. John’s father, John W. Bell, Jr., is a Director and  Principal of CGI. In 1957 John W. Bell, Jr. expanded The Bell Company into upscale men’s and women’s clothing and gifts with the formation of Bell’s Traditionals, Ltd. (Bell’s). In 1963, Bell’s opened its second store in Asheville, North Carolina’s Historic Biltmore Village, one of America’s first planned communities (life-style centers) built by George Vanderbilt in the 1890s. Historic Biltmore Village is located at the entrance of Vanderbilt’s famed Biltmore Estate – America’s largest home and North Carolina’s largest tourist attraction. John W. Bell, Jr. was a pioneer in the preservation and the re-development of Historic Biltmore Village. Through the years he became a substantial property holder. In 1965, Bell’s contracted with the Biltmore Estate to operate the retail business on the Estate, primarily gifts, commemorative Biltmore House items and decorative accessories. Bell’s operated this business until 1985 when the contract expired and the Biltmore Estate decided to take over this very lucrative business that Bell’s had built. Bell’s eventually grew to five stores in three states and operated until 1991 when it joined Jos. A. Bank Clothiers and converted stores to Jos. A. Bank franchise stores. As part of this arrangement with Jos. A. Bank, John agreed to work for the company for several years to help the then current Chairman and CEO, Tim Finley, expand Jos. A. Bank. John’s brother, Jefferson E. Bell, a Principal of BPG and its affiliate CGI, took on a leadership role in the operations of The Company’s Jos. A. Bank stores.

John August Batt, Jr. (Jay), is a Director and Principal of BPG and its affiliate CGI. Jay has over 28 years of experience in financial services, real estate and retail. From 2002 to 2006, Jay was on the New Orleans City Council representing District A. Currently, Jay is serving as the Deputy Chairman of the Republican Party of Louisiana and has been Past President and Past Chairman of the Board of the Allstate Sugar Bowl Committee where he continues serving on the Executive Board.. Jay also serves on many Greater New Orleans based boards and foundations including the City Park, the Florida Parishes Bank, and as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Crimestoppers..

In 1928, Jay’s grandfather, Harry J. Batt, Sr., founded New Orleans’s Pontchartrain Beach, the largest amusement park in the country prior to the opening of Disneyland. Eventually Jay’s father, John A. Batt, ran the company until 1983 when he decided that it was in the best interest of the Batt family to sell the park to a developer. Subsequently, the Batt family focused on the management of their substantial real estate holdings that had been acquired over the years. Jay attended the University of The South in Sewannee and graduated from Tulane University.

John Fenner French (Fenn) is a Director and Principal of BPG and its affiliate CGI.  Fenn has over 25 years of experience in financial services, real estate and retail. Fenn is a graduate of The University of the South and the Freeman School of Business at Tulane University (MBA), and holds a broker license with the State of Louisiana. Fenn’s grandfather, Darwin Fenner, was a partner of the firm Fenner & Beane of New Orleans, the country’s second largest brokerage firm at that time. In 1941, it merged with the stock brokerage firm Merrill, Lynch, E.A. Pierce & Cassatt of New York. The combination of the New Orleans firm with the New York firm led to the largest brokerage firm in the country, Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith. Darwin Fenner served on the board of Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith until the early 1970s.

John and Jay first met in 1979 at the University of the South, Sewanee where they were both SAE pledge brothers. After college, they had little communication until they were reacquainted in early 1992 at a SAE pledge brother’s wedding in Nashville, TN. John mentioned his family’s latest endeavor with Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, and Jay was particularly intrigued by this news because his recently deceased father, a loyal Jos. A. Bank customer and fan, had looked into franchising a store in New Orleans years ago, right after the Batt Family sold Pontchartrain Beach. However, at that time, Jos. A. Bank was not yet franchising stores.  A few days after the wedding, Jay and John were at a meeting in New Orleans and Jay introduced John to Fenn. Fenn was also an SAE at the University of South, but he arrived there after John had already transferred to the University of Georgia to attend business school. During this meeting, Jay and Fenn, in the business investment tradition of both their families, collaborated to franchise a Jos. A. Bank store in New Orleans. John was able to get corporate approval for them and the store opened in November of 1992. Jay and Fenn opened their second Jos. A. Bank store in Jackson, MS in 1994, and then later officially teamed up with The Bell Company and formed CGI in 1996.

Today CGI’s investments are primarily in real estate, retail and financial institutions and services. In retail, CGI is Jos. A. Bank Clothier’s largest franchisee with thirteen stores, a Lilly Pulitzer licensee with three stores, and a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse franchisee. In financial and administrative services, CGI has a controlling interest in Commerce Services Corporation, a financial and property administrative service firm founded in 1992. In real estate, CGI is a principal of BPG that has over 20 property holdings in five states.

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