Each year the WSU Center for Real Estate and the Kansas Chapter of Certified Commercial Investment Members (CCIM) present their annual Lifetime Achievement Award. The award honors local professionals who have made outstanding contributions to the commercial real estate profession and is a great honor and a tribute to individuals who represent the finest examples of Wichita’s rich history of entrepreneurship in the real estate industry.
2022 Honorees – Willard Garvey and the Garvey Family
The 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award has been given to Willard Garvey and the Garvey family in recognition of several lifetimes of impact on the commercial real estate and development industry in Wichita.
The patriarch of the Garvey family, Ray Hugh Garvey, was born in Phillips County, Kansas on January 3, 1893. Always knowing he wanted a college education, the teenaged Garvey grew wheat on rented property and later worked two paper routes to fund his schooling at Washburn University in Topeka. He graduated with a law degree in 1915 and opened a law office in Colby, Kansas. After partnering in a land business, Ray Hugh, his wife Olive, and their four children moved from Colby to Wichita in 1928. Garvey Farms owned 100,000 acres of farmland in Kansas and Colorado and in 1947 posted a world record annual harvest of one million bushels of wheat. The company implemented innovative and sustainable farming techniques: custom combining and summer fallow farming, keeping some land out of production during a regular growing season.
During the World War II and Korean War years, Wichita’s aviation and war materiel plants boomed with military production, drawing thousands of new workers to the city and creating a severe housing shortage. To meet the demand, Ray Hugh and his son Willard Garvey established Builders Inc. in 1940, through which they built and managed over 2,000 apartments and attached fourplexes, around 5,000 single-family “cottages,” and several shopping centers. After Ray Hugh’s death in 1959, Willard Garvey took over the organization and was responsible for creating numerous Wichita landmarks including the Garvey Center, Epic Center, The Independent School, several neighborhoods including Bonnie Brae, much of the Southwest Industrial Park, and additional apartment projects.
In the 1990’s, Willard’s son Jim Garvey took over Builders, Inc. During his time at the helm, Jim aggressively paid down debt, developed mini storage and single family subdivisions, and used low income tax credits to rehabilitate most of the apartment units that Builders, Inc. owned. Jim donated the land for the construction of the YMCA’s South Branch, as well as the building that housed The Salvation Army’s Biddy Basketball program.
Jim’s son Michael Garvey took over the company in 2007. Michael has developed Corner 365 Apartments in downtown Wichita, Central Bay Apartments in west Wichita, and continues to manage the real estate portfolio of the company.
Many other branches of the family own real estate in Wichita including Bonavia Properties and Cochener Garvey Capital Partners, among others. There are now over 120 descendants of RH Garvey, and each have carved their own unique paths forward from those initial farms in western Kansas.