North Carolina native Greg Hatem is the inspirational vision behind Empire Properties, which has worked tirelessly to improve downtown Raleigh.
Greg’s more than 20 years in real estate development, finance and international business culminated in 1995 when he created Empire to preserve and enhance the character of downtown Raleigh. Since forming the company, Greg has been a leader in the efforts to renew downtown through adaptive reuse of historic structures. Under his leadership, Empire Properties now owns 42 buildings with more than 600,000 square feet of office and retail space in downtown Raleigh.
Greg also is the founder of Empire Eats, Empire’s restaurant division that has been credited with helping to revitalize downtown Raleigh by turning it into one of North Carolina’s culinary centers. The restaurants include The Raleigh Times Bar, The Morning Times, The Duck & Dumpling, Sitti, Gravy and The Pit. Greg has been the creative force behind the restaurants, coming up with the concepts for five of the Empire Eats brands. He also has been involved in recruiting chefs, financing, design and decor and non-traditional marketing for the restaurants.
Greg and the company’s tremendous efforts to revitalize downtown Raleigh have been recognized locally and nationally. The City of Raleigh has given Empire its Sir Walter Raleigh award seven times for work on various rehabilitation projects, including the renovation of All Saints Chapel, an 1875 church that Empire saved, moved to a new location downtown and then restored. In 2004, The News & Observer named him “Tar Heel of the Week.” The Triangle Business Journal in 2005 awarded Empire Properties its Edge Award for Best General Contractor in an Urban Environment. The company was given the L. Vincent Lowe Jr. Business Award by the Historic Preservation Foundation of North Carolina for its preservation work in 2006, and in 2007 the National Housing & Rehabilitation Association gave Empire Properties its prestigious Timothy Anderson award for Excellence in Historic Rehabilitation on the historic Heilig-Levine complex. Empire has received four Capital Area Preservation Anthemion Awards for its restoration efforts. Preservation North Carolina has awarded Empire for its vision and creativity in preserving and protecting the state’s architectural resources. Triangle Commercial Real Estate Women has recognized Greg and Empire for its work restoring downtown Raleigh with three awards since 2006, including the most recent, the Resilience Award for Empire’s efforts to continue to grow and thrive despite the difficult economy in 2009. The Triangle Business Journal in 2008 awarded Empire with its Green Award for efforts to build the state’s first U.S Green Building Council LEED Platinum office in the Heilig-Levine complex. In 2010, Greg was given the Creative Thinkers Award by the Carolinas Chapter of the Counselors of Real Estate, and the Design Guild at NC State’s College of Design gave Greg its Design Guild Award for his work in downtown Raleigh.
The company and its leaders have been featured in The New York Times, North Carolina Business, Business Leader magazine, Construction Today, Triangle Business Journal, The News & Observer and Kiplinger magazine for their restoration and revitalization work in downtown Raleigh. Empire Eats restaurants have been in magazines such as Southern Living, GQ, Gourmet and Men’s Health, and on television shows such as “Good Morning America,” “The Today Show,” “The Early Show,” “Throwdown! with Bobby Flay” and “Man v Food.”
Greg is a board member of the Tryon Palace Commission, the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, WakeUP Wake County and the Downtown Raleigh Alliance. He is on the board of advisors for Preservation North Carolina and the Crescent State Bank Raleigh Operations. He is on the Raleigh Historic Districts Commission, is a founding member of the North Carolina China Center and is on the advisory committee for the Occoneechee Council Eagle Scouts (Eagle Scout, 1978). Greg also was involved in the Livable Streets Partnership, Fayetteville Street Visioning Team and Downtown West Gateway Task Force and was the former co-chair of the Southeast Raleigh Assembly.
Greg also is a frequent guest speaker at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business, the UNC Department of City and Regional Planning and N.C. State’s Chemical Engineering and History departments.
A native of Roanoke Rapids, N.C., Greg has a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from N.C. State University and a diploma in Chinese studies from Beijing Youth Politics College.
Andrew Stewart joined Empire Properties in 2003, bringing with him years of experience in city planning and research, economics and analysis. He plays a key role on the leadership team, evaluating current and future projects and managing relationships with debt and equity sources. He is responsible for Empire Properties' financing strategy and asset management of the real estate portfolio.
Andrew actively serves as Treasurer on the Board of Directors of Preservation North Carolina (PNC) and has filled this role since 2006.
In 2008, Andrew was named one of the Triangle Business Journal's 40
Under 40, which recognizes top executives and business leaders in the Triangle who are under the age of 40. As a result of Andrew's financing strategy and execution, Empire Properties received the Triangle Commercial Real Estate Women (TCREW) "Most Innovative Financing Program” Champion award. Andrew also is a regular guest lecturer on Historic Preservation and Development at the University of North Carolina’s Department of City and Regional Planning. Andrew served as a city-appointed member of downtown Raleigh's Parking Task Force and sat on the Board of Directors for Raleigh Little Theater.
In his role just prior to joining the company, Andrew worked with the City of Raleigh Planning Department and was engaged in the creation and management of the Livable Streets Partnership for downtown Raleigh. He also worked for four years as a research economist for Research Triangle Institute International (RTI).
Andrew holds master's degrees in Business Administration and Regional Planning with a focus on real estate development from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also graduated with honors from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., with bachelor's degrees in Philosophy and Economics.
Ben Steel, Broker-in-Charge
Ben Steel joined Empire Properties in February 2008, bringing a passion for real estate development, historic preservation, and community advancement.
Currently serving as Vice President of Asset Management and Broker-in-Charge of Empire Properties’ real estate brokerage firm, Ben manages all leasing activity and evaluates speculative development opportunities for Empire Properties’ portfolio, while also managing real estate assets and portfolios for several other local property owners and companies.
In total, Ben oversees over 1,000,000 square feet of commercial real estate across nearly 30 local projects. His background in economics, commercial real estate finance, and analysis are key assets, as he works closely with clients through the real estate selection process and coordinates extensive fit-up projects as well as larger-scale development projects suited for clients’ needs.
During his tenure with Empire Properties, Ben has managed or assisted with over 350 real estate transactions in and around downtown Raleigh. In addition to recruiting and retaining businesses, Ben works diligently to minimize expenses while maximizing experiences and value for businesses, their employees, and property owners alike, building and fostering lasting relationships in the downtown community.
Ben resides in historic southeast downtown Raleigh in a previously-condemned and painstakingly-renovated home with his wife, Lindsay, and their rescued yellow lab, Quincy. Ben is an avid supporter of Chavis Park, the Capital Area Greenway, and historic preservation.
Serving on the Board of Directors for downtown Raleigh’s Visual Art Exchange, and working regularly with local museums and galleries to promote exhibitions and events, Ben enjoys close ties with the local music and visual arts communities. (He and Lindsay were married at the North Carolina Museum of Art.) Ben is also a member of Preservation North Carolina and a supporter of the Me Fine Foundation. A valued contributor multiple downtown Raleigh taskforces and committees, he advises and assists on efforts ranging from the Downtown Raleigh Alliance’s annual meetings to helping the revitalization of downtown Raleigh’s historic southeast neighborhood through extensive renovations of deteriorating historic houses.
Ben is a Raleigh native, with long standing ties to downtown Raleigh. His early education included schooling at Washington Elementary and Ligon Middle School, before graduating high school from St. David’s School. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with minors in Spanish and Entrepreneurship.
Barry Overcash, Property Management Field Operations Manager
Barry Overcash joined Empire’s Property Management team in May 2008 with extensive experience in the management of maintenance operations. Throughout his career Barry has managed the budgets and project costs for an array of construction and maintenance jobs and proven himself as a reliable and respected leader.
Hospitality and Management
In August 2008, Sarah Morris joined the Empire team to coordinate the sales, marketing and production of Special Events and caterings throughout Empire's portfolio of restaurants and properties. Sarah earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majored in Art History and minored in Business Administration. Previously, Sarah gained event marketing and business development experience at Blackbaud, Inc. in Charleston, SC and as an intern with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.
Accounting & Human Resources
Patricia Wheeley, Controller
A Certified Public Accountant, Patricia Wheeley leads the team responsible for all accounting and financial reporting for the real estate, restaurant and construction divisions of the business. She also manages the administration of all employee policies, procedures and benefits.
With more than 25 years of experience as controller for leading privately held and public organizations in the areas of commercial mortgage financing, real estate investment, residential development, and management and leasing, Pat is a strong asset in the financial management role for Empire Properties.
Pat graduated Cum Laude from Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting.
Terryl Hanson, Accountant, Development and Property Management
Terryl Hanson joined Empire Properties in October 2006 with more than 20 years of diverse accounting experience to provide accounting services for Development and Property Management. Terryl’s extensive experience includes similar positions with two large Triangle Area commercial real estate development firms.
Terryl is a native of Montana and graduated with a degree in Accounting from the Rapid City School of Business in South Dakota.
Deb Thompson, Accountant, Construction
Bringing more than 13 years of construction office management and accounting services experience, Deb Thompson joined Empire Properties in March 2008 to provide accounting services specifically for the company’s construction division. Deb came to Empire Properties from her recent position with Choate Construction Company, where she held the positions of office manager and accounting liaison, among others, for the company’s Raleigh Office. Her previous experience includes a career as a certified fitness instructor and fitness center manager, trained technician at a Chiropractic office, and physician’s office manager.
A native of Goldsboro, N.C., Deb is a Notary Public and has completed 10 hours of OSHA certification. Her active life outside of the office includes her husband, two children and three grandchildren, and supporting scout groups and local church.
Herndon, Accountant, Restaurants
A new member of the Empire Properties team and new
to the Raleigh area, Jennifer joined the business in March 2006
with a true passion for historic preservation. She previously provided
accounting services to several restaurants and small businesses
in the Memphis, Tenn. area.
Jennifer is a graduate of the University of Memphis with a bachelor’s
degree in History.
Dave Nicolay, Director of Construction
As the head of Empire Hardhat Construction, Dave Nicolay manages daily operations of the eight person construction team, as well as oversees design, planning and implementation of all aspects of rehabilitation and restoration projects.
A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, Dave has been passionate about historic restoration since his youth. He earned his bachelor's degree in Industrial Design at NC State College of Design. After graduating in 2003, Dave worked for a brief time with the Empire construction team before leaving Raleigh to lead architectural salvage crews in Seattle and farm sheep in New Zealand. He returned to Raleigh and Empire Properties in 2007.
Kevin Hourihan, Chief Craftsman and Restoration Expert
Joining the Empire team in 2007, Kevin brings more than 25 years of experience in preservation, restoration and repair of antique structures. He has maintained National Register buildings in downtown Portland and owned a business in historically significant areas of metro west Boston. He attended the Universities of Oregon and Alaska.
David Knight, (Emeritus)
A master carpenter with more than 25 years of experience in woodworking,
David is Empire Construction’s restoration manager. He oversees
the repair of historic details, weaving together the old with the
new to help create the unique experience of an Empire Properties’
While attending Virginia Commonwealth University, David studied
painting, printmaking and furniture design.