When three of San Antonio’s most respected and trusted land use and economic development attorneys opened the doors to their new firm in March of this year, the charged anticipation within the community was almost palpable. Like a dream team taking the field, Rob Killen, James B. Griffin and Ashley Farrimond created an enthusiastic buzz with the announcement that they have joined forces in the creation of Killen, Griffin & Farrimond (KGF).
Based on individual performance, prowess and know-how, any one of these esteemed attorneys could be the MVP but the fundamental structure of this new firm is an equal partnership that doesn’t spotlight any one counselor, but rather amplifies while seamlessly merging the talents, knowledge and ideals of each.
“We’ve all been doing this for a long time,” Killen says, “and we’ve all come from firms that practice in similar areas. What distinguishes us from other folks that do general real estate or economic development work, is there is a high level of synergy amongst our varied backgrounds and experiences, not just professionally but within the community with volunteer work and involvement.
“Our firm fills a specific niche that conversely spans everything from a zoning variance for a homeowner to a large incentive package for a multibillion-dollar data center to the entire entitlement process for a several hundred acre mixed-use development,” says Griffin. “We work independently but collaboratively, each of us having different expertise and skillsets that we share, allowing us to expertly and efficiently handle any issue presented by all clients large or small.”
Launching a new firm in the best of times can be challenging, but almost as if to test their mettle, KGF faced a hurdle right out of the gate. What has been a struggle for even the most established businesses, COVID-19 could have been a disaster for this new enterprise. Instead, it only served to prove what
the trio already presumed.
“I think it validated what we all knew going in,” says Farrimond. “We’re all on the same wavelength and work well together whether that’s in the same office or remotely from our homes. Our communication and collaboration are truly effortless.”
“Everything has been quite seamless,” agrees Griffin. “Right after we all moved into the office, the COVID-19 pandemic became a real threat. By the end of the week, all the boxes were repacked as we headed to our homes to work.
“It has been interesting, but because of the way we work together it really wasn’t an issue,” he adds. “I think if anything, it validated what we already knew about how we function as a team.”
Building on their extensive experience, the firm’s work includes rezoning, neighborhood plan amendments, vested rights, permitting and annexation, governmental relations/advocacy, as well as economic incentives of all types and creation of special taxing districts (e.g. Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones and Public Improvement Districts).
“We have projects that are residential (single and multi-family), commercial, office, industrial, mixed use, infill, rural, and historic, for clients large and small,” says Killen. “And we have worked on projects, for clients, in San Antonio as well as throughout south and central Texas. We also have several clients on retainer for public policy and contract initiatives/interests.”
Equally committed to this new endeavor and an essential founding member of the team is Emilie Weissler who serves as the firm’s director of land use and development assisting and facilitating the responsive service afforded all KGF clients. The only non-attorney member of the genesis group, Weissler is pivotal to community and business outreach, nurturing and developing her numerous long-standing relationships to maximize the team’s effectiveness in representing their clients as they move through the development stages.
“We have such strong relationships and an extraordinary wealth of knowledge,” Weissler says. “We are the culmination of expansive knowledge, experience and dedication. While there are other land use firms in San Antonio and in Texas, we set ourselves apart in being able to provide a full-service boutique experience with an impressive track record of success in each project we touch. We do a whole lot and we do it extremely well. There is no issue, no site, no project too big or too small for the KGF team.”
THE A TEAM
Aside from merging years of proficiency and community affiliations, perhaps the real secret to the powerful structure of this group lies in their innate ability to respect and draw from one another’s strengths while merging their goals and aspirations into highly effective results for their clients.
It is a team of professionals that has established long-term relationships with city and county leaders, communities and professionals across many fields in the greater San Antonio metropolitan area and throughout central and south Texas. This goes beyond professional or business interests. Each member of the KGF team is equally invested within their community to support and sustain the neighborhoods and environmental standards that make San Antonio great.
“Relationships and various commitments to our community remains an overall theme for this group,” notes Killen. “We are all involved in varying degrees and in different areas and diverse organizations.”
“On a side note,” interjects Griffin, “while all these activities are inspired for personal reasons, we can’t help but recognize that the connections and relationships derived are at the same time critically important to our practice. Certainly, serving on various boards, working with elected officials and policy makers makes a difference and expands our universe of relationships which are instrumental in serving the needs of our clients and representing their interests.”
A DRIVE TO SUCCEED
Killen, most recently a partner in the firm formerly known as Kaufman & Killen, brings a wealth of expertise representing property owners, developers and various organizations in the San Antonio area. These skills necessary for his practice evolved through his history of advocacy and a strong desire to make a difference.
“When I was growing up, no one in my family had completed college, so when I had the opportunity to attend UTSA, I decided that I would make the most of my time there,” Killen says. “I immediately got involved in extracurricular activities and had the honor of serving as president of the Lambda Chi Alpha chapter and president of the student government. These experiences helped prepare me for my career.”
Killen returned to San Antonio after graduating from law school and joined a firm that focused on land use issues.
“I learned all about zoning, annexation, the creation of special districts and economic development incentives representing developers and businesses in front of city councils throughout the San Antonio area,” he says. “Landuse and economic development issues are complicated and filled with obstacles that can be extremely challenging to overcome. These obstacles require a deep understanding of local laws and regulations and an ability to work effectively with government officials and myriad public entities and stakeholders in order to get a given project across the finish line.”
He and his wife, Melissa Castro Killen, have been married nearly 16 years and are the proud parents of Emily, 8.
“Community service is important to both of us,” says Killen. “My wife served on a suburban city council, and then served on the VIA Metropolitan Transit Authority board of directors. I was elected to the UTSA Alumni Association board of directors, and I served two terms as president. During my second term as president, UTSA started its football program, so it was a time of unprecedented growth and change for the Alumni Association. It gave me a chance to again advocate for my alma mater and work with elected officials at the local and state level to secure additional funding for education.”
While Killen has been involved on a number of nonprofit boards over the years, including the Witte Museum and SAMMinistries, he has devoted a significant portion of his time to the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, where he served as chairman of the board in 2015, as well as serving three terms as president of Lead SA, the North Chamber’s nonprofit organization. He still serves on the North Chamber’s board of directors as chairman of the government affairs council. All these roles have allowed him to have an active part in building the future of San Antonio.
THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX
Described as a leader, critical thinker and communicator, Griffin’s 13-plus years of progressive experience makes him the ideal point-person working with developers, property owners and government entities to advance projects and overcome issues. Griffin’s results-oriented approach has been finely honed and calibrated over the years, serving and achieving results for a wide-range of clients.
A native of San Antonio, Griffin earned his Juris Doctor from St. Mary’s University School of Law where, like his partners, he distinguished himself including receiving the Pro Bono Achievement Award. An attorney at Brown & Ortiz for more than a decade, including over five years as partner, Griffin has earned a stellar reputation as an influential and dynamic professional who can get things done. Appearing regularly before city and county boards and commissions to resolve planning, zoning, land use and other development issues for his clients, Griffin is also known for his outstanding negotiating skills, working tirelessly to secure agreements for land development between property owners and neighborhood organizations.
“Forming KGF was something that actually came together quickly but felt like we had been planning for a while,” he says. “Everything just felt right. The right people, the right plan and the right time.”
Griffin and his wife, CeCe, a fundraiser at UTSA, are the proud parents of three young children, Holden, Gray and Posey, and are active volunteers in the San Antonio community.
“My wife and I both feel strongly about giving back to our community,” Griffin says. “We both serve on several volunteer boards and support professional and nonprofit organizations across the city. We were taught and truly believe that when you give back to our community, the community gives back to you.”
Griffin has held leadership positions within the San Antonio Bar Association and Texas State Bar Association, has been an active participant in real estate trade organizations including the Real Estate Council and the Urban Land Institute. In addition, Griffin currently is the president of the Texas Biomed Founder’s Council and has served on the SA Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan Committee, is the former chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission for the City of Olmos Park and former Chair of the Witte Society. He is also a graduate of Leadership San Antonio, is a regular speaker on real estate, land use and development at seminars, and has received peer honors including being recognized as a State Bar of Texas Fellow and a Texas Super Lawyer’s Rising Star in Land Use and Zoning Law.
GOING THE DISTANCE
Also a graduate of St. Mary’s University School of Law, Farrimond brings her own special talents to this burgeoning new firm. Farrimond represents companies, property owners and developers in San Antonio, Bexar County and the surrounding communities with land entitlements, economic development and municipal law matters. Her practice focuses on development incentives, zoning, variances, permitting, vested rights, design review, historic matters, street closures/realignments and development agreements.
Farrimond has an appreciation for preserving the beauty and unique qualities that make this community special.
“We live in a unique community,” she says. “San Antonio is unlike any other big city in Texas. Our clients know that when they come to us, they can depend on our highly detailed and longstanding knowledge of how this city and metro area work. Individually we each have the experience, relationships and familiarity with local and regional processes, but as a team we have an even greater wealth of skills to offer.”
Farrimond’s husband, Louis Gross, is also an attorney. They have two young children. Like her partners, she is involved with committees and organizations that both enhance her professional skills and promote the community betterment.
Being part of a winning team is not new to Farrimond who was is an incredibly accomplished volleyball player and was in fact, inducted to the Trinity University Athletics Hall of Fame.
TIES THAT BIND
Weissler, who began her San Antonio career in the public sector serving as the director of communications and zoning for the City of San Antonio Council District 10, now utilizes those skills as well experience accrued while working at Brown & Ortiz as project manager to support the efforts of KGF.
“Although our impressive track record of success in land use is something we are very proud of at KGF, what sets us apart in our field is the relationships we have within the communities. I began my career in San Antonio handling constituent services for the District 10 Council Office. As I transitioned into managing all external communications, zoning, and development for the district, and later to the private sector, it was those foundational relationships with neighborhood leaders, businesses, elected officials, council aides, and municipal staffers in and around San Antonio that made the difference,” she says. “While I wear many hats throughout a typical day in the office, a significant part of my focus is working with the right stakeholders and community leaders to bring our client’s projects to fruition.”
Weissler is a graduate of Texas Christian University and the Real Estate Council of San Antonio’s Leadership Development Program. She is an active member of The Conservation Society of San Antonio, San Antonio Young Professionals, and regularly engages with real estate industry trade organizations. She and her husband, Jakob, who is an attorney in town, are the proud owners of an adorable but mischievous 10-year-old Dudley Lab named Sam Bear III. Like her fellow team members, Weissler is dedicated not only to her clients but the community in which she lives.
“We share the same belief that community involvement, in and out of the office, is vital to what we do and who we are,” she says. “Whether it is the Real Estate Council of San Antonio, Texas Biomed Founder’s Council, professional organizations, alumni associations or serving on committees that are dear to us, we each give back to San Antonio in our own ways. That well-rounded exposure, coupled with our professional expertise, is why our clients trust and believe in us to get the job done.”
THE ROAD AHEAD
The future looks bright and promising for KGF and its clients. Bringing together the best of their individual and collective experiences allows this team of professionals to provide thorough and creative strategies that address complex issues associated with securing approval of required entitlements that are integral to the municipal land development permitting process.
Utilizing their substantial and extensive long term relationships with city and county leaders, communities, and professionals across many fields in central and south Texas, the KGF team strives to provide comprehensive solutions resulting in project approval in a timely and respectful manner, regardless of project size.
“We have created something unique here,” says Griffin. “Not only do we have an unbelievable amalgamation of experience and extraordinary talent, but there’s a synergy that very few firms enjoy. It’s so special, this balance of expertise and individual excellence.”
“Forming Killen, Griffin & Farrimond with amazing colleagues that I trust and respect is the culmination of all of my experiences,” says Killen. “Our firm is a team that combines unparalleled technical expertise in land use and economic development with the highest degree of professionalism. We have a shared vision of providing outstanding service to our clients, maintaining our community service commitments and keeping a healthy work-life balance. We work for the betterment of San Antonio because we and our loved ones live here. Family and community are important to all of us at KGF.”