ATLANTA (Jan. 5, 2009) - John Dewberry won't back down. The 45-year-old developer of office buildings, strip centers and hotels is well-known in Atlanta because of his success on the football field and his bold moves to move forward with spec projects when everyone else is standing on the sidelines.
Last week he put a familiar face on a killer. He went on the local ABC affiliate and told the world he has prostate cancer. It was another bold move for Dewberry, who has been simultaneously admired and ridiculed by his real estate moves such as betting on Midtown Atlanta when everyone else avoided the area. He usually has come out a winner.
Dewberry is a very public figure in Atlanta's commercial real estate industry. He emerged as a player in the 1990s when he got control of much of the extreme northern end of Midtown and the high-profile strip center at 10th and Peachtree streets, also in Midtown. He envisioned bringing national retailers to Peachtree Street, which one day might resemble Chicago's Michigan Avenue. The Midtown Alliance picked up on the idea of the "Midtown Mile," though the Midtown business group and Dewberry no longer are friends.
As a reporter at Atlanta Business Chronicle and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, I met and talked with Dewberry often, and he attended my wedding. When I would write stories that he probably did not consider favorable, he would say: "Tony, I expect you to write the news. If I threw five interceptions in a game, I would expect you to write that." It was refreshing to cover someone who got it.
Dewberry told WSB's Monica Pearson he went public with news of his illness to help others. "It's not just the right thing to do, it's the only thing to do," he told Pearson in an interview at his Peachtree Pointe project. "Hopefully along the way, you've helped more than you hurt."
Dewberry, who was judged by how many touchdowns and interceptions as a quarterback at the University of Georgia and then at rival Georgia Tech, now is judged by how many square feet he leases in his spec office towers. (For the record, he landed one of the largest tenants in Atlanta last year when Invesco moved into Two Peachtree Pointe.)
Now the most important stat in Dewberry's life is his PSA score, which was an incredibly high and scary 338 when the cancer first was diagnosed. Any PSA score over 2 is said to be cancerous Since then, Dewberry's PSA reading has fallen dramatically to 14, according to the WSB report.
So, here's to John Dewberry for standing up to cancer and probably helping some men along the way. Good luck in the fight.