Chicago’s own Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), the second-tallest building in the United States behind One World Trade Center, may be up for a record sale. As reported by the Chicago Sun Times yesterday, Willis Tower could be sold for as much as $1.5 billion. This eye-popping price is a clear signal for just how hot the Chicago downtown market is in 2015.
The Sears Tower was built in 1970 by once-iconic Sears Roebuck Company, the largest retailer in the United States with about 350,000 employees at its peak. The tower was built to serve as a central office space for Sears. Designed by famed Skidmore, Owings and Merrill architects, it took 12,000 construction workers three years to build.
In 1988, Sears Roebuck and Company sold and moved out of the building, but the Sears Tower name remained the same. It was renamed Willis Tower in 2009 after the Willis Group Holdings, the global insurance broker who calls the Tower its Midwest home.
In July 2009, U.S. Equities led the design and construction of a multi-million dollar renovation of Skydeck Chicago, including the development of The Ledge, a series of glass bays on the 103rd floor that extend from the building providing visitors with unobstructed views of Chicago through the windows and glass floors – 1,353 feet straight down. In addition to The Ledge, the new Skydeck visitor center features museum-quality interactive exhibits. The opening of The Ledge has provided the Skydeck with record-breaking visitor counts consistently since its debut.
Such a giant project would defy simple calculation at sale time, but I can’t resist one simple crunch of the numbers: Assuming a typical 6% broker fee on the sale of a $1.5B property, the fee comes in at $90 million. That’s a figure that will give anybody vertigo.
2014 brought strong SW Florida commercial markets, Chase explores consolidating operations in a new skyscraper in the DFW area, U.S. office investment hits 7 year high: It’s all here in the Commercial Real Estate News Roundup for March 3, 2015
- Housing Crash Sends Beeson Into Commercial Real Estate, Memphis Daily News, Feb. 28, 2015 – Jacque Beeson is patrolling Memphis’s commercial market with panache and a nose for a deal.
- SW Florida real estate markets came back strong in 2014, Ft. Meyers News Press, Feb. 25, 2015 – Total construction permits in SW Florida bumped from 7K last year to 9K this year, says Ft. Meyers property professional.
- Vancouver firm offers a one-stop real estate shop for Chinese investors in B.C., Vancouver Sun, Feb. 24, 2015 – The international capital flows from Asia get a little help north of the border.
- J.P. Morgan Chase considering Dallas area for huge employment center, Dallas Morning News, Feb. 25, 2015 - Giant bank is considering consolidating their giant employment operations into a new skyscraper in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area
- U.S Office Investment Hits 7-Year High at $119 Billion, World Property Journal, Feb. 24, 2015 – The strongest labor market since 1999 propels office investment to 7 year high.
- Millennials fuel trends in Phoenix office space design, Phoenix Business Journal, Feb. 26, 2015 – Experts predict that millennials will make up more than half the workforce by 2020. Trends such as hosting meetings in break rooms instead of conference rooms are changing the face of modern office design.
- Five Key Trends in Industrial Finance, GlobeSt., Feb. 27, 2015 – Industrial real estate is booming with sixty tenants from across the nation looking for big box warehouses of one million square feet or more. This increased demand outstrips availability by nearly a three-to-one margin.
- Continued demand expected for industrial sector space; retail stays healthy, Albuquerque Business First, Feb. 27, 2015 – New report indicates robust predictions for the industrial and retail markets in 2015.
- Market Snapshot: Chicago’s Indestructible Industrial, Commercial Property Executives, Feb. 25, 2015 – Chicago’s industrial market is expanding at a steady pace fueled by companies like Google who are converting industrial space into hi-tech office space.
- Retail will drive Wichita’s commercial real estate market in 2015, Wichita Eagle, Feb. 27, 2015 – Costco builds first 150,000 sq. ft foot store, likely to goose retail development on Wichita’s east side.
- Retail Sustainability: Do Shoppers Even Care?, National Business Journal, Feb. 26, 2015 – New Forrester Research study could help retailers understand what sustainability issues appeal to and create loyal shoppers.
- Another legal spat breaks out over Mag Mile real estate deal, Crain’s Chicago Business, Feb. 24, 2015 – Terra Foundation sues legal giant DLA Piper for $6.9 million over alleged botched handling of real estate deal for Terra’s Mag Mile former digs.
It’s monumentally important for any business open to the public to make sure it appears on Google Maps. It’s such a big deal that property management and commercial leasing professionals are adding consulting and value-added services to help tenants get that critical chore accomplished. It’s not a fire-and-forget process, either: keeping your Google presence in presentable shape is tightly tied to maintaining a business’s general online presence. It goes far beyond filling out forms and establishing accounts — online presence management is a holistic, ongoing maintenance process that touches everything your business does online and off. That is, if you’re doing it right.
What Are The Rules?
There are guidelines for online presence management in Google both published and unpublished. Let’s look at what Google’s published:
Guidelines For Representing Your Business On Google is the essential starting point for getting things right with “The Big G”. A look at this set of steps will show an important concept in obtaining decent local Google ranking, a concept that you should carry with you for the entire lifecycle of your business. That concept is: assume nothing. Here’s what I mean:
Google is not an army of people reading web pages and making determinations about what’s on them. That job falls to software that Google has developed for the purpose. The software is built more for speed and handling huge volume of pages than it is for understanding the implications of your business. You should not assume that Google understands plain English and will display your search results the way you want: you have to tell it, using keywords and highly specific and accurate information, about your business.
Commercial Real Estate Practice
Consider the overwhelmingly common case of the tertiary-market or small town real estate agent whose business is mainly residential but also handles the commercial property transactions in her territory. When the time comes to develop her website and reflect her practice in Google, should there be different pages for her residential practice and her commercial practice? Generally, no. Here’s what Google advises:
Individual practitioners (e.g. doctors, lawyers, real estate agents)
An individual practitioner is a public facing professional, typically with his or her own customer base. Doctors, dentists, lawyers, financial planners, and insurance or real estate agents all are individual practitioners. Pages for practitioners may include title or degree certification (e.g. Dr., MD, JD, Esq., CFA).
An individual practitioner should create his or her own dedicated page if:
- He or she operates in a public-facing role. Support staff should not create their own page.
- He or she is directly contactable at the verified location during stated hours.
A practitioner should not have multiple pages to cover all of his or her specializations.
Why Is This?
The exact specifics of why Google wants what it wants are known only to Google’s own software engineers and management: we users of Google are advised about best practices but only to a point. Which leaves plenty of questions unanswered: why shouldn’t a real estate pro with different practices represent those practices separately in Google?
The common consensus about this concerns the control of spam — unwanted communication, duplicated endlessly, clogging up systems. The Google Webspam team, led by Matt Cutts, is a major source of best practices on the web for best Google results, and I’ve noticed over the years that when duplication of information is the topic, even if it’s innocent duplication, the uniform response from the Google webspam team is a frown.
That means that Jane Realestate, REALTOR, should list her commercial practice in the context of a single page outlining her general real estate practice, rather than construct a second Jane Realestate page focused on her commercial work — in short because two Jane Realestates at 123 Main St. would be seen by Google as spam or potential spam, and will be correspondingly ranked lower.
When trends analyst Eric Garland — a musician in his spare time — checked out the financials of the 262-location national musical instrument retailer Guitar Center, he heard a whole lot of noise. The company’s complicated history of involvement with private equity firms that seemed more out for themselves than to benefit the chain had, in Garland’s eyes, created another national retail disaster in the making. When he wrote about it last year in the piece “Guitar Center And The Magical Growth Curve” he ignited a firestorm from company executives, whose much sunnier outlook ran in contrast to Garland’s findings.
This month, after Standard & Poor has cut Guitar Center bonds to junk status, Garland is back with an compelling obituary for the chain titled The End Of Guitar Center. If Garland is correct, a major upheaval for US musical instrument business is already in the cards, with more than twenty dozen potential Guitar Center store closings across the US as just the most visible part of an ugly scenario.
While the jury’s still out on Guitar Center’s key bond payments, the fact is that Garland’s analysis is refreshing and welcome for its borrowing and elevating, a key concept from the immutable bylaws of commercial real estate. “This story will focus on the final days of this one company,” Garland writes, “but it is really about our painful transition to an economic system that obeys objective reality and serves people in a durable, holistic manner.”
Obeying objective reality is precisely what commercial real estate is all about. It is distinguished in the finance world for its rootedness in physical location, for an inherent illiquidity that makes it very resistant to the kind of reality-denying gamesmanship of whiz-bang over-financialization. Commercial RE supports and enables — not topples — companies, sectors and economies. It “serv[es] people in a durable and holistic manner”: it gives a roof to our economy in all its myriad facets, scales and dimensions.
When skilled researchers use the language of objective reality to asses business practices – especially in these times – it’s like music to my ears.
Moscow’s high rise vacancies, Atlanta’s high job growth, and the high risk of credit for Sears: It’s all here in the Commercial Real Estate News Roundup for February 25, 2015
- CRE experts see continued moderate growth in region, Sacramento Business Journal, Feb. 20, 2015 – Recovery without office absorption is Sacramento’s challenge.
- Buyers have 5 ways to finance commercial real estate purchase, Orange County Register, Feb. 18, 2015 – Being a buyer means some choices about finance: here’s one broker’s rundown.
- 5 Reasons you should feel good about Atlanta development, BisNow, Feb. 20, 2015 – With Atlanta adding jobs, local developers are reporting a huge wave of renewed interest.
- A Conversation With Jed Walentas, Real Estate Developer in New York, New York Times, Feb. 17, 2015 – Learn about the “Dumbo philosophy” as practiced in Brooklyn. (No sign yet of a “Bambi philosophy” to round out the “Sad Disney Movie” category.)
- The towers of Moscow’s commercial district are standing half empty, CityMetric, Feb. 22, 2015 – The district that’s home to six of Europe’s seven tallest buildings is also home to some tall vacancy numbers.
- Industrial and logistics markets on rebound, Prague Post, Feb. 23, 2015 – E-commerce and the associated warehousing and shipping capacity is having its way in Europe as well.
- Property funds looking abroad: analyst, Taipei Times, Feb. 23, 2015 – Instroducing stiff taxes to discourage flipping has predictable results in Taipei.
- China Firms Replace Banks to Drive Hong Kong Rents: Real Estate, Bloomberg, Feb. 16, 2015 – Brokerages bump banks in Hong Kong, seen as a springboard for internationalization for financial firms.
- As Office Space Shrinks, So Does Privacy for Workers, New York Times, Feb. 22, 2015 – The average office space per worker, according to CoreNet has fallen by 23% in the last two years.
- Candace Carlisle’s take: What’s ahead for the skyscraper market in downtown Dallas? Dallas Business Journal, Feb. 17, 2015 - Investors are selling into a boom in Dallas CRE.
- Atlanta industrial real estate market “further validation” of economic expansion, Atlanta Business Journal, Feb. 17, 2015 - Making it twice in one Roundup is Atlanta with its equally hot industrial market.
- West Coast Port Strike Won’t Impact Long-Term Growth in Industrial Sector, National Real Estate Investor, Feb. 20, 2015 – Longshoremen are at the negotiating table, and even though L.A.’s flow of goods has been stifled, the sector is still on a track for growth.
- One of the largest industrial buildings in the city is planned for land near airport, Louisville Business First, Feb. 19, 2015
- Design Center owner planning retail, multifamily development next door, Charlotte Business Journal, Feb. 18, 2015 – Charlotte’s South End has a new development on the drawing board.
- Retail scene in Nob Hill slowly shifting, Albuquerque Journal, Feb. 23, 2015 – Persistent vacancies in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill get an in-depth look in this interesting piece.
- Traders Are Betting Sears Will Be the Next Big Retailer to Fail, Bloomberg, Feb. 19, 2015 – Prices on credit default swaps, aka the insurance that investors take out when buying bonds in a company can be a predictor of future disaster. Sears CDS markets are looking ominous.
- To satisfy state, Placerville rezones for multifamily — but no projects in sight, Sacramento Business Journal, Feb. 19, 2015
- Economy Watch: Fannie Mae Predicting Softer Multifamily Markets, Multi-Housing News, Feb. 23, 2015 – In which the guarantor of record sees an end to the boom in multifamily.
- South Florida Multifamily Sellers Hard to Find, GlobeSt., Feb. 20, 2015 – Flood worries? What flood worries? South Florida’s apartment market is an attractive hold in 1Q 2015.
The character of commercial real estate markets all over the US has changed for the better in the past few quarters. Heightened volume means more deals and more competition, which adds up to extra time pressure on buyers. Particularly in the area of due diligence – also known as the research into a property before a purchase.
Before finalizing a deal, but often after a down payment goes into escrow, a property’s financials need to be collected, closely reviewed and analyzed, all within a time limit. That ticking clock is what takes causes pressure in a hotter market — it’s a critical set of tasks that have you running against the clock.
What’s pertinent to the property?
At the very least, buyers need to see and get comfortable with:
- The property’s taxes
- Reimbursable income accounting
- Historical financials
- Projected income
- Operating expenses
- Insurance history
- Environmental history
In how much time? Less than ever.
Time frames for due diligence are increasingly being offered at 30 days or less, where once, in a sleepier market, 45 days or even 60 days was common. Looking at the above list is sobering; if you have at least seven projects (14 if you count the obtaining of the information and the analysis as separate) and 30 days to get them done, chances are you’re already behind the eight-ball.
Human capacity being finite, something has to give, and often enough, due diligence will be what suffers. But failing to catch problems now practically ensures big problems later.
Combat this by employing a well-made diligence/closing checklist tailored for the kind of transaction you’re undertaking. And get help – always retain qualified counsel when doing due diligence in commercial real estate transactions. With timeframes shortening, splitting the work with a qualified professional is often the best way to make sure that you, the buyer, beware.
How far we’ve come from the days following the market meltdown. For many working multifamily deals, in the post-recession era the conversation has shifted from talking about short sales to talking about how to get credit to now talking about how to handle deal flow.
So deal flow is back. It’s a “target-rich” environment out there. But how best to handle deal flow in multifamily? Elliot Throne, Managing Director of national firm HFF talked to Globe Street’s Jennifer LeClaire about exactly that.
GlobeSt.com: How do you get creative to make the deal work for all parties?
Throne: Easy. Provide clear and concise information to all parties. The buyer needs to know they have looked at every angle and will not be faced with any surprises. They also need to see a real vision as to how they can successfully enhance value within the asset.
Lenders need to know they are also getting all important insight so they can quickly determine how aggressive they can be to win the deal. Everyone is chasing so many deals right now that it’s important to make sure prospective parties can effectively capture this business—if they are willing to get aggressive—without being concerned about missing out on other potential deals on their plate. With aggressive pricing comes a very slim margin of error and nobody can afford to have deals fall out and drag on longer than necessary.
In a previous interview, Throne had more to say about the specifics of multifamily in South Florida:
GlobeSt.com: What challenges do you see for multifamily in the [South Florida] local market?
Throne: We are seeing additional projects being delivered but it’s still at a pace that can easily be absorbed. Older assets are being renovated up to a higher quality and owners are successfully being able to raise their rents to bridge the wide gap between what new developments are charging. The main concern, not just locally but nationally, is how high we can keep pushing rents before serious resistance kick in. There is no question that there is additional room … it’s just how much?
Aggressive pricing, aggressive rent, worrying about missing out on the right deal instead of clutching desperately to a a single deal – it’s a very different multifamily marketplace than we had in 2008.
[Above: New Jo-Ann Fabrics CEO Jill Soltau]
The relentless news of closures and associated doom and gloom in the retail sector needed the balance provided today by a familiar retail name. Crafting giant Jo-Ann Fabrics has written a new chapter in its history — and it isn’t chapter 11.
The 750-strong chain of familiar craft and fabric stores has named a new CEO. Jill Soltau (pictured), a 25-year retail veteran, most recently President of Shopko, will take the helm next month. Retail Customer Experience reports:
Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores has announced the appointment of Jill Soltau as President, Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors of the company, effective March 2, 2015. Jim Kerr, who served as Interim Chief Executive Officer, will continue as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of the company.
Soltau joins Jo-Ann with more than 25 years of diverse experience in the retail industry. She most recently served as President of Shopko, rising to that role after joining in 2007.
“We are excited to partner with Jill as we continue to build upon Jo-Ann’s leading position in the fabric and craft industry. Jill’s passion, strategic vision and proven success make her an excellent leader for the company going forward,” said Todd Purdy, Partner, Leonard Green & Partners, L.P.
“For over 70 years, Jo-Ann has been inspiring the creativity in others and I am thrilled to join the team to help drive the brand’s future success,” said Soltau. “Jo-Ann is an industry leader that has exciting opportunities to achieve even greater long-term potential. I look forward to working with the talented management team and dedicated associates to bolster Jo-Ann’s market position and create further enthusiasm for the Jo-Ann brand.”
Prior to her tenure at Shopko, Soltau held several senior level positions in merchandising, planning and private brand management at Sears and Kohl’s, after starting her career with Carson Pirie Scott.
Exciting times for a venerable retail brand doing business in 49 states. The only state in the US that doesn’t have a Jo-Ann Fabrics store is Hawaii. Don’t be shocked if that’s a detail the new boss addresses one day.
A devastating year for retail, a New England match made in multifamily heaven, European markets heat up, and “green industry” takes on a whole new meaning. It’s all here in the Commercial Real Estate News Roundup for February 11, 2015.
- 9 things a commercial real estate owner should do now, Orange County Register, Feb. 7, 2015 – Not listed (and for good reason) among the nine things: get out of commercial real estate.
- Floating or Fixed Rates: Considerations in Choosing a Commercial Real Estate Mortgage, National Law Review, Feb. 6, 2015 – To swap or not to swap? That is the question.
- REITs shine on strong demand but some fear the party’s over, Reuters, Feb. 5, 2015 – Nervously looking at market indicators isn’t paranoia, it’s having a memory of 2008.
- Real Deals: Slew of projects promise to reshape core of downtown Durham, The Durham News, Feb. 9, 2015 – Durham’s tallest building is coming off the drawing board and out of the ground.
- Europe’s commercial property market hottest since 2007 – report, Reuters, Feb. 4, 2015 Paris is up, Berlin and London are down but second-tier cities in the UK and Germany are going great guns in CRE.
- Tel Aviv Faces Glut of New Office Space, WSJ, Feb. 3, 2015 – Softened demand promises a sales problem for the 2m sq. ft of office space in Tel Aviv’s pipeline.
- Chinese investors are going crazy for London’s office space, Business Insider, Feb. 9. 2015 – Despite lagging other UK cities in commercial real estate investment, London is attracting Chinese capital in notable amounts.
- Is Louisville one corporate headquarters away from an office market explosion? Louisville Business First, Feb. 5, 2015 – Is what’s missing from Louisville millennial workers or a big-ticket corporate HQ?
- What Duke Realty’s $1.12B office deal means for the Triangle, 3 other markets, Triangle Business Journal, Feb. 3, 2015 -
- As North Texas office market tightens, more Irving locations are in play, Dallas Morning News, Feb. 5, 2015
- Industrial Sector Gets High on $2.7B Marijuana Industry, National Real Estate Investor, Feb. 6, 2015 – Despite federal illegality and banking withholding capital from marijuana business plans, the industrial sector is finding a way forward under state-level legalization.
- Petrochemicals key to east Houston industrial real estate growth, Houston Business Journal, Feb. 4, 2015 – What’s the ultimate fate of Houston’s oil-driven economy in the face of $50/barrel black gold?
- Freight growth to keep US industrial space absorption strong, Journal of Commerce, Feb. 3, 2015 – Logistics is growing, and rolling more trucks and trains than ever.
- Sprint, Amazon Zero In On RadioShack As The End Seems Near, Forbes, Feb. 3, 2015 – The end not only seems near for the nerd-beloved Radio Shack, it’s right here. I guess collecting all those phone numbers at the cash register didn’t help profitability in the end.
- Store Closings Heavily Impact Apparel Sector, National Real Estate Investor, Feb. 5, 2015 – Cache calls it a day for a big chunk of its 2018 stores.
- Will Staples, Office Depot Merger Cause More Brick and Mortar Closings? Commercial Property Executive, Feb. 5, 2015 – A $39 billion 4,000 store behemoth is about to be created.
- Retail’s Winter Of Death Has Claimed Thousands Of Stores, Buzzfeed News, Feb. 9, 2015 – Kate Spade Saturday, Jones New York Delia’s DB Shops, Wet Seal, Gap’s Piperline are just a few of the names we don’t have to push around any more.
- Multifamily Market is Enjoying the Best of Times. Here’s Why. Multi Housing News, Feb. 4, 2015 – Fannie financing is just a hair away from flat, but the multifamily sector celebration continues unabated.
- 2015 to continue positive trends for multifamily market, Real Estate Journal, Feb. 5, 2015 – Optimism from REJ on apartments.
- Millennials, luxury apartments key to Wilmington revival, Wilmington News Journal, Feb. 9, 2014 – Meanwhile in New England, younger workers and swanky digs are a match made in landlord heaven.
REITs aren’t just a channel for equity-style investment in commercial real estate, they’re a kind of barometer to use to keep an eye on trends in specific sectors. When REITs go on a buying spree, it pays the trend-watcher to pick out what’s being acquired as well as the price tags. This way questions can be answered about where capital is meeting property – is it in tertiary or secondary markets? Is medical office looking better to portfolio managers than is assisted living? Presented are some of January’s biggest REIT acquisitions in the health care sector.
1. Griffin Capital’s Griffin-American Healthcare REIT III picked up more than $340 million in health care property in January. The 19 acquisitions broke down into 17 medical office buildings, one acute care hospital, and one senior housing facility.
“These latest acquisitions represent high-quality assets leased by very strong tenants and operators with whom we look forward to sharing mutually rewarding business partnerships,” said Danny Prosky, president, chief operating officer and one of the largest stockholders of the REIT. “They also add tremendous diversification to our rapidly growing portfolio.”
Notably, the REIT has announced that it has executed letters of intent and/or purchase and sale agreements to acquire 31 additional healthcare properties for an aggregate purchase price of approximately $530 million. These pending acquisitions are subject to customary closing conditions and the satisfaction of other requirements as detailed in the agreements.
2. Leading the three in dollar amount, Ventas completed a whopping $2.6 billion merger with American Realty Capital Healthcare Trust that netted 143 health care properties. This breakdown was more diverse than Griffin’s, as medical office buildings added up to half of the portfolio. The other half was more or less evenly taken up by assisted living, hospitals and senior housing. The full breakdown: 78 medical office buildings, 29 seniors housing operating communities, 13 seniors housing triple-net properties, 14 skilled nursing facilities, 7 hospitals, and 2 land parcels. For a look at where these properties are, click on Ventas’s map below. Read about the merger in full at this PDF.
3. Health Care REIT acquired a portfolio of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut assisted living facilities for $360 million. The deal was completed in January and represented a profitable turnaround for the seller, Intercontinental Real Estate of Boston. The Boston Globe reports Intercontinental purchased the portfolio in 2005 for about $152 million and later put in about $20 million in renovations. The poftiolio consists of nine senior living facilities.