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CRE Magic Minute – Episode #2

CRE Magic Minute #2 blog post cover

We are still feeling the impact of the recession although it began in March of 2020, triggered by COVID-19.  After economic activity had collapsed at a record pace in Q2, it rebounded almost as sharply in Q3. By the fourth quarter, the pace of recovery had slowed some and performance was still not at pre-recession levels.  As 2020 unfolded, we saw a sharp increase in the amount of sublease space available in the office market. Compared to the end of 2019, with 62.6 MSF of sublease space on the market, the volume of such space had nearly doubled to 111.9 MSF only one year later—the largest amount of sublease space available since Q3 2003.  Asking rents are likely to decline in the next few quarters as owners face pressure from a rising volume of flex space. It is anticipated that it will be a couple of years before national rental rates begin to appreciate again in the aggregate.  

 

 

 

 

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CRE Magic Minute – Episode #1

CRE Magic Minute #1
The commercial real estate market continues to recover, but sales, leasing, and construction activity remain below year-ago levels. The recovery also remains uneven.  There is stronger investor interest for land, multifamily, and industrial properties than for hotels, retail, and office properties. On a year-over-year basis, sales declined by 1% in the fourth quarter of 2020 but they declined 5% in the second quarter. Leasing volume fell by 1% annually but 4% in the second quarter. Construction activity was down by 3% annually and 6% in the second quarter. The risk spread which are cap rates less 10-year T-bond, remain elevated at 6% compared to 4% prior to the pandemic.

 

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Coworking – The Rollercoaster Ride

coworking office meeting 1

Coworking has changed the game 

Coworking is no longer only about office leasing…it is more about an experience.  Coworking spaces each have their own respective ambiance and, depending on what floats your boat, you have several options to choose from.  Long gone are the days of being boxed into a traditional office space.  Coworking is a new kind of product with a new mode of thought that has attracted a new kind of consumer. 

This model really gives hope to the budding entrepreneur.  Some start-ups have amazing potential (a solid business plan, sound projections, and sensible targets) but they do not have the capital yet.  It does not mean they will not get it; it just means they just do not have it now.  In order to be productive, businesses need a dedicated space to create a solid foundation. 

Coworking affords the opportunity to create stability

Sometimes a company needs a coworking space because they are testing the market.  Atlanta is a big slice of pie and it can be hard to determine where your market share is.  While you can guess from afar, it makes more sense to get some boots on the ground to help the company move forward.  Coworking creates a platform for businesses to get their feet wet in Atlanta before committing in a way that hugely impacts their bottom line. 

Today’s concept of office leasing simply is not what it was 3 or 5 years ago.  Companies that enter new markets, and choose coworking as an option, have a plan.  They are intentional about choosing coworking as a first stop before deciding to lease traditional office space.

 

 

 

We are in a recession

While coworking is a great option for some business owners, there are some challenges for the coworking sector of the office market.  We are in a recession and, due to all this volatility, we are at a point in the real estate cycle where we really do not know what is going to happen.  This cycle is unparalleled to any other that we have experienced.  Who could have imagined experiencing a pandemic in their lifetime?  Not me.

Out of 50 states, Georgia is ranked #15 for population growth

We have 18 Fortune 500 companies here, and our real estate is attractive to everyone.  This means businesses are coming.  Coworking has been in rapid growth mode since 2016.  According to a JLL survey published in the 4th quarter of 2019 on office space optimization, the average worker spends only 40% of their day at their desk and 80% of work is considered “collaborative” (that sounds like the foundation for the coworking model to me). 

Flexible work space is not a passing trend…especially considering our current environment.  Coworking has prepared us for these strange times by enabling us to visualize what a non-traditional office environment looks like.  In fact, it is the future of our work space.  I think we can all agree on that now.  

What does the future of coworking look like?

Despite that fact, we need to know what the future looks like.  According to Cushman & Wakefield’s 4Q20 Market Beat, in 2010, coworking leasing represented just 0.5% of all net new leasing.  By 2018, the share was 9.5%. Case in point, during the 2001 recession, Regus (which had embarked on an aggressive expansion program) saw its global occupancy decline from 75%- 59% and then take three years to recover. During the Great Recession, which impacted the CRE sector far more negatively, Regus was better prepared due to its more measured expansion strategy. As a result, Regus’s memberships in the U.S. declined by 5.5% and recovered in a year. Coworking is floating in untraversed waters, however, we all are.  We shall see how it all unfolds.  Stay tuned.

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Crash Course – Commercial Real Estate 101

atlanta market

 

“What is commercial real estate?”

 

Commercial real estate is an industry that is not necessarily widely known and promoted.  Because of that, when some people hear the term real estate, they automatically think of a residential property.  Most likely, the reason for this is because much of the population has either directly or indirectly experienced facets of the home-buying experience.  On the surface, they may seem similar, but there are many, many differences between commercial real estate and residential real estate.  Let’s talk about some of them.  Welcome to your crash course – Commercial Real Estate 101.

 

“The main difference is…”

A property that provides a living space is considered residential real estate.  On the flip side, a property that is exclusively used for business-related purposes with the intention of generating income, is considered commercial real estate.  Commercial real estate is segmented into different niches to include retail, industrial, land, multi-family, mixed-use developments, and office.  The performance of commercial property, including sales prices and new building rates, are often used as a measure for business activity in a given market or submarket. 

 

 

“What is retail real estate?”

Retail properties are used to market and sell consumer goods and services. They range from shopping centers to individual stores and pop-up shops to big box stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and JCPenney.

 

 

“What is industrial real estate?”

An industrial property is a property that is used for the actual manufacturing of something.  It can either be considered a factory or plant.  These building types are usually zoned for light, medium, or heavy industrial.  This includes uses such as warehouses, garages, and distribution centers.

 

“What is land real estate?”

Land is real estate property, less buildings and equipment, which is designated by fixed, spatial boundaries.  Land ownership might offer the titleholder the right to any natural resources that exist within the boundaries of their land. 

 

 

“What is multi-family real estate?”

A multi-family property is any residential property that contains more than one housing unit to include duplexes, townhomes, apartment buildings, and condominiums.  These are some of the most common examples. 

 

“What is mixed-use real estate?”

Mixed-use properties or developments combine residential and non-residential buildings.  They can be a single building, multiple buildings, or an entire neighborhood.  Mixed-use developments provide ample access to community amenities and foster community involvement.  

 

 

“What is office real estate?”

Lastly, we have office real estate, which is what I focus on.  Office properties are occupied for a variety of different purposes.  Office users can engage in retail enterprises, services businesses, non-profit organizations, technology firms, etc.  Office can refer to entire buildings, a floor, parts of a floor, or office parks such as Concourse Office Park in Atlanta, GA featuring the King and Queen towers.  Office buildings are categorized by their height.

 

“How is a building defined by its height?”

An office building has less than 7 stories above ground level is classified as a low-rise building.  An office building that has between 7 and 25 stories above ground level, is classified as a low-rise building.  An office building that has more than 25 stories ground-level building, is classified as a high-rise building.  Office buildings are further categorized by class.

 

 

“What is building class?”

 

Class A – Building classes range from A to C and are determined based upon the physical and locational aspects of building.  Class A properties tend to accommodate users who need high-quality finishes and materials to attract a specific employee or customer.  The building is normally located close to amenities and prestigious areas.

Class B – With class B properties, they tend to be more functional and probably will be highly efficient.  They will be nice but cost-effect and sometimes building age considered when classifying a building.  If the building has high-quality finishes but the design is kind of dated, the building could be considered a Class B.

Class C – Class C Properties have physical, functional, and economic obsolescence.  They tend to be in less desirable areas they may not look very pretty, however, they normally have lower risk and can accommodate start-ups that need lower occupancy costs. 

 

 

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GWCC is a Temporary Hospital for COVID-19…Again

covid-19

Georgia authorities began using the Georgia World Congress Center as a temporary hospital in April of 2020 to handle COVID-19 excess patients. The focus of the center is on the patients with mild to moderate coronavirus symptoms. Per Georgia Emergency Management Agency’s Deputy Director Mark Sexton, “The intent is to let the local area hospitals have a location where they can move the patients out that are beyond their most critical needs, and place them in this facility so we can let them complete their recovery. It looks like a hospital.” The governor has acknowledged that moving more patients with coronavirus to the GWCC would help to relieve the burden on state hospitals.

Recently, with coronavirus hospitalizations growing to record-breaking highs, Governor Brian Kemp is reopening the facility after it closed on May 16. When it was initially opened, it was in anticipation of an expected peak of cases around April 26. The peak never fully developed, however, and the hospital was broken down. The state reported a single-day record high of 4,484 new cases on Friday, and the alternative care facility was contracted back into use, with an expected addition to the infrastructure of nearly 100 ICU beds.

As 82% of Georgia’s critical care beds are in use, hospitals are rapidly reaching capacity. Emory Healthcare claims hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients have tripled in the past two weeks. The state, in addition to the care facility at the Georgia World Congress Center, has sent mobile care units to Albany, Rome, Gainesville, and Macon.

While more and more hospitals are approaching maximum occupancy and cases continue to increase, it seems that for quite some time we may not hit the peak. Per Governor Kemp’s office, “The state is coordinating and paying for increased staff at dozens of healthcare and long-term care facilities across Georgia. We are supplying personal protective equipment, working with local leaders, and projecting future needs in accordance with the Department of Public Health’s guidance at every turn.” If we keep going in a similar direction, we will leave coronavirus in the past and move forward with a stronger, safer, healthier future.

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Atlanta Snapshot: Change is Coming

atlanta

While the city has not exactly been bustling…

with the high energy it normally would be this time of year, it is certain that change is coming to Atlanta. You may not see those changes immediately due to current events, but by the time the city is up and running again, it will seem like you are walking into a brand new Atlanta.

As the first order of business, you may have noticed that our governor, Brian Kemp, and Atlanta’s
mayor, Keisha Bottoms, have utterly disagreed over the issue of reopening. She announced on
July 10 th that she, her husband and one of her four children tested COVID-19 positive. She was adamant
on rolling the city back into Phase 1 that same day, making mask use mandatory. All at the same,
Governor Kemp insists a mask mandate is impossible to enforce and claims the city should not be drawn
back into Phase 1. Except for essential trips, individuals are to stay at home when possible, wear a face
mask when in public, and follow social distancing protocol when under Phase 1.

Restaurants and retail establishments are to return to To-Go and curbside pickups, and nonessential businesses and facilities will remain closed. Per Kemp, “Mayor Bottoms’ action today is merely guidance both non-binding and legally unenforceable. As stated, no local action can be more or less restrictive, and the rule applies statewide. If the Mayor actually wants to flatten the curve in Atlanta, she should start enforcing state restrictions, which she has failed to do.” Asked what state restrictions were not enforced, the office of the governor claimed that he was unavailable to comment. The mayor says, “As it relates to the mask mandate I do find it peculiar that when the city of Savannah instituted its mask mandate, that the
Governor’s office was silent on that, yet when Atlanta has instituted, suddenly the governor’s office has
a public opinion about it.”

Then Brian sued Keisha…the saga continues. 

As of July 6th, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority has announced the indefinite closure of the
Centennial Olympic Park. Their executive director, Frank Poe, says “The financial ramifications stemming
from this global pandemic have hit the hospitality industry, including Georgia World Congress Center
Authority, especially hard. The park relies on operating support from GWCC and without event activities
on our campus the costs associated with maintaining public access to the park is not feasible.” The
Authority will work “in anticipation of daily use sometime in the future” to preserve the green space and
landscape at the park. Also this year due to the pandemic, the annual Fourth of July fireworks
celebration at the park was cancelled and the GWCC is being reactivated as a COVID-19 overflow facility due to the record-breaking spike in cases.

Dragon Con 2020 will not be held in person.

adding to the list of recent cancellations. They have instead opted for a virtual version of the event. This virtual version will be free, and will feature new content as well as virtual cosplay events, “best of” panels, and events from previous years. Anyone who has purchased a membership for 2020, it will be rolled over automatically to 2021. Anyone who wishes to have a refund can request it through a Google form attached on their website.

Several businesses are now closing, along with cancellations due to the ongoing pandemic. The Decatur-
based Highland Bakery recently permanently closed its doors. Since mid-March, the restaurant has been
closed because of the pandemic, however, several other Highland Bakery locations remain open, such as locations in the Old Fourth Ward, Cumberland, and Midtown. Highland Bakery joins various other recently permanently closed Decatur restaurants, including Doggy Dogg, Ted’s Montana Grill, and The Pinewood. Further closures throughout the city include Genki Noodles and Sushi, Amelie’s French Bakery, Dantanna’s, and Mother Bar + Kitchen. In addition, The Varsity closed on Thursday after an employee tested positive for coronavirus. The restaurant’s doors will reopen but the drive-in service will be forced to stay closed. Management says the decision to close the drive-in service comes as a result of multiple problems posed to the restaurant by COVID-19. Evaluating the current situation and gauging the difficulties of social distancing, masks, plexiglass protection and other issues, keeping the drive-in service open was seen as almost impossible. One of the biggest problems The Varsity faces, along with other businesses in Downtown Atlanta, is the lack of visitors. Without sporting events, concerts, conventions, or other attractions, it’s tough to get people in the door, even for a city icon like The Varsity.

Opened in 1973, Woodruff Park features 6 acres of land between Peachtree Street NE and Park Place
NE, including two fountains, a performance pavilion, and several monuments. Located in Atlanta’s
geographic center, the space attracts thousands of Atlanta residents—and with that, hundreds of
homeless individuals. The solution to this, though, is simple.

Woodruff Park has its own case manager.

Woodruff Park is one of few parks nationwide that has its own case manage or social worker. Janika
Robinson, who works at least three days a week in person due to the current state of global affairs, is
dedicated full-time to providing housing, social assistance, and service referrals to anyone who
approaches her or that she comes across. In September 2018, she became Woodruff’s first case
manager, and since her employment, she has helped to place 135 people in permanent housing and
connected over 1,000 others to social services. 

We need good Samaritans in these uncertain times, to help lift our spirits. There’s been consistently
more bad news now than ever, and little success stories are helping to brighten our hope for the world.
If there is anything small or large that you can do to help or support a person, group or business in your
vicinity, please do so. The little things count and they help a ton!

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The GMA is Under Way

construction

GMA New Headquarters and Renovation Project

On February 1st of 2019, the The Georgia Municipal Association, Inc. (GMA) began soliciting proposals from firms interested in providing professional architectural services for the construction of a project known as the Georgia Municipal Association New Headquarters and Renovation Project, located in Atlanta, Georgia, consisting of a new building, a parking deck, and a renovation of an existing building.  New South Construction broke ground on new downtown Atlanta headquarters at the top of 2020. Truist financed the project.

On Monday, January 27, 2020, the GMA held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new four-story, 27,000-square-foot building.  The building brings GMA much needed additional office space, and will include a five-story, 146-space parking deck to directly connect three (3) floors of the building. The new building will include a first-floor conference room for GMA Board meetings and other functions for a capacity of 140 people. The fourth floor of the building will feature a roof-top terrace large enough to accommodate up to 200 people for special events. The existing 24,000-square-foot building, The Burgess Building, will also be renovated and connected the new building via a beautiful courtyard.  The new building is scheduled to deliver in December 2020, however, the pandemic may affect the timeline.  Not unlike a bulk of what has happened this year, this project is history-making.

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Navigating 2020 – A Tenant Rep Broker’s Story

Re’Nauta Bell tenant representation broker

Downtown:  My Home

I wanted to take a different route and talk to you guys more on a personal level about business.  This year has been quite tumultuous for most people, including myself.  My story is the same.  Only the details are different.  I think we all came into 2020 believing the turn of this decade would bring magic and wonder in the form of new opportunities…but all we’ve really seen is chaos.  Who would have thought the world would end up on this path?  My own journey through this has been interesting.  I’ve been at three different brokerages in my career and, alas, I finally found my home.  In mid-March of this year I started working as a tenant representation broker at my dream brokerage, however, my first day was the day they shut the offices down for the pandemic.  It was an eerie feeling.  I found myself sitting in the lobby waiting to be called upstairs and, despite that the building itself is 41-stories tall and there’s a waiting list for the parking deck, I was the only one there besides concierge and the cleaning crew.  I wasn’t sure how to feel or what to expect, but I certainly didn’t think I’d be writing this blog post 3 ½ months later from my home office.

Navigating the commercial real estate industry is tough enough but when you add a pandemic plus rioting, it tends to complicate things even further.  It also doesn’t help when the bulk of the rioting took place in your chosen submarket of focus.  Since things are unsafe on so many levels, I usually only leave my house to buy groceries and to take clients out on tours, but I made an exception last week.  A client needed assistance with site selection, so I had to venture out to my submarket of choice.  I decided to bring my son, a future broker, along with me so he could take notes and get some exposure and real-life training.  I thought it would be great to take him to my favorite taqueria before we got to work.  I found some street parking and we started our walk to the restaurant.  As we turned the corner to get to the street we were looking for, my heart sank. 

Am I really not getting tacos today??

It was as if I wasn’t aware of all the rioting that took place there.  Maybe on some subconscious level, I momentarily blocked out what happened in order to enjoy that moment of walking to my favorite Mexican restaurant with my son.  I’m not sure what it was exactly, but when I saw at all those amazing restaurants boarded up, I became deeply sad.  Knowing destruction is one thing.  Experiencing it is another.  Then I thought about my career.  “How am I going to navigate this storm?”  I couldn’t let myself get down in front of my son, so I decided to discard the bigger gloomy cloud and focus on the smaller one.  “Am I really not getting tacos today??”  Even though it looked like a boarded-up ghost town, I decided to start walking down the street anyway.  Right as I was about to apologize to my son about the food, I saw two college students walk out of the restaurant.  The joy I felt was immense (nowadays, it’s all about the little things)! 

My first thought was, “Yay…I get food!”  My next thoughts were about hope.

Going into that taqueria and ordering the same thing I have always ordered from the same man for the past 4 years gave me hope.  It renewed my belief that there is always a positive outcome if you try hard enough.  It showed me that even though there may be barriers in life right now, beautiful creations are still cooking within those walls, even if you can’t see it.  It reminded me that I can find some peace and stability in this, and you can too.  All you have to do…is keep walking anyway.

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FOR SALE: The Heart of Downtown Atlanta

cnn center downtown atlanta georgia

Downtown Atlanta is shaking some trees

I heard about the sale of the CNN Center last night and I cannot stop thinking about it!  The CNN Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is the headquarters for CNN and other WarnerMedia companies around the world. WarnerMedia, deeply rooted in the Atlanta culture, made the bold decision to sell the CNN Center and relocate operations to its newly renovated Techwood center. The change will not be immediate, and employees will remain at their present location for quite some time. This makes sense considering WarnerMedia unveiled a commissioned mural portrait of Turner at the building park late last year.

WarnerMedia plans to sell and lease back the CNN Center for at least five years in an effort to raise capital.  Desroches has been working for some time to determine the highest and best use of the CNN Center and, he and his team, have ultimately decided the best course of action is to sell.  Furthermore, many of CNN’s most popular, have moved to New York City.

 

Only time will tell…

Opened as the Omni Complex in 1976, the CNN Center has been a tourist attraction for decades, providing behind-the-scenes tours that allow an inside look at how live broadcasts are created and transmitted globally. CNN has occupied this building since 1987, when Ted Turner moved the network from the original Techwood campus. The center featured the Omni Hotel and a large food court and gift shop.  On May 29th, protests over George Floyd’s death at the hands of police turned violent, resulting in damage to the exterior of the building and some part of the interior. The famous CNN sign, located at one of the main entrances, was damaged too but was fixed the next day.

It may seem that the protests sparked the decision to sell, and although the announcement was made only one month after the initial damage, that’s not the case. The decision to sell the property was made to cut costs has been in the works for years.  The plan was set in motion after AT&T purchased Time Warner. Perhaps rioting and disruptions were unpleasant catalysts setting the plans into immediate action, or it was initially been projected for this time frame. Pascal Desroches, CFO of WarnerMedia, suggests that the existing CNN Center could be repurposed from an office building to have more emphasis on retail and mixed-use.  That could be an amazing addition to the downtown submarket.

Over its 30+ year presence in Atlanta, the CNN Center has had a major impact on the city.  Just a few years ago, in honor of the founder, the road that runs in front of the building was renamed “Ted Turner”. While they aren’t turning their back on the city, the move will displace a significant number of WarnerMedia’s 6,000 Atlanta personnel.  Because of the ongoing pandemic, we probably won’t see the effects of the relocation for quite a while. Who knows?  The move may very well be for Atlanta’s benefit.  Only time will tell.

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Why You Should Expand Your Business to Atlanta

atlanta emory

If you are a smart business person and have ever considered a business move that you know could take you to the next level, then consider Atlanta.  It’s a good look and the right move for fast-growing companies who are looking to expand into a strong market.  Atlanta has so much to offer (way too much to shove inside one article), so let’s just focus on downtown for now.

DOWNTOWN ATLANTA

You may have already heard about the amazing connectivity the Atlanta Beltline is providing and new developments are still underway.  Take a look and see what’s happening in ATL!

 

ferris wheel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    • The Beltline is slated to be connected to Centennial Park via a 3 mile trail which will be erected by the PATH Foundation.
    • Germany based developer, Newport, has purchased 47 properties downtown on Peachtree Street, Martin Luther King Jr Drive, Mitchell Street, and Broad Street.  Newport plans to do a $500 million makeover which will give south downtown a facelift and a brand, new swagger.
    • The proposed Signia Hilton Hotel, designed by Gensler, is slated to kick off in late April or May soon after the NCAA Final Four Tournament.
    • The former Norfolk Southern Atlanta HQ is being transformed into a $70 million, 280,000 square foot adaptive-reuse project called Freight House which is conveniently located right off of Highway 20.  It will house 6-7 retailers, 50,000 square feet of office space, and hundreds of new residents.  This project will be hot and will link downtown and Castleberry Hill.
    • Underground Atlanta is also getting a “touch up”.  The property will change into a $300 billion blend of apartments, student housing, and retail.  It encompasses 12 underground acres plus 225,000 square feet of shopping and entertainment.
    • The Gulch is probably one of the city’s most awaited projects.  It is being rebranded as the Centennial Yards which will be a $5 billion dollar mini city consisting of 8 million square feet of office space, 1,000 residences, 1,500 hotel rooms, and a regional mall’s worth of retail.
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downtown atlanta

 

 

 

 

 

 

    CAN WE SAY, “PRE-LEASE”? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are talking about $10 billion dollars in new developments slated for downtown.  In addition to that, an 8 member 501(c)(6) CPD (Central Park District) advisory committee, including major property owners as well as representation from the Atlanta Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, has been formed.  They are working together to pool resources to make Atlanta more appealing to visitors and to attract more tourists. 

Strengthen your brand, elevate your standards, and turn your “shoulds” into “musts”.  Atlanta is where your business should must be.