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Navigating 2020 – A Tenant Rep Broker’s Story

Downtown Atlanta Commercial Real Estate Specialist Re'Nauta Bell

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 Skyline

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.

 

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Renewing Your Lease? Consider This First!

Renewing Your Lease

Need to Renew?

 

Renewing a lease can be a pretty overwhelming and complex situation for corporate tenants who are accustomed to simply doing their job and not worrying about real estate.  While that’s tough, it’s also a way to learn what the current market is doing and how the current position of your business can determine whether you can negotiate better lease terms moving forward.

When you truly understand your options during a lease renewal negotiation, you can be a force to be reckoned with.  A tenant representation broker will arm you with market knowledge that you may not otherwise be privy to, help you to negotiate a lower rate, acquire additional amenities, and secure  the best deal possible for your business.

Read on to find out more way you can ensure a good deal for your business as well as how you can protect your future commercial real estate ventures.

 

Negotiate Early…It Only Makes Sense

 

When considering a commercial real estate lease renewal, it is always best to be proactive. Evaluate your situation, determine what is and is not working for your business, and communicate with your landlord 9-12 months before your lease agreement expires. Your landlord will consider these points while reviewing your renewal and will be well aware that time is on your side – time for you to look for a new space if your concerns are not fairly considered.

In the event that you don’t have time, I’ve got you covered.  What I just described is the best-case scenario, however, I have closed Class A office space deals within the span of a business week so I know it can be done.  If you have a tenant representation broker who is “Johhny on the spot” and is as “quick as lightning”, then you’ve got a great teammate fighting for you.  That kind of broker will alert the landlord upfront that “time is of the essence” and the deal needs to close fast.  If the landlord is on board, you’ve got a great situation in front of you and even greater representation behind you.

 

What’s Going On With Your Current Space?

 

Before making any sudden decisions, take the time to analyze how your business is performing in its current commercial space. This is an opportunity to determine if the space is still suitable for your company and its future growth. Items to consider are location, amenities for employees, office configurations, and tech-enabled infrastructure. These can all serve as discussion points in the negotiation of your renewal. There is a possibility that your current landlord may incur these costs if it means keeping your company as a tenant.  When you determine these factors, you can really increase your market knowledge which will facilitate an opportunity for you to have more leverage in negotiation.

 

Understand the Market Conditions

 

The commercial real estate market is dynamic, resulting in continuous changes year after year. It is important to be up-to-date on the current state of the market when looking to sign a new commercial lease or renew your current lease. Look at the market around you; are the rents similar to what you are currently paying for space? Are there other properties that offer additional benefits? Having this knowledge gives you the ability to be well informed while negotiating your current lease. If there is the potential to have some of these added benefits, lease renewal is the time to present them to your landlord.

Once you are more knowledgeable about the current market conditions, ask your tenant representative to negotiate an option or two for you.  The market changes every year so it would best serve you to lock in a good rate for as long as you can.  If it costs too many dollars for the same thing you had last year, it doesn’t make sense.  Don’t you agree?

 

Research Alternative Options

 

Even if you are comfortable in your current commercial space, it is always beneficial to educate yourself on other buildings and owners in the market. You may determine an opportunity that is a better fit for your company. Availabilities, rental rates, and amenities have probably changed since you were last in the market, so it is worth the time to look at your options. During your research, you will become more knowledgeable about the commercial real estate market. Whether you stay in your current space or sign another commercial lease, this information can benefit your negotiation process.

 

Work with a Commercial Real Estate Broker to Negotiate

 

Do not underestimate the importance of using a broker to help you negotiate your commercial real estate lease renewals. In addition to sharing their market expertise, tenant representation brokers are always aware of the current market conditions, opportunities, owners, and other brokers. They provide you with leverage to get the incentives that you and your business deserve and have a genuine interest in seeing you win.  Tenant reps know how important the right office space is for your business. An experienced broker can add value to your commercial lease renewal process, negotiate any required terms, and answer any lease related questions.

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Looking to Move Your Office? Leave it to the Professionals

Looking To Move Your Office?

 

You are a successful business owner and everything is booming in your world. 

Your current location has been good to you but your client base has grown dramatically.  The past few years have afforded you a great proof of concept but you know you could offer your clients more.  You know you need a new atmosphere and better location to best serve your clients.  Where do you start?  How do you accomplish that?

It sounds like you a need a tenant representation broker.  A broker will find you a great new space and negotiate you a killer deal.  That sounds simple enough, right?  Let’s delve in a little deeper.  Read on for your “no-cost-to-YOU” solution for getting a better space.

 

#1: YOU are the first priority

 

A tenant rep will have great relationships with many landlords and listing brokers.  As a result, this will lead to a smooth transaction for you.  Tenant representation brokers work on your behalf.  They have no obligation to landlords or the buildings they present. It is their legal, fiduciary responsibility to you to evaluate buildings, locations, and leases without any bias.  Additionally, they will not promote one building over another. Tenant representatives will work to position your deal in the marketplace.  They will also leverage the best possible transaction both qualitatively and quantitatively.  They will help your bottom line.

 

 

#2: Evaluating commercial real estate is a full-time career

 

In order to accurately identify lease opportunities, significant time and work goes into the process.  This is time that you, like many professionals, don’t have to spare. Tenant representation brokers will determine your unique office needs and engage the market.  They will analyze all alternatives and negotiate terms.  Ultimately, they will find you an office space that meets your business needs. This process will ensure that you make the proper real estate decisions while paying attention to your operations.

 

#3: We focus on what we know so you can focus on what you do

 

Rather than taking time to educate yourself on the commercial real estate market, a tenant representation broker will do that for you.  They can manage everything from needs assessments, parking requirements, zoning restrictions, and as well as establishing timelines and the lease execution. The decisions you make now will impact the efficiency, productivity, and profit of your organization.  A tenant representation broker is sensitive to that.

#4: Tenant reps help you to determine what’s best

 

Defining and analyzing your business objectives will help you determine what you need in your office space.  A tenant representative will apply consideration to your budget and future growth. Do your projections include expansion?  Do your employees need to be near public transit?  Do you need all offices on glass?  Is walkability a major factor for your business model?  A tenant representation broker will know all of the right questions to ask.  This will help to determine the right commercial space for you.

 

#5: Tenant representatives have numerous resources…seriously

 

Searching for new space on your own can be frustrating. It is difficult to get an accurate idea of what’s available in the commercial real estate market.  Many websites that have out-of-date or incomplete information.  It may even be hard to get a listing broker to call you back!   A tenant representative will have the most inclusive list of commercial real estate options in the market. Tenant reps have access to exclusive commercial real estate databases, industry relationships and knowledge of off-market options.  This enables tenant reps to give you a variety of quality options that may not be possible to acquire on your own.  If you don’t believe me, try calling a few numbers on the “For Lease” signs and see how things go.  You’ll see that I’m right!

 

#6: Tenant Representatives will handle negotiations

 

Going through the negotiation process can be overwhelming.  Having a tenant representative who knows the market and is exclusively representing your interests is important. They understand the need to capitalize on timing and market conditions.  They will apply negotiation techniques to create the most leverage on your behalf. This will help you receive the best lease terms possible without the stress of negotiating alone.  Lastly, they know the tricks of the trade which will help you.

For instance, if the market price for milk is $3.06 per gallon, you will pay $3.06 for that gallon of milk from the grocery store.  If you are a vendor, you could go directly to that distributor and negotiate a much lower price point.  As a vendor, you have more negotiation power.  Distributors deal with vendors.  HMOs deal with doctors.  Landlords deal with tenant representation brokers.  It’s as simple as that.  Landlords will always negotiate with tenant representation brokers on your behalf.  They do so because they trust the tenant rep to qualify their client before bringing them to the space.  This saves the landlord a time by not having to qualify the prospective tenant upfront.

Tenant representatives can get you a ton of other incentives.  Some include free rent and a break on the rental rate.  They may even be able to get you more concessions!

 

How Much Is It Going to Cost Me?

On a final note, remember when I said you can get your space at no cost to you?  Let me clarify!  Tenant representation services are free because the landlord pays your representation for you.  I know that sounds super crazy but that IS how this crazy thing works.  The landlord sets aside a budget for representation when he/she acquires a commercial property.  Whatever that budget is, is typically split down the middle.  Half goes to the landlord’s representation and the other half goes to the tenant’s representation.

Why would a landlord do such a thing, you ask?  A landlord is willing to pay a tenant rep’s commission because he/she feels confident that they are bringing a viable tenant to their establishment.  They are willing to pay for that.  I know it’s weird and I don’t make the rules…I just play by them.  If you are looking for office space, I’m more than happy to point you in the right direction.  I hope you found this helpful!

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CRE Technology is Important…Seriously

Technology is Important in Commercial Real Estate…Seriously

Got Tech?

 

The implementation and advancement of technology is spreading like wildfire across many industries.  Commercial real estate is right in line with the craze.  There are so many new and exciting technologies popping up all over the place.  This is giving tenants more power over their commercial real estate search.  Technology is majorly affecting how tenants search for office space as well as their commercial real estate portfolio management.

 

Is Your Broker a Techie?

 

If you are working with a technologically savvy tenant representation broker, you could have a serious advantage.  Today’s technology avenues can afford you the option to research properties as well as the property owners online.  A broker can educate yourself on what the market is doing in terms of average rental rates.  They can also determine what areas are the most walkable, which buildings have the most amenities, as well as where your closest competition lives.

 

It’s a Full Time Job

 

Finding the perfect office space is a time-consuming venture.  With access to advanced technology, your tenant representative may be able to present you with virtual walk-throughs.  They can also give you floor plans that you can manipulate to your specifications.  Additionally, drone footage can give tenants the ability to explore the exterior of a building and neighborhood without ever walking away from the computer.  This is especially helpful for out of town or international clients.

 

Save Me Money

 

Once you have found the perfect office to lease, technology can make your ongoing expenses more affordable. Smart technologies including SMART thermostats can provide tighter control over energy expenditures.  Advances in telecommunications make it easier for employees to work from home.  This can reduce your square footprint and bottom line.  Businesses can take advantage of highly efficient LED lighting fixtures which can further conserve energy. Lastly, many buildings in your central business district are LEED certified offering energy efficiency throughout the entire premises.

 

Get Organized

 

If your company has a portfolio of leases, technologies such as commercial real estate databases and CRM’s can easily help keep things organized and accessible.  The utilization of cloud severs, document management, and video conferencing software can aid to facilitate virtual meetings with your tenant rep broker, attorney, and if needed, the landlord.  You can also share lease drafts and other documents using these technologies in a streamlined, efficient, and effective way.

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So…What is in My Commercial Lease Anyway?

So…What is in My Commercial Lease Anyway

Landlord and tenants sign lease agreements when renting property. What is included in this lease will vary. However, there are certain basics you should know about lease agreements in general. Leasing business space is a major obligation.  The successes or disappointments of your business may ride based upon specific terms of your rental agreement so it is important to gain a basic understand of commercial leases and what is usually included in one. Before you approach a landlord, you should to see how commercial leases contrast from residential leases.  Furthermore, before you sign anything, ensure you comprehend and concur with the fundamental terms of the rent (i.e the length of the lease term), the amount rent, and the floor plan and configuration of the physical space.

It’s crucial to understand from the get-go that, practically and legally speaking, commercial leases and residential leases are quite different.

Here are the main distinctions between them:
  1. Commercial leases are not subject to most consumer protection laws that govern residential leases — for example, there are no caps on security deposits or rules protecting a tenant’s privacy.
  2. Many commercial leases are not based on a standard form or agreement; each commercial lease is customized to the landlord’s needs. As a result, you need to carefully examine every commercial lease agreement offered to you.
  3. You cannot easily break or change a commercial lease. It is a legally binding contract, and a good deal of money is usually at stake.
  4. Commercial leases are generally subject to much more negotiation between the business owners and the landlord, since businesses often need special features in their spaces, and landlords are often eager for tenants and willing to extend special offers.

 

Before you consent to a lease agreement, you ought to deliberately explore its terms to ensure the lease addresses your business’ issues. To begin, ensure you can manage the cost of the lease and that the length of the lease makes good business sense. Additionally consider the physical space. In the event that your business requires alterations to the current space, determine whether you (or the landlord) will have the capacity to roll out the improvements.

Other, less conspicuous items spelled out in the lease may be just as crucial to your business’s success. For instance, if you expect your hair salon to depend largely on walk-in customers, be sure that your lease gives you the right to put up a sign that’s visible from the street. If you are counting on being the only sandwich shop inside a new commercial complex, make sure your lease includes a exclusivity clause that prevents the landlord from leasing space to a competitor.

Many more items are often addressed in commercial leases. 

It would be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the following clauses:

– the length of lease (also called the lease term), when it begins and whether there are renewal options

– rent, including allowable increases (also called escalations) and how they will be computed

– whether the rent you pay includes insurance, property taxes, and maintenance costs (called a gross lease); or whether you will be charged for these items separately (called a net lease)

– the security deposit and conditions for its return

– exactly what space you are renting (including common areas such as hallways, rest rooms, and elevators) and how the landlord measures the space (some measurement practices include the thickness of the walls)

– whether there will be improvements, modifications (called build outs when new space is being finished to your specifications), or fixtures added to the space; who will pay for them, and who will own them after the lease ends (generally, the landlord does)

– specifications for signs, including where you may put them

– who will maintain and repair the premises, including the heating and air conditioning systems

– whether the lease may be assigned or subleased to another tenant

– whether there’s an option to renew the lease or expand the space you are renting

– if and how the lease may be terminated, including notice requirements, and whether there are penalties for early termination, and

– whether disputes must be mediated or arbitrated as an alternative to court.