Buyer’s Market in UK CRE

Property Magazine reports that UK commercial property values were weaker in February. All property total returns were 0.1 percent with capital values down 0.4 percent. The retail sector had a total return of -0.1 percent. Office space was at 0.2 percent and industrial space was at 0.4 percent. The office sector in Central London was the only exception to the corrections. Office sector values increased by 0.1% in February – an improvement over January’s -0.1 percent decline.

The article notes that foreign investors find the UK (and London in particular) to be a more stable alternative to Euorpe and it quotes a CBRE survey which indicates an overall desire by investors to increase purchase activity this year. Therefore, the UK commercial property market looks more positive moving further into this year.

Cathedral Commons

A new mixed-use development at 3336 Wisconsin Avenue NW will bring new retail, a renovated Giant supermarket, residential units and covered parking to the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington. The efforts to replace the current structures began in 2000. The delays were due to a change of ownership at Giant as well as to opposition (and ultimately a lawsuit) from some local residents.

All of the retail stores in the current triangular building across Newark Street have already closed and the Giant will likely close soon to allow for demolition and construction. Attorney Phil Feola of Goulston & Storrs talked about the efforts to bring this plan to fruition at a ULI event on March 7. In response to a question, Feola noted that the city government is generally expedient with and supportive of new projects that seek to bring business and development into the District.



Avison Young Expands in the DC Metro Area

The Bradenton Herald reports that Avison Young – Canada’s largest independently-owned commercial real estate services company – has acquired Bethesda-based Realty Management Company expanding further in the Washington DC metropolitan area. The acquisition brings an additional 37 employees and a third office to Avison Young’s DC operations as well as 2 million square feet to Avison Young’s approximately 50 million square feet of retail, industrial and office properties under management in Canada and the U.S.

Donna B. Kay, President of Realty Management Company will become a Principal of Avison Young. She brings with her 24 years of commercial and property management experience. Over the past three years, Avison Young has grown from 11 to 28 offices in 25 markets and from 300 to more than 900 real estate professionals in Canada and the U.S.

See full article at:

Commercial Property Lending on the Rise

Bloomberg, citing analysis from Chandan Economics, reports that in the fourth quarter of 2011, US banks increased funding for commercial real estate for the first time in almost two years.

Loan balances for properties including office buildings and shopping malls rose by $3.69 billion from the prior quarter to $1.06 trillion, after having fallen for six consecutive quarters. Also in the fourth quarter, the default rate on commercial real estate loans fell to 3.8 percent of total loan balances, down from 4.3 percent a year earlier and 3.9 percent in the third quarter. This was the lowest since the 3.4 percent default rate in the third quarter of 2009.

The default rate on apartment-property loans fell to 2.5 percent (the lowest since the first quarter of 2009) from 3.8 percent a year earlier and 2.9 percent in the third quarter. Banks also reduced their holdings of repossessed commercial properties from $10.9 billion in the third quarter to $10.5 billion. Furthermore, holdings of foreclosed apartment buildings fell to $1.45 billion from $2.55 billion in the third quarter and $2.59 billion a year earlier according to the Chandan Economics analysis.


Roberts v. Tishman Speyer Properties

Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village apartments (StuyTown) is a sprawling collection of 56 buildings 11,250 apartments and more than 25,000 residents. It is located on the East Side of Manhattan. Metlife sold the complex to Tishman Speyer Properties for $5.4 billion in 2006. The Tenants Association for this complex has been involved in a lawsuit against the landlord over rent increases.

A 2009 New York Appellate ruling prevented the units from being moved out of rent control because the property was part of a city program that provides tax breaks to landlords if they rehabilitate property and keep rents stable. A 2011 Appellate decision ruled that the 2009 judgment could be applied retroactively, meaning that tenants can claim overpayments in rent from past years.

Metlife states that they have already allocated funds to support the costs of the settlement. In the meantime, StuyTown’s tenant association is looking to convert the complex into condominium units or coops but at the same time, allowing current renters to continue to rent if the choose to do so. The complex, by the way, serves as collateral for $3 billion of CMBS that has been in default since 2010.


Retention at Grubb and Ellis

Santa Ana, CA – based Grubb and Ellis filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on February 20. BCG Partners, Inc. holds the bulk of Grubb and Ellis’s debt and is looking to buy out the company for $30 million in a 363 bankruptcy sale intended to expedite the process so as to prevent more of the brokers from leaving. BCG plans to integrate the remaining talent from Grubb and Ellis with Newmark Knight Frank’s – a brokerage firm that BCG acquired last year.

In an effort to stem the departures of producing brokers from Grubb, BCG is offering to pay the commission due to the current Grubb brokers in the form of loans. They cannot be direct payments because such payments would constitute interference with the bankruptcy process. The loans will be forgiven only if the Grubb brokers stay for a certain amount of time. If they leave too soon, they will have to return their commission payments/loans along with interest.

In the meantime, a group of unsecured investors has petitioned to block the $30 million sale to BCG because they believe that the bankruptcy auction process was conducted too swiftly and it did not allow adequate time to attract competitive bids.

See full article on this story at:

Rock Spring Centre

A new $320 million project is moving forward on 53 acres of coveted commercial property in upscale North Bethesda, MD. Rock Spring Centre will have 210,000sf of retail, 550,000sf of offices, a hotel and 90,000sf of entertainment, possibly including a cinema. National Harbor developer, The Peterson Cos. and DRI are partners in the development of this project. Peterson will own 90 percent of the retail and entertainment and 10 percent of the rest.

Construction is expected to begin this spring with completion of the retail and housing portions expected in 2014. The location is adjacent to I-270 and close to the Capital Beltway. The Grosvenor Metro Station is about 2.5 miles away.

US CRE Market on the Rebound

Lawrence Yun, NAR (National Association of Realtors) chief economist reports vacancy rate improvements across all commercial real estate sectors.

NAR forecasts commercial vacancy rates over the next year to decline 0.4 percent in the office sector, 0.8 percent in industrial real estate, 0.9 percent in retail and 0.2 percent in the multifamily sector.

Office vacancy rates are projected to fall from 16.4 percent in the current quarter to 16 percent in the first quarter of 2013. The markets with the lowest office vacancy rates currently are Washington, DC, at 9.5 percent, New York City at 10 percent and New Orleans at 12.4 percent.

Industrial vacancy rates are likely to decline from 11.7 percent in the first quarter of this year to 10.9 percent in the first quarter of 2013. The areas with the lowest industrial vacancy rates currently are Orange County, California at 4.8 percent, Los Angeles at 4.9 percent and Miami at 7.6 percent.

Retail vacancy rates are predicted to decline from 11.9 percent in the current quarter to 11 percent in the first quarter of 2013. The markets with the lowest retail vacancy rates today include San Francisco at 3.6 percent, Fairfield County, Connecticut, at 5.1 percent and Long Island, New York, at 5.4 percent.

Multifamily housing is likely to see vacancy rates drop from 4.7 percent in the first quarter of 2012 to 4.5 percent in the first quarter of 2013. Vacancy rates in the multifamily sector below 5 percent are generally are considered a landlord’s market with demand justifying higher rents. Areas with the lowest multifamily vacancy rates currently are New York City at 1.8 percent, Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon, both at 2.5 percent, and San Jose, California at 2.7 percent.

The SIOR (Society of Industrial and Office Realtors) Commercial Real Estate Index – an attitudinal survey of 297 local market experts measuring the impact of ten variables, rose 8.3 percent to 63.8 in the fourth quarter of 2011, following a gain of 0.6 percent in the third quarter. However, the index remains below the level of 100, which represents a balanced marketplace, last seen in the third quarter of 2007.

See complete report at:

CAP Rates in Aspen

Bill Small of Frias Commercial Real Estate argues that in Aspen, a 7.0 percent CAP rate is a reasonable mean from which to determine a property’s current value and adjust up or down based on location, quality of tenants and term of leases.

He writes that over the past four years, Aspen’s commercial rents dropped by approximately 30-50 percent depending on location and building quality – a decline similar to or greater than the national average drop in commercial rents. Aspen, however is different in that it has a finite supply of commercial space and thus low vacancy rates.

Optimism in Egypt

Reuters reports that the Egyptian economy is showing signs of stabilization and rebound following the political turmoil that led to the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak. A recent court ruling ended a dispute surrounding state land purchased by Talaat Moustafa Group thus brining some confidence back into the real estate development sector.

SODIC, a property developer, says it plans to step up investment this year and the Ministry of Housing is hoping to kick-start activity by selling 8,000 plots of land around Cairo to Egyptians living abroad.

Government officials leaked to Egyptian media this week a tentative plan to stabilize state finances. It aims to make spending on public subsidies more efficient, reform income and real estate taxes and offer Egyptian expatriates 50,000 plots of land to raise $15 billion over the next four years.