With these shifts, what can CRE Companies do to stay competitive and ensure they capture the rapidly growing demand?
Out-of-the-Box Properties and Business Plans – The report states that this year investors plan to increase their focus on mixed-use properties, nontraditional products and retail developments. Flexible leases and business spaces are also going to be an attractive investment.
Adaptability – Investors will be looking for the companies that can quickly respond to the rapidly changing waters of the CRE business world, whether it be with new business models or by adopting “a variety of technologies to make buildings future-ready.”
Tech-savvy presence – To attract potential investors, companies need to be able to stay shoulder to shoulder with technology and present technological agility in the way they market their properties and in their business plans.
Catering to investor and tenant needs should move CRE companies to have a different perspective on the way they do business. By increasing mixed-use, nontraditional and retail products in their portfolios, becoming more adaptable to the changes in the industry and using technological advancements in their favor, CRE companies can change with the industry and be ready for the future to come.
Two Class A industrial buildings – totaling 135,000 SF and 185,000 SF – are ready for occupancy at Rockdale Technology Center, Ackerman & Co.’s newest state-of-the-art industrial development.
Located east of Atlanta in Conyers, Ga., the state-of-the-art industrial park will ultimately offer 1 million square feet of the highest-quality distribution space available in Atlanta’s I-20 East submarket.
Ackerman is targeting e-commerce operations, technology companies, medical companies and logistic providers, among other users. The multi-phase development will house space users that will bring hundreds of jobs to the city of Conyers, Ga.
Brett Buckner, who is leading leasing efforts at the development, recently met up with Rockdale County Board of Commissioners Chairman Oz Nesbitt to discuss the development that has Rockdale County residents talking.
A video of the interview and a written recap are below:
Oz Nesbitt: I’m here at Rockdale Technology Center, 2430 Dogwood Drive, at the long-anticipated opening of this facility. People all over our county have been asking, “Mr. Chairman, what’s happening with Rockdale Technology Center?”
Brett, tell us about the decision to come to Rockdale County.
Brett Buckner: We bought a property down the road about a year ago. And when we got into the market we figured out there’s a niche here for shallow-bay type properties. So we purchased, about a year ago, 92 acres here to build shallow-bay buildings, meaning buildings that are short in depth. This lets us offer as little as 10,000 square feet and up to 135,000 square feet for this building and up to 185,000 square feet in the other building.
Oz Nesbitt: Tell us about the technology piece and how and why you landed on that particular name.
Brett Buckner: It was really a decision with several different people within the company and we thought the name technology, added with the great county we’re in, Rockdale, would attract not only manufacturers that are already out here but also people in the technology business. But we’re not just focused on those two industries. We also have warehouse properties that can accommodate some logistics and also medical-type companies as well.
Oz Nesbitt: You have a prime location. Tell us about I-20 and accessibility, being right here on a frontage road in Rockdale County on Dogwood Drive.
Brett Buckner: When we purchased the property, one of the things that attracted us to the site was the visibility, right here in front of this building. We hope to attract some tenants that can take advantage of that. We can accommodate somebody that needs the visibility or somebody that needs to have just pure warehouse/distribution as well.
Oz Nesbitt: So, Brett, we focused on the four “E’s” here in Rockdale County – Economic development, efficiency, execution and education. Tell me about the interaction with local county government and how they helped you get from point A to point Z. How was that experience for you and your company?
Brett Buckner: When we first started, we met with Marty Jones (executive director at Conyers Rockdale Economic Development Council) and Gina Hartsell (Film Rockdale project manager). They’ve been terrific to work with since the beginning, which was over a year ago. They’ve introduced us to tenants in the area as well as state-run projects. From a development standpoint, they’ve been absolutely terrific. We’re so pleased to be here.
As summer arrives, so does a new group of interns at Ackerman!
We recently sat down with our interns to discuss how they plan on applying their newly gained experience in the future.
“I’m very excited to be here,” said Emma Lonergan, who is working in the Marketing & Communications department. She is an incoming junior at Georgia College and State University. “I’m learning so much I can apply to my college classes and later in my career.”
Projects she’s working on with Fara Wilson and the marketing team include updating the organization of the promotional items inventory, which she will track and monitor throughout the summer. She’s also working on editorial assignments, including blog writing.
Also joining Ackerman’s Marketing team for the summer is Ellis Snell, who will be assisting in the department’s day-to-day activities and select projects. Ellis is headed to the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) as a freshman this fall.
Harrison Bernhardt, an intern with the Brokerage team, tells us he looks forward to applying everything he learns this summer to his future dream job in commercial real estate. An incoming senior at the University of Georgia, he’s learning a lot from the brokers he’s working with, including how to knock on doors to canvas potential clients.
“I realized that real estate was a better fit for me than finance, my original major in college, because I enjoy working in the field and meeting people face-to-face,” he said.
All three Brokerage interns are gaining valuable experience learning commercial real estate research programs as they help our brokers in their ongoing lease and sales efforts. That includes using CoStar, LandVision and other research tools to summarize market trends, prepare lease comparables and access various details on individual properties and owners.
Bart, Connor and Harrison are also getting a first-hand look at the types of projects Ackerman develops. They recently attended a BBQ event and tour at Rockdale Technology Center, the firm’s newest Class A industrial park. Connor and Harrison were responsible for transporting our brokerage guests across the park, and they assisted the Marketing team in setting up and closing down the event.
Alex Barnes (not pictured), an incoming junior at Georgia College and State University, is one of the interns supporting the HR department this summer.
He recently attended the company’s open enrollment benefits session, where he learned about the different healthcare and benefit options available to employees.
“This was incredibly eye-opening,” Alex said. “I was unaware of all the complexities involved in selecting healthcare coverage and the wide-ranging costs.” He’ll be able to call on this knowledge when he enters the workforce and goes through the process of selecting his own insurance.
It’s great to have these bright-eyed and bushy-tailed interns on board with us this summer. We have every confidence they’ll succeed in their future careers!
If you’re the owner-occupant of commercial real estate, have you considered the potential benefits of a sale-leaseback?
A sale-leaseback is when you sell your real estate asset and then lease it back long-term from the buyer. This can be an effective strategy to unlock the value of your real estate, allowing you to draw on the proceeds of the sale.
Let’s look at some of the key ways you can use a sale-leaseback to your business’s advantage:
Produce cash for your operations
Selling your asset in a sale-leaseback transaction allows you to regain access to capital that was previously tied up in your ownership of the building while still operating uninterrupted in the same location.
Then you can use the cash generated from the sale for a variety of purposes: to grow your business, pursue new opportunities, address operational issues, among others.
Gain access to an alternative financing tool
As an alternative financing option, a sale-leaseback offers a nice perk compared to conventional financing – it provides the seller more cash. In a sale-leaseback, you would typically receive 100% of the property’s value compared to 70 percent to 80 percent in conventional mortgage financing.
Another perk is the ability to avoid the burdensome provisions associated with traditional financing, including balloon payments, call provisions and refinancing.
Improve your balance sheet & boost your borrowing capacity
A sale-leaseback removes the asset from your balance sheet, converting a fixed asset into cash proceeds from the sale. In removing this liability from your balance sheet, your loan-to-value ratio is reduced, improving your credit standing and making it easier to borrow additional funds in the future.
Transfer ownership risks to the buyer
Upon completion of the sale-leaseback, the responsibilities of ownership are transferred to the buyer, including the risks of depreciation and obsolescence. Eliminating these and other real estate ownership obligations allows you to direct your attention and financial resources to what matters most – your business operations.
As an owner-operator, a sale-leaseback is a viable option for increasing your financial flexibility and liquidity. Since sale-leasebacks are complicated transactions, it’s crucial to rely on an experienced commercial real estate professional to guide you through the process.
Interested in learning more about sale-leasebacks? Contact us at 770-913-3900.
In a concerted effort to foster diversity within their organizations, many real estate companies are becoming more proactive in recruiting people of color.
To that end, commercial real estate firms are sourcing talent from a broader group of colleges and universities and providing a variety of career development resources.
While the industry is making strides, diversity levels among senior executives could use some improvement. According to NAIOP, white men comprise 78 percent of senior executives and white women make up the next largest segment (14 percent), while black women and black men each comprise 1 percent of the total.
With more than 20 years of experience in commercial real estate, Fara Wilson, vice president of Marketing and Communications at Ackerman & Co., is familiar with both the challenges and rewards of working as a black woman in the industry. She described her experiences in a Bisnow feature, The Black Experience.
“Being black in CRE presents a new opportunity to learn, grow and make money. It also means having access to a client base that typically has not been marketed to by a black broker or not met someone in CRE marketing who looks like him or her,” Fara said.
She added, “On the not-so-positive side, you can run into small-minded people. However, nothing succeeds like success. If you stay focused on the task at hand and do a great job, clients and peers alike will grow to respect you and focus on your ability to deliver.”
In addition to the efforts of individual companies, real estate organizations are working to attract people of color.
The Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors (ACBR), one of the largest realtor associations in America, has a variety of programs aimed at boosting diversity at all levels of commercial real estate.
“Atlanta has been very progressive in civil rights and race relations but our industry has lagged behind,” said Scotland Wright, former Diversity Committee chairman for ACBR, in a promotional video for the association’s diversity programs.
ACBR’s diversity’s initiatives include a mentorship program that helps mentees enhance their skills and expertise; a partnership program that combines the resources of ACBR with organizations such as CoreNet and NAIOP; and an annual event that presents a guest speaker from a diverse background who shares his or her experiences in the industry.
NAIOP, a commercial real estate network with more than 19,000 members, promotes diversity through initiatives such as the Inclusion in CRE Scholarship, which enters up to 10 women and minorities into a curriculum aimed at advancing their commercial real estate careers. The organization also provides examples of best practices companies have adopted to increase diversity.
The combination of job growth and the surge in GDP during the long-running economic recovery has been a boon to the commercial real estate sector.
In Atlanta and across the country, there has been continued strong demand and absorption for virtually all product types, and capital has been readily available for investment.
But will the good times continue? What next?
That was the focus of Ackerman & Co.’s recently held 12th Annual Investor Conference, attended by some 150 guests, including owners, operators, investors and brokers.
Host Kris Miller and keynote speaker David Haddow weighed in with their perspective on current economic trends and their outlook for the commercial real estate sector. Joining them with in-depth discussions of investment opportunities for specific product types were F. Keene Miller (Brokerage), Leo Wiener (Retail), Brett Buckner (Industrial) and Evan Ziegler (Investments).
“After the last two years of success, growth and prosperity, the numbers would suggest that the future of commercial real estate has never been brighter. Yet each of us feels less certain than we did two years ago. Why? Is that how we should feel?” asked Kris Miller.
There are causes for concern, said David Haddow. Current economic soft spots, he said, include the rising national debt (now at $21.6 trillion, an increase of $10 trillion since 2008), government gridlock, fast-rising home prices and diminishing consumer confidence. Combined with those issues, the length of the current cycle (nearly 10 years) makes an economic correction more likely in the next 24 months, Kris added.
How should investors respond? Here are the three biggest takeaways provided by Kris and his Ackerman & Co. colleagues:
Stay on the field.
Focus on the specific strengths and weaknesses of each deal – rather than macro conditions across property types or markets.
Adopt a bias toward selling.
The annual conference also provided guests an opportunity to learn about Ackerman & Co.’s 2018 business highlights as well as its goals for the coming year.
Last year’s highlights included Ackerman’s $70-million sale of Braselton Logistics Center to Uline Inc.; the $9.75-million acquisition of the four-building Warren Drive industrial portfolio in Atlanta; the completion of the 181-key Crowne Plaza Hotel in North Augusta; and the $15-million disposition of seven industrial buildings at Stone Mountain Industrial Park, to name a few.
Kris and the team thank everyone for attending despite the rare winter-weather advisory in Atlanta!
He added that the ongoing strong demand for product – and lack of overbuilding in sectors such as office during this cycle – puts Atlanta in position to be a leading market for investors in 2018 and beyond.
The company’s annual Investor Conference is an opportunity for Ackerman & Co. to provide perspective on trends in commercial real estate and for guests to network with leading owners, operators, investors and capital sources.
Conference themes are sometimes broad in scope but this year the focus was squarely on the Atlanta market as Kris Miller addressed the question: Atlanta – the Next Gateway Market?
Atlanta lacks the land constraints, barriers to entry or “24/7” attributes of established gateway cities such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston. Yet, Miller added, Atlanta’s diversified economy, success at attracting corporate relocations and growth as an entertainment hub are bringing it closer to the status of a gateway market.
Together with his partner F. Keene Miller (President, Brokerage) and Leo Wiener (President, Retail), Brett Buckner (SVP, Industrial), John Willig (Principal) and Evan Ziegler (SVP, Investment), the speakers offered insights into the investment climate in the office, industrial, retail and medical office sectors.
Some highlights from this year’s conference:
Economic drivers including the 2017 tax plan and the easing of numerous regulations are likely to free up money for capital investment and boost demand for CRE space.
The continued strong performance of the Atlanta industrial sector – which posted 19.9 million square feet of absorption in 2017 and is experiencing historically low vacancy levels – puts Atlanta’s growth potential ahead of the top 4 industrial markets (New York/New Jersey, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas).
Fundamentals weakened slightly in the office sector in 2017, but there are still excellent investment opportunities for the right property in the right location across Atlanta’s office submarkets.
Although the retail sector is out of favor amid store closings, “brick and mortar is not dead” and good retail product is available but at high cap rates.
Strong demographics continue to fuel investment in medical office space, as does the heightened demand for “convenience” medical space located near retail.
Kris and the team enjoyed hosting the conference and look forward to seeing everyone again next year!
The Snapfinger/I-20 East industrial submarket is one of the tightest in Atlanta, with a vacancy rate of only 3.1 percent for all types of industrial product as of Q3 2017 – compared to 6.9 percent for the entire Atlanta market.
In addition to the extremely low vacancy levels – a clear indicator of strong demand – the submarket offers a strategic location for distributors.
These are two key reasons Ackerman & Co. decided to expand its Atlanta industrial portfolio with the acquisition of 801 Blacklawn Road, a 115,540-square-foot distribution facility in the Snapfinger/I-20 East submarket.
801 Blacklawn offers some of the best interstate access in the submarket, with two I-20 interchanges located only ½ and 1 ½ mile from the property.
The convenient location provides distributors connectivity to markets throughout the Southeast and to the fast-growing ports of Savannah and Charleston – located 234 and 292 miles away, respectively. Crucially, the property’s location just east of Atlanta enables distributors to avoid Atlanta’s most congested stretches of interstate to access the ports.
“This was an excellent opportunity to purchase well-located, shallow-bay space in a 44-million-square-foot Atlanta industrial submarket to provide additional high-quality space options for tenants, including distributors seeking last-mile service to consumers,” explained Kris Miller, President of Ackerman.
The shallow-bay design is a feature 801 Blacklawn shares with recent Ackerman acquisitions at Lavista Business Park in the Tucker/Stone Mountain submarket and Westgate Business Park in the I-20 West/Fulton industrial submarket.
Shallow-bay facilities (including 801 Blacklawn) typically offer multiple entries and flexible space options suitable to a wide range of users. Due to increasing demand for shallow-bay product and a lack of new supply, this property type is an attractive investment opportunity.
Beyond his business accomplishments, he was a philanthropist, and a friend and mentor to many.
On his passing, we share the thoughts of just a few of Charlie’s friends and colleagues.
“Charlie was a real estate legend. He was a great mentor, my partner, and my friend. He crammed 20 times more ‘life’ into his life than most of us will.” Kris Miller, President, Ackerman & Co.
“Charlie was a bold and future-focused real estate innovator. He was a wise and courageous entrepreneur, broker, investor and owner. His vision and leadership guided Ackerman & Co. to its highly respected position over many years.” Bob Mathews, President and CEO, Colliers International Atlanta
“A wonderful friend and inspirational mentor. I feel truly blessed to have worked with Charlie for the last 21 years.” Vivian Barnes, CFO and EVP, Ackerman & Co.
“Charlie was a broker’s broker: aggressive, creative and very smart,” Andy Ghertner, Co-Founder of Cushman & Wakefield Atlanta.
“Charlie was a truly inspiring leader. He not only grew Ackerman & Co. into a highly successful commercial real estate firm but later went on to found Ackerman Security Systems, which set the standard in home security. What an extraordinary life he led, and what a great experience it was to be his friend and learn from him over the years.” Keene Miller, President, Ackerman & Co. Brokerage Division
“He was the most competitive person I ever encountered. Whatever it took, he had to be No. 1. He had to win. He had to be out front. And he achieved it in every category.” Sam Massell, Buckhead Coalition President and former Atlanta Mayor
“While I recognized Charlie Ackerman was a fiercely competitive individual, I also thought of him as a gentle, passionate person – exuding a passion for the cultures and arts and history of mankind in all corners of the world. Charlie Ackerman was demanding, competitive, a perfectionist. But he also always was a true gentleman.” John Schaffner, founder of Buckhead View
As the old saying goes, “location, location, location” is all-important in commercial real estate.
Ben Campbell, who has been named Ackerman & Co.’s Broker of the Month for August (based on total transaction value), focuses on land sales in sought-after intown Atlanta districts such as Decatur, Avondale Estate and Old Fourth Ward.
One of the properties he was selected to market back in 2015 definitely had a strong location going for it. The property – containing a 37,750 square foot warehouse building and an additional 3.1 acres of land for sale – was located at 2969 East Ponce de Leon Avenue directly across from the busy DeKalb Farmers Market. That section of road had a high traffic count of 26,000 vehicles per day, a number that was likely to increase significantly with the planned expansion of the market that would triple its size.
Clearly, this was a prime opportunity for re-development.
The property became more challenging to market, however, with proposed modifications to the lane configuration on Ponce that would benefit DeKalb Farmers Market while eliminating direct access to the 2969 Ponce de Leon property.
However, Ben displayed useful traits of successful brokers – tenacity and determination – and closed the sale of the property for $2.2 million two-and-a-half years after he was selected by owner Custom Slip Cover & Upholstery. During that time, he came very close to reaching deals with two buyers who ultimately backed out due to concerns over the property’s access.
In August, his persistence paid off when he closed the property’s sale with a buyer (Oakhurst Realty Partners) who saw the potential of the strategic location inside the I-285 perimeter and plans to revitalize the property for future lease or sale.
The sale of 2969 Ponce de Leon earned Ben the Broker of the Month recognition. Ben said it was a great experience getting to know the two owners of the business and partnering with them to provide a solution that will contribute to their long-term success.
“It was a pleasure to work with the owners of that property, Chean Chea and Miguel Moreno. They’re dedicated to their field of work and the community, and this transaction will enable them to relocate to new space that’s ideal for their business,” Ben said.
In addition to the Ponce de Leon sale, Ben closed another large transaction earlier this year: the sale of a 3.2-acre parcel in the city of Avondale Estates to South City Partners that will be the site of a major mixed-use project.
Ben is currently working on numerous land listings in his core intown markets and others in metro Atlanta. Contact him at 770-913-3931 if you’re interested in any of these opportunities or would like him to market one of your properties for sale.
Ackerman & Co. is one of the top commercial real estate companies in the Southeast with more than 35 million square feet of office, medical, retail and mixed-used space developed, nearly 8 million square feet more under management, an investment portfolio valued at more than $1 billion and a widespread presence that leverages the experience of more than 100 real estate professionals.