By: Felipe Rivas
2 min read November 2020 — Atlanta is consistently known as a transportation hub in the Southeast. The COVID-19 pandemic did much to bolster demand for industrial space in the market by rapidly accelerating consumer behaviors that were already changing before the pandemic. In an interview with Focus: Atlanta, Bruce Ford, President – East Region, Transwestern speaks of navigating the challenges and opportunities created by the pandemic and which sectors saw the most demand during this cycle.
What are some emerging hotbeds for real estate development and economic activity in Atlanta?
Industrial is the hottest area in the market today. We continue to see demand throughout metro Atlanta for everything from large warehouse redistribution to last-mile delivery. If investors can find a site and get zoning, they’re moving forward. Vacant retail offers additional industrial opportunities for sites that can be repurposed for last-mile delivery. I think there will be some standalone locations that offer the possibility of being converted.
From an office standpoint, people are trying to figure out if trends are long-term or just a short-term reaction. I think it differs by market. For example, more dense markets like New York and Chicago that are reliant on public transportation have different issues than metro areas like Atlanta. Atlanta’s lack of reliance on public transportation is probably to its advantage at the moment. I’m not sure that there is going to be a lot of hub and spoke kind of movement here, but Atlanta appeals to firms in densified cities like Chicago, New York and others that may use that model to relocate certain components of their business and take advantage of cost savings and our extraordinary talent pool.
How is Transwestern using data and analysis to advise its clients?
Our tenant advisory and workplace strategy group is really focused on local market transactions and working with those users on how to best solve their real estate needs. We also have a very unique practice group called Transaction Sciences. It focuses on the intersection of culture, function and economics to solve problems in unique ways and to seek outcomes that are well outside the norm. Its goal is to really understand that while real estate is a very important part of the success of your business, so is the human side of it. We try to uncover what aspects of real estate can help companies retain or enhance their culture and attract talented employees, while still satisfying the CFO by achieving the highest level of economic success. The Transaction Sciences team goes through a deliberate process with its clients to assemble all of that information. It runs financial models, real estate solution models and workplace models to obtain the highest and best outcome. It’s a detailed process and it’s remarkable the amount of solutions that have come out of that for clients.
Which services are seeing the most demand?
There are two particular areas that I would highlight. The first is our healthcare area. Particularly in the last few months, there has been an extraordinary amount of change in the healthcare industry. On the one hand, I think people are under the impression that the healthcare industry avoided any setbacks. Now healthcare is returning to its equilibrium. Our guys have done a great job at addressing those issues with their clients and helping them to navigate how they operate successfully or how they can work with their landlord to maybe recast their lease. In fact, we just closed a $29.8-million sale at Brookhaven Medical Center, which is a pretty big achievement during this period of time when pricing is such a mystery to so many people.
The second area I would highlight is our agency leasing and property management practice. Our year-to-date growth in that area is 4.7 million square feet. That is a 25% growth rate just between January and July of this year. We attribute our success to our talent. We doubled the size of our team in January of this year. We brought on three very successful producers who wanted to become part of the Transwestern family. I wanted to create the only fully integrated agency leasing team in metro Atlanta. Our team is a unified group that is driven by collaborative success. I think the enjoyment of having that diversity of team members that they can interact with to help drive the success of their buildings is resonating with clients.
What are your priorities heading into 2021?
Transwestern’s top priorities are to focus on areas that we think are going to continue to grow. We think healthcare has a great trajectory and we love the practice we are building there. We touched on industrial and the continued importance of that in the metro Atlanta area as a significant distribution area that has great access around a 750-mile radius. The other area is office space. One of the great things about Atlanta is the diversity of its economy. While Houston may be one of the fasting-growing economies in the country, it is heavily reliant on the energy industry. Atlanta is a leader in areas like fintech, cybersecurity, startups and software development. I think being able to continue to invest in our service platform around advisory and agency leasing services is going to continue to be an important part of our growth. What underpins all of that is the recruitment, development and retention of great people.
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