Charlotte provides relief now while thinking about the future

Charlotte provides relief now while thinking about the future

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read August  2020 From a census count, to civil unrest, to the health and economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has proved to be a pivotal year for the nation. And though uncertainty has remained constant throughout the year so far, the Queen City’s infrastructure investments, diverse business climate and access to talent continue to draw interest from companies and new residents. As the pandemic continues to change the way Charlotteans live, work and play, however, city leaders are juggling the precarious task of providing relief for residents now, while contemplating the future development and growth expected in the Queen City. 


From workforce development efforts to small business relief, state, municipal and banking leaders are working to mitigate the pandemic’s immediate economic impact. In August, in an effort to continue to help embattled renters and homeowners, the Charlotte City Council approved an additional $8 million of federal stimulus funding to expand the existing Rental and Mortgage Assistance Program (RAMP CLT). Since April, more than 1,500 households have received $1.4 million in mortgage, rent, hotel and utilities relief and upfront housing assistance due to COVID-19, the city reported. Individuals earning 80% or below the average median income who face COVID-19 hardships and cannot make housing payments may apply for rent or mortgage assistance.

Though the pandemic-infused economic contraction has hit the Charlotte metro area, the region continues to be a favorable destination for new residents. The Charlotte metro continued to be a major draw for new residents coming from the East Coast and as far as California, global property investment giant Jones Lang LaSalle reported in August. “New residents have been drawn by a robust job market, lower cost of living and more pleasant climate,” JLL wrote in its “Tracking population migration in Charlotte” snapshot report. “Year over year migration from the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro increased by 450%,” while “in-migration from California has increased by 500% year over year as the California diaspora moves further east,” JLL found. 

Charlotte’s appeal to new residents, business owners and companies will likely drive commercial and residential development demand as the region moves past the pandemic. In an effort to maximize the value of development projects expected to come to the city, Charlotte city leaders are considering implementing impact fees on property developers to cover public services for new developments, including any new infrastructure needed. These fees can also help create public green space, support schools and parks, as well as fund public transportation projects. 

Leading the effort on the impact fees proposal is Taiwo Jaiyeoba, assistant city manager and director of Planning, Design and Development, who is expected to present a proposal to the city manager in the coming months, as reported by the Charlotte Observer. Impact fees are vehemently opposed by developers who say the fees can potentially stifle development projects. Additionally, to move forward with impact fees, the city will have to receive permission from the state legislature, which has traditionally opposed the measure. 

During these uncertain times, sound insights and collaboration between the public and private sectors will be pivotal in ensuring financial recovery for both businesses and residents. To learn more about the future of development in Charlotte, register now for the Invest:Charlotte 2020 Virtual Launch Conference. The conference takes place on Sept. 10 at 11:30 a.m. The virtual conference will feature two robust panels, including “The future of development in the Charlotte region,” moderated by Taiwo Jaiyeoba, assistant city manager and director of Planning, Design and Development, and featuring Zach Pannier, business unit leader, DPR Construction; Marcie Williams, president, RKW Residential; Clay Grubb, CEO, Grubb Properties; and Lawrence Shaw, managing partner, Colliers International.


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Spotlight On: Jenni Bonura, President & CEO, Harry Norman, REALTORS®

Spotlight On: Jenni Bonura, President & CEO, Harry Norman, REALTORS®

By: Felipe Rivas 

2 min read August 2020Atlanta’s solid pre-COVID real estate fundamentals are placing the city on a swift and steady road to recovery. Jenni Bonura, President and CEO of Harry Norman, REALTORS®, shares her opinion on what awaits Atlanta from the perspective of a nine-decade real estate heavyweight.

How did Harry Norman, REALTORS® tackle the transition to the COVID-19 landscape?

In 2020, Harry Norman, REALTORS® celebrates its 90th anniversary. The market in Atlanta has been great for several years and continues to be so, even in 2020. We continue to break records despite the challenging environment. In 2019, we broke  sales records several months back-to-back. We also broke some average sales price records. In July 2020, we exceeded another pending-sales volume record, our highest July in the nine decades of our company. Atlanta is a highly desirable place to be, especially compared to other large cities, for a myriad of reasons. We have launched several new initiatives in the last several months, which make us stand out and are propelling us ahead of our competitors. One is a marketing automation tool that drives speed-to-market. It provides marketing assets on-demand and enables us to promote our homes digitally. In a market where there is low inventory, it has been a game-changer for our agents and our seller-clients as well. We also launched a multi-channel media campaign in  2020, across TV, Print, digital and social media, focusing on our expertise and first-class service. The company also launched an exclusive app that is similar to a dating app in that we match up the needs of buyers and sellers. 

What are the fastest-growing neighborhoods in the area?

We are seeing the second-home market explode. People want a change of scenery. One of the beautiful things about Atlanta is that you can drive an hour or two and you are in the mountains, feeling the beauty of nature and disconnected from the city. We have seen in the Blue Ridge, Blairsville and Lake Rabun areas significant positive adjustments in that sense. It is affecting our metro clients. The areas of Gwinnett and Cobb are definitely booming, population-wise. Suburbia is harder to pinpoint as an actual trend but people are already leaning in the direction of wanting a house in the suburbs with more acreage for space and privacy. With the current low interest rates, there is an increase in buying power for larger properties.

Would you say transit hubs and the BeltLine foster in-town development? 

The BeltLine will always be attractive. Part of it is the beauty of nature available and the convenience of amenities, restaurants, ease of access to work, all at your fingertips. Coupled with the beautiful outdoors, the connectedness of neighborhoods, it adds significant variety and interest. Even if transit hubs with COVID-19 hit the pause button, there will always be a desire for people to want to make it easy to hop on and explore other parts of the city and yet have those amenities right at home. Our urban core is performing well and our suburban periphery is performing solidly as well. That is why Atlanta is overall performing great in the South in general. Based on the stats, as far as pending sales, the South is the only geography in the country that is on the plus side so far. 

What is your take on new construction during this time?

Closings outpaced starts from June to August 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. That speaks volumes because in new homes, the inventory is less than it was last year. That remaining inventory is on its way to disappear fairly quickly. Even if the exact checklist a buyer may have is not fully met with the inventory that exists, a lot of builders are looking to pivot quickly. Some of the trends the virus brought to light are making them adjust their plans to reflect some of those changes. 

What are Harry Norman, REALTORS® priorities toward 2021? 

We are keeping an eye on ongoing trends. We want to be able to pivot quickly. The beauty of our company is that we are very much in tune with buyer needs and seller preferences. It helps us advise our new home builders and developers with highly granular boots-on-the-ground information. It also provides our agents an advantage when it comes to marketing, which obviously benefits our sellers. We are making a point of capitalizing on the virtual offerings we have, while looking for opportunities to help provide inventory and to educate sellers on how to best position their homes. The key to what we are going to see in the next few months is appreciation remaining slow and steady, probably ending at 4 percent for 2020, which will be mirrored in 2021 or at least in the year’s first half. Demand will continue to outpace supply but not necessarily at the same rate. We will move toward a more balanced market. 

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Spotlight On: Jenni Bonura, President & CEO, Harry Norman, REALTORS®

Spotlight On: Dilip Barot, President & CEO, Creative Choice Group

By: Beatrice Silva 

2 min read June 2020—Creative Choice Group is a U.S.-based investment and development company involved in the business of private real estate investment and development. President and CEO Dilip Barot, the company’s founder, spoke with Invest: Palm Beach about the county’s place in the company’s strategy, the impact from a changing demographic and the outlook for the sector.


How have your projects evolved in the last year and how is Palm Beach important for your strategy?

We have focused on strengthening our company, both nationally and internationally. In Palm Beach County in particular, our goal is to create 1,000 jobs in the near future. We want the community at large to benefit from the wellness programs we are providing so we are looking at ways to bring wellness programs to the community beyond what Amrit will be bringing. Palm Beach County’s profile continues to grow and we are part of that ecosystem. Of course, in 2019, construction costs increased and that impacted us. But there is always some impact from construction prices and this needs to be offset by creative thinking and collaboration between business owners and community leaders. 

How are the changing demographics impacting your business and how is the county encouraging more young people and families to settle here?

The people coming to Palm Beach County want to learn more and assimilate into the community. Parents with school-aged children will make a decision based on the choice of schools and the younger generation tends to focus on the live-work-play lifestyle. We try to assist them as much as possible to make the right choices when settling in Palm Beach County.

Palm Beach County has a reputation of being home to a lot of wealthy older people. But we have to be diverse because that is what creates the growth and injects the vitality into the county. We therefore need to create an attractive environment for this generation. One way we can do this is by providing a means to have a social lifestyle, providing entertainment, physical activities and most importantly, affordable housing. At a younger age, earning power is typically lower than for older generations. We should appreciate the services and future the young generation bring. New industries will bring new jobs.

How are the Palm Beach authorities providing the auxiliary infrastructure that is needed for population growth?

The county has a good road system but the interconnectivity, particularly from east to west, can be improved greatly. We may need to implement cycle paths and introduce infrastructure, such as bike stands. Lessons should be learned from other communities that have faced the issue before us so that we do not make the same mistakes. The one-person, one-car model is outdated, and people are now learning through this pandemic that open spaces and a healthier, more active lifestyle are far superior.

More and more people are now realizing the importance of a more balanced life, particularly between materialistic needs and good mental health. I believe people in general are constantly striving for improvement and this goal is really coming to the forefront now. In the last 100 years, materialistic growth has been significant, but the inner journey has not kept up with that momentum. We are now seeing that much more in the younger generation, who do not need a lot of money or possessions but instead value experiences and opportunities. I think that is the correct path. 

How has COVID-19 affected your business and what innovation do you see coming from the crisis?

We were able to keep our construction site operating despite the pandemic by ensuring we were practicing the guidelines of the WHO and CDC. We did allow our office employees to work from home.   We are only now reopening through a structured approach. Within days of the outbreak here, we created a virtual online sales center where customers could interact in real time with our sales professionals and have access to all the marketing collateral, including virtual tours. In doing so, we had to consider minute details such as data protection, but we still were able to do this within weeks. We had our best month on record in April in terms of condo and residential sales. We have now implemented a virtual open house system and any in-person showings now have increased hygiene measures in place. We feel our employees are now more engaged at home and productivity is off the chart. We think going forward we will allow a portion of our workforce to work from home, which also builds an automatic contingency into the business model. We have learned a lot from this experience.

How will space and touchless technology be incorporated into everyday life moving forward?

There are already technologies that exist, although perhaps in a more niche space. In our ongoing development, we already have touchless toilets that we see on a widespread basis, but there are also things such as touchless showers that we can incorporate. We see a greater desire for more space going forward. We are learning as we go and welcome feedback from customers at every step of the way. Early next year, we will complete construction on the residences at Singer Island and the resort side will be open early in 2021.

What does your pipeline look like for the next year and a half?

We have a very promising pipeline. There are four sites that could be great wellness and real estate developments for us. We are also looking to develop some of the technology related to wellness. People are spending more money on wellness and developments like those we provide can offer them the opportunity to live their lives in a development with these features already incorporated.

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Spotlight On: Bob Mathews, CEO, Colliers International Atlanta

Spotlight On: Bob Mathews, CEO, Colliers International Atlanta

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020 — Although the COVID-19 pandemic has the curtailed demand for commercial real estate, it has also accelerated the transition from on-site to online shopping, Colliers International Atlanta CEO Bob Mathews told Focus: Atlanta. Though it is hard to predict the lasting impact of the virus on the marketplace, industrial usage will likely fare better because of the general demand from e-commerce, last-mile delivery and everything associated with the change from the on-premise to the online consumer economy, Mathews said. 




What was the start of 2020 like for the Atlanta operations?

We had a strong first quarter, matching our 2019 performance from the same period. At present, it is difficult to gauge the long-term impact of COVID-19. The indications point to a reasonably significant dip in overall transaction activity, which will impact revenues. The answer lies in the time it takes for the U.S. economy, and in particular the corporate sector, to rebound. That will have a direct impact on our deal flow. We have already had a number of deals scrapped or put on hold as a result of the crisis, but the true net impact on our revenues will become clear further down the road. Demand has not completely disappeared, but it has been severely altered. 


How are landlords and tenants navigating the challenges brought on by COVID-19?

We have found that landlords in the industrial and office sectors have been willing to help some tenants with their leases and rent payments. If the tenants have a strong payment history, landlords can often defer rent if necessary, particularly in the case of small and medium-sized businesses that are under significant stress in the current environment. Available solutions include deferrals and temporary concessions in exchange for extended rental terms. 


Landlords in the retail space have also proven to be willing to negotiate with tenants suffering from this COVID-19 interruption; however, they have to see a long-term business plan and a path back to sustainability. Restaurants have suffered the most of all retail tenants. It will be a long way back to business for many of the smaller, less-capitalized operators. 


Which sectors are performing well during the current economic cycle?

It is no secret that Amazon has been profiting from this situation and the company has been considering expanding its operations. So some of the larger corporates are driving demand. We anticipate that most industrial usage will fare better, because of the general demand from e-commerce, last-mile delivery and everything associated with the change from the on-premise to the online consumer economy. This change has been happening for the past 15 years but with COVID-19, it has accelerated as consumers of all ages have become used to online spending. Small and medium-sized businesses will have to adapt and figure out their role in this new marketplace.


What is your outlook for the real estate market in the next 12-18 months?

Growth cycles in the real estate sector tend to last for about 10 years. Going into 2020, we have had about 10 years of strong growth, following the 2008 financial crash and its aftermath. So we were expecting a slowdown. COVID-19, however, is a black swan event that has caused a nosedive far sharper than we had foreseen. It’s an extremely deep hole and it will take time to climb our way out. Aviation, tourism and hospitality are all huge contributors to the economy, and until they recover, the economy will continue to suffer. I think it will take a long time. 


We have had to reconsider our strategic goals. Instead of our usual three- to four-year plan, we are starting on a short-term one-year plan to take us through to June 2021, because it is so hard to know what is around the corner. Fortunately, the banks have strengthened significantly since 2008, and the government also has capital available to ease the impact of this crisis. For investments, there remains strong sources of U.S. and overseas capital for CRE, so that gives me hope that we may recover faster than expected. Our past shows that the United States always finds opportunity and that will open the door for more innovation. As a firm, we have to ensure that we are well-positioned to grasp those opportunities. 


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Spotlight On: Mary Beth Tarter, Principal, Frankel, Loughran, Starr & Vallone

Spotlight On: Mary Beth Tarter, Principal, Frankel, Loughran, Starr & Vallone

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020 Many of the nation’s largest capital operators are increasingly moving headquarters and operations to South Florida to take advantage of the business and tax advantages available in the Sunshine State. As a result, the region is starting to transform its reputation as a playground to be recognized as an environment for serious business, Mary Beth Tarter, the regional head of tax advisory and accounting services firm Frankel, Loughran, Starr & Vallone, told Invest: Palm Beach.


What main services does the firm provide in the Florida market?

We are a tax advisory and accounting firm. Our clients are primarily in the financial services industry, such as hedge funds, venture capital, private equity and distressed debt. We also do a lot of commercial real estate. 


I work on the individual side of the practice, so I work with fund principals and fund managers, helping with compliance and advisory. We look at their estate planning, trust, gifts, private foundations, all those tools that the high-net-worth group uses.


We’ve been here for three years, and we expect to continue growing, to continue expanding our staff within the next six to eight months.


What are the particular opportunities that South Florida offers for the kind of clients your firm specializes in?


Our firm has always had connectivity to South Florida, because the ultra-high-net-worth community will have vacation homes here. But it really started in 2017, with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was the most sweeping tax law change we’ve had since 1986. Hedge funds and private equity funds could stand to lose millions because of the deductions that were not allowed at the individual level, even at the partnership level. It got to the point where some of them looked at it very analytically, and recognized that moving to Florida could save them $1 million a year because of the tax situation, and so they moved.


Over the course of 2018 and 2019, I think our firm handled more residency planning for our clients than we did in the previous 24 years. Many of them did it from an analytical standpoint, while for others, it was just the impetus that they needed: they decided that now was the time.


The wonderful part of already having connectivity is that it was seamless for our clients. Now we are here, boots on the ground, and that’s very important for us. They expect a certain level of service and we did not want any disruption to that.


People are also starting to recognize that Florida is not just a playground. This is a very serious business area as well. The median age of people moving down here is younger, and that speaks tremendously to the local commerce, the lifestyles that people want for their families, for their businesses. There are so many companies relocating or expanding down here, and of course, taking advantage of the fact that it is, in a lot of cases, tax driven.


Has that recognition created a new environment for investors in Florida?


It has. New York is rebalancing its budget because Carl Icahn is moving to Miami. New Jersey is rebalancing its budget because David Tepper left. They are coming to Miami to be part of the hedge fund community there, which is amazing.


We’ve actually just created another division, with a gentleman who has been in the hedge fund community for the last 25 years. He is Latin by birth and is looking to expand and help those startup funds, even those that are coming from Latin America as well. A big part of our clientele also has international connectivity.


How do you see the reactivation of the commercial real estate industry after COVID-19 is left in the rear-view mirror?


I think the real estate industry is going to be a little stalled until people can get outside again. Then they are going to start taking advantage of the opportunities they have been denied over the last couple of months. I truly believe that for anybody who has the available cash, for the most part, our clients among them, we will see an increase of activity in both commercial and residential real estate because you weren’t allowed to do it. 


All companies, not just those in commercial real estate, need to be really thoughtful about what they do in the future, especially those people who have taken the stimulus loans, such as the PPP loans. You have certain requirements that you have to certify in order to go through the application process, but I also believe there’s going to be heavy oversight to limit the potential of fraud.


This has forced a lot of people to pivot their business model, and I think that some of the things that people have come up with are amazing, and a true credit to the ingenuity of the entrepreneur. I see nothing but positives after this is done. I really don’t see any negatives.


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South Florida real estate leaders analyze opportunities in current economic cycle

South Florida real estate leaders analyze opportunities in current economic cycle

By: Felipe Rivas

Virtually every sector of the economy has been pinched, crushed, or depleted by the initial impact of conducting business during the coronavirus landscape. Months into the “new normal,” industries and businesses have had to adapt operations to cope with COVID-19 related challenges. While many businesses remain embattled by the current economic cycle, innovation and opportunity are beginning to rise from the initial shocks of the novel coronavirus. 


In South Florida, a region hit particularly hard by coronavirus, real estate professionals are closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19 to the market while analyzing current and future opportunities. “Simply put, the South Florida industrial real estate market is healthy, even in the midst of a global pandemic,” Miami Cushman & Wakefield Managing Partner Gian Rodriguez told Invest: Miami. When you factor in the scarcity of developable industrially-zoned land, a growing population, single-digit vacancy rates, steady air and sea cargo volumes from our ports, as well as positive lease absorption of industrial product, it’s no wonder the major institutional owners and occupiers have a large stake in our market,” he said. These factors coupled with demand for e-commerce provide opportunities for distribution, logistics and warehousing subsectors in Miami-Dade County. “With the onset of COVID-19, we’ve only seen an increase in demand for well-located distribution space, further spurred-on by stay-at-home mandates which have only bolstered online orders.  Just take a look around, there are UPS, FedEx, DHL and Amazon trucks rolling down our streets almost on an hourly basis, and each one of those come from a warehouse within our market,” Rodriguez said. 

New construction will likely experience a growth in demand as population growth continues in South Florida and residents settle into the suburbs and other communities away from the downtown areas. “While we are only in the early innings of the COVID-19 impact on real estate, we are following several trends closely. New construction may have an advantage over existing, as residents will likely equate “new” with “clean and safe,” Lesley Deutch, principal with John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Palm Beach, told Invest: Palm Beach. “We are also anticipating a trend we call ‘the Great American Move.’  For safety reasons, financial prospects, life change improvements, personal comfort, or employment, we expect a surge in household and business relocations that will provide new strategic opportunities for the real estate market,” she said. This trend will likely create opportunities for real estate developers, investors and home builders. “New construction can incorporate technology such as air purification and touchless lighting which will appeal to future residents. A stronger focus on health and wellness will translate into new housing product with better home offices or private workspaces in apartments, flexibility for multigenerational living, private outdoor space, and a preference for functionality over design appeal in the home,” she said.   



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Spotlight On: Angelo Bianco, Managing Partner; Crocker Partners

Spotlight On: Angelo Bianco, Managing Partner; Crocker Partners

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020Shrinking office space has led companies to focus more on the rehabilitation and renovation of Palm Beach’s office space. Angelo Bianco, managing partner of Crocker Partners, walks Invest: through the main trends in the office niche, how it imbues sustainability and resilience into its projects and why Boca Raton is the buoyant business center it is today.



What is your take on the evolution of the office sector in Palm Beach?

Palm Beach County’s office market has not changed as much as others. Office users by and large have not changed. Even considering new trends such as co-working spaces, it makes up a small fraction of our portfolio. We have observed tenants in Palm Beach County making an effort to reduce their square footage per employee, parallel with technological advances. The need for law firms to have file storage, for instance, has declined dramatically. We still see the desire for private offices and a significant portion of traditional office use. Some companies have switched to open offices, but the pendulum is swinging back even faster now due to the pandemic. The trend to create more private offices and more square feet per employee will offset the impact from the other trend we expect following the coronavirus crises: more telecommuting. Although technology has changed the need for space, the human condition has not changed. People still appreciate privacy and separation from their co-workers.  

What primary factors explain these preferences?

Our Palm Beach portfolio consists of 3 million square feet of office space. Most of our tenants have renovated their space over the past 10 years. Even though firms have grown since the 2008 crisis, their footprint has not gotten larger than it used to be because they use the same office space much more efficiently. Shortly before the coronavirus crisis, we reached the point where employment gains fueled by the longest economic expansion in our history backfilled the space lost during that last downturn.

We are on the cusp of a new disruption with the COVID-19 pandemic. The good news for office landlords is that tenants have already reduced their space needs per employee significantly and during this past economic expansion have not taken additional space for growth. Although some office tenants will be significantly impacted by the pandemic, office tenants and their landlords should be in a good position to weather this storm.

How do you view the residential and industrial sectors?

During the first 10 years of our company’s existence, we developed and invested in many property types: hotels, multifamily, retail, office and industrial. Over the years, we specialized in office buildings primarily and although our business has done quite well as a result, the over concentration in one product type has prevented us from participating in the significant growth experienced in multifamily and industrial property over the last 10 years, particularly in Palm Beach. Despite the recent impact on the multifamily market, we believe that this sector will continue to benefit from the constant inflow of people moving into the area who require housing. This is the same reason that we are bullish on industrial. The Southeast region of the United States is an area that continues to see fast-paced growth in employment and population so investing in front of that is critical. 

What is your assessment of the up-and-coming Boca Raton market?

Boca Raton is by far the biggest employment base in the county. It dwarfs any other market. If you took all the office space in West Palm Beach and doubled it, you would still fall short of where Boca Raton is positioned. It has been a business hub for decades and will continue to be an attractive place for companies to headquarter. The quality of life is phenomenal, plus it has an unparalleled access in Palm Beach County to an incredibly well-educated, well-informed workforce. This is part of the reason we have been headquartered there for 35 years.

What is Crocker Partners’ outlook for 2020?

2020 is going to be a muted year. Any noncritical, ongoing investment project is likely to be delayed until 2021. Everything has stopped dead in its tracks due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Regardless of when businesses restart, it takes time to remobilize, meaning projects will not realistically recommence any sooner than 4Q20. The delay will be made worse by the fact that everyone will want to restart their projects at the same time. By Q121, we expect to be back to business as usual. We expect to spend much of the remainder of 2020 focusing on ensuring a safe workplace environment for our tenants. In April, we formed a Remobilization Task Force headed by our director of construction and development and consisting of senior regional managers in consultation with our vendors and contractors to review and implement governmental and industry guidelines and evaluate best practices and potential capital improvements to facilitate a healthy work environment. We are also in the process of hiring a full-time director of environmental health who will absorb the responsibilities of the Remobilization Task Force on a permanent basis and research and implement physical changes and protocols with the hope of making our buildings the paragon of environmentally health and safety in the industry.

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Spotlight On: Tim Perry, Managing Partner, North American Properties

Spotlight On: Tim Perry, Managing Partner, North American Properties

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020—The new real estate landscape will belong to those companies who find value through innovation, differentiation and that are ready and able to provide safe environments for their guests. Tim Perry, managing partner of North American Properties, provides the details of how the company is tackling development, leading the community out of isolation, and where it sees opportunity for future investment.


How is your “Smart Development” concept influencing projects across Atlanta’s real estate landscape?

North American Properties began to retool our approach to property operations during our reprogramming of Atlantic Station, a 138-acre mixed-use development in Atlanta that was once on the “death watch” list of many real estate pros. We deployed a hospitality-focused approach, implemented a strategic remerchandising plan and created a heavily activated environment for guests to enjoy. Through trial and error, we curated a robust and mixed-use experience that resonated with the community and turned around the property. We even trademarked the term ExperienceMaker™ to refer to the concierge and operations team that delivered this intrinsic sense of place and belonging to guests – we became stewards of the community’s asset. We were able to deploy this same formula at Avalon in a nationally recognized way and found that the street level activation was only part of it – the ancillary developments were a large contribution to the overall success of a mixed-use destination. Whether working in an office, living in a residential unit, or staying in the hotel, each component contributed to the greater effect, and rent reflected 40%-plus above market. 

We are now deploying this same concept at Colony Square in Midtown Atlanta, and Newport on the Levee in Newport, Kentucky. Colony Square will feature the first dense infill theater in the market along with a nationally renowned operator launching a Food Hall. In Newport, amid the leasing angst created by COVID-19, we signed eight leases while on quarantine and opened the Bridgeview Box Park, a colorful, open-air box park featuring local restaurants and retailers, on the Ohio River at the beginning of the summer. Elements like these are not just for our guests, but drive the desire to live near and work near the amenity-rich “Smart Development.”


How is your company tackling ground-up developments?

Residential fundamentals are strong, both in single family with low rates and with multifamily as the trend continues to slowly move toward rent vs own. We will see how the long-term effects of density affect in-town locations, but we are very optimistic on close suburbs where the cost can be reduced. The COVID-19 effect also has turned some landlords of office/retail properties into land sellers of portions of their site for residential, due to lease encumbrances that are expiring or businesses not opening following the pandemic. Commercially, we are seeking existing assets that are mixed-use, or can be turned into a mixed-use development. For example, a surface-parked suburban office project may present an opportunity to add neighborhood amenity retail, residential, hospitality, and at a lower basis than ground-up development of the entire property. It is the community that has to accept the project, so we are being selective. 


What is your assessment of the CARES Act?

Small businesses lead the country out of tough economic times – they are nimble, creative, and entrepreneurial at heart. The initial PPP program was really beneficial to small businesses, and was a very creative way of using businesses to essentially put unemployment checks into people’s hands until the program changed and midsized businesses no longer were able to gain that access and employees found themselves in a long queue for unemployment. Having said that,  the SBA was trying to find a few solutions for millions of business problems and not all fit, so I applaud the states for letting small businesses reopen to find millions of solutions for the millions of problems. Every industry will be impacted with unemployment over 20% but capital injections into small business will lead us out again.  


How is your company tackling the COVID-19 outbreak?

Safety is our first concern, and several weeks before any municipal restrictions were announced, we formed a task force called “Better Together” in order to focus on each property, the unique challenges with each, and our own office staff for a safe re-entry into an open economy. While sanitization and masks were the easy conclusions, our team also researched and invested in virus-killing UV lights, security enforcement of social distancing, forced flow for pedestrian traffic, and an enhanced code of conduct such that every guest feels welcome.   


What are North American Properties’ expectations in Atlanta toward 2021?

Innovate and differentiate. There are great assets with unrealized potential that may or may not trade at a discount the market wants but have ample return to invest at values that are still accretive to opportunistic investors. The capital stockpile in the market will be rewarded by smart buys sooner rather than cheap buys later.


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Spotlight On: Bonneau Ansley, CEO, Ansley Atlanta Real Estate

Spotlight On: Bonneau Ansley, CEO, Ansley Atlanta Real Estate

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read May 2020—Established in 2015, Ansley Atlanta Real Estate is now one of the top-performing residential real estate firms in metro Atlanta. The firm has plans to expand its presence throughout Atlanta and the Southeast market. In an interview with Focus: Atlanta, CEO Bonneau Ansley talked to Invest: about COVID-19, the challenges in the residential market and the impact from technology on the sector.


Q: How has your recent partnership with Chicago-based @properties progressed?

A: We partnered with @properties to enable our continued growth, and it allowed us to develop the top technology in real estate. We are jointly developing a technology suite called Pl@tform, which is a system that allows our agents a competitive advantage over competitors. Together, we are the 10th-largest residential real estate firm in the country, according to Real Trends. We still plan to focus on the Atlanta market and expand the company across the South. We are lucky in that we have managed to recruit a great, resourceful and determined team. We know our limitations. If we are not an expert in a particular aspect, we are very happy to outsource that to someone who is.

Q: In late 2019 and early 2020, what were the main trends you saw in the Atlanta market?

A: Pre-coronavirus, there was a very strong high-end market in the range of $3 million to $10 million. New homes over $2 million were selling very well, which is unprecedented. It has been very interesting to see how the ibuyers, such as Zillow, are disrupting the real estate market. While they did not impact us at such a high price point, they have now almost disappeared after the COVID-19 crisis. There is something to be said about a real estate agent, especially for an investment such as a house. 

Q: What has been the impact of the change in technology from the Pl@tform system?

A: We have a Client Relationship Management (CRM) system that is proprietary, so agents can keep track of follow-ups, be reminded when they should send newsletters out to different contacts and they can produce quick marketing updates. They have a deal management system where they can keep track of amendments under one system. This streamlines the administrative side and our agents can spend more time doing what they do best.

Q: How have mortgage rates impacted demand for luxury real estate?

A: The environment for mortgage rates is fantastic right now. Interest rates are low, so there is more buying power, and this produces a really great rush for buying property. The way we are buying property has certainly changed with the coronavirus. We are doing things differently, communicating a lot more through virtual methods and we are beefing up our online presence and social media. As we try to normalize this change, there has been an understandable lag in our performance, but the industry will adapt, and we will have a lot of pent-up demand. 

Q: What are some of the challenges you are keeping your eye on when it comes to the residential market?

A: From a consumer standpoint, COVID-19 has certainly been a challenge. There are two demographics: people with needs and people with wants. For those with needs, it is a bit more of a challenge to get them to go and look at properties, but we are getting there. Those with wants are on the sidelines right now, prioritizing other issues, but it won’t be long before we get them back. It may be too early to tell the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our industry and on our economy. Having said that, I think it will become more acceptable to have a virtual viewing, which will streamline the market. I think in the end the challenges we have come up against because of the pandemic will be beneficial for us in the long run.

Q: What exciting new projects are you focusing on in the greater Atlanta area?

A: We are seeing people moving back to Buckhead because it is so walkable and well-connected. We are part of a 23-story new build right in the middle of Buckhead, which broke ground about a month ago and we are already over 30% sold. The average property value is over $2 million. People want this integrated environment. We are not the developer, but we are acting as the sales and marketing arm. The live, work and play lifestyle has a lot of value right now. From this development, it is possible to walk to the grocery store, to Starbucks, to work, and this type of convenience has become an essential part of life for many.

Q: What is your outlook for the market in the next 12 months?

A: The fundamentals are still fantastic in Atlanta. We have a steady influx of people and it is still relatively cheap to live in Atlanta compared with other sophisticated cities across the United States and in the Southeast. We are a great hub for technology, construction and manufacturing and I think that will continue to grow. From my perspective, Atlanta cannot be stopped.

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