Introducing: Sweetwater Design District

By Wes Vaughan

Cool, loft-style office space in Atlanta is in high demand these days, particularly for the “creative-type” firms like technology companies. As the demand has risen over the past five years, this type of space has become hard to find for some tenants.

The West Midtown area of Atlanta has flourished in this niche market for a number of years now, with properties such as White Provisions, King Plow Arts Center, Brickworks and Lumberyards attracting many a hip tenant. The West Midtown vacancies are few and far between these days and tenants have been forced to look elsewhere in Atlanta, particularly on the East side of the city – Southern Dairies, Float Away, Stove Works, Studioplex, none of which are particularly hurting for occupancy either. Jamestown has been so successful with their White Provisions development that they bought the old City Hall East property, all 2 million square feet of it, which they are currently renovating and plan to deliver as Ponce City Market in early 2014.

Parkside Partners, a local Atlanta commercial real estate development firm led by Kyle Jenks and Gary Matthews, has focused on creating this type of environment in their properties around the city as well – Inman Alley (home of Rathbun Steak…yum), 5256 Peachtree in Chamblee, Glassworks, to name a few. Parkside’s latest venture is 225 Ottley Drive, about a nine iron from the newly renovated Sweetwater Brewery in what used to be known as the Armour Industrial area. On a side note, if you have never been to a happy hour or tour of Sweetwater, you need to check it off the bucket list; it’s quite the scenic experience…sometimes just to get in the door. Back to business, Parkside just purchased a 53K square foot warehouse facility, which they plan to redevelop into 42K square feet of loft office. They also have an adjacent pad site that can accommodate a 16K SF user right next to it. Parkside is banking on this area, newly dubbed the Sweetwater Design District, to be a success and why shouldn’t they? The property is right on the Beltline Overlay District, neighboring businesses include Mason Murer Fine Art, Pineapple House, Planters, Bottega Stone and, of course, the makers of those delicious craft beers at Sweetwater. When 500 thirsty people line up on Ottley Drive every Wednesday through Friday for tours and happy hour, you know something sweet is in the air…pardon the pun.

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Atlanta Capital Markets – A New Season

By Wes Vaughan

In 2006, NFL running back LaDainian Tomlinson, then with the San Diego Chargers, was undoubtedly the best player in the game. LT had an unbelievable MVP season in 2006, rushing for 1,818 yards, scoring 31 touchdowns and setting numerous other records along the way, while helping his team to a franchise-best 14-2 record. It was the peak of Tomlinson’s career. Similarly, the Capital Markets sector of the Atlanta commercial real estate world had an MVP-like season in 2006 as well, with equally unheard-of numbers.  Deals were being made left and right and the deals were doozies. The starry skies of 2006 are a distant sweet memory for the Atlanta Capital Markets sector (for Tomlinson as well), and although we may not see the likes of that activity level for quite some time, if ever again, the next two years should prove to produce the most activity Atlanta has seen since those glory days.

In the Spring of 2011, Atlanta finally started to see some capital market transactions again, and if you’ve been reading the papers recently, many of the office buildings in the core submarkets of Atlanta are trading hands again (Promenade II in Midtown, 201 17th Street in Atlantic Station, Ten Peachtree Place just this week) and many more have a For Sale sign on them today (in Buckhead alone: Tower Place 200, Prominence and Two Alliance Center). Granted this activity is not necessarily an entirely positive change for our industry, as many of these trades are due to poor investments, loan maturities, or the seller’s desperate need for liquidity, which shows in the drastically reduced sales price. And there is concern over more distressed assets coming back on the market at distressed prices, which will reset the bar even lower (see Resurgens Plaza foreclosure in Buckhead at the end of 2011). However, the increase in activity is generally a good thing and we should see plenty more of it for a couple years, including some positive momentum. For example, the 96% leased Prominence is reportedly close to selling to Crocker Partners out of Florida, which is expected to give onlooking investors a new market standard on the high end. The market during the next few years holds many loan maturities due to the huge amount of sales activity in 2006-2007, combined with the multiple loan restructures in 2009-2010 and the fact that roughly 70% of the CMBS market will expire in 2015-2017 from deals done in the heyday of 2006-2007. Again, Atlanta will have various deals to be done.

Atlanta is not a “Gateway Market” (see Tier 1 cities like NYC, LA, Bay Area), nor will it ever be. However, the fundamentals of the Atlanta market are improving, and there is no new construction on the horizon…yet. There is a lot of foreign capital looking at Atlanta, particularly Isreali companies, and there are capital sources from the Northeast U.S. that are getting priced out of the Gateway cities so they continue to take a good, long look at Atlanta opportunities as well. There are value-plays in our city and hopefully the gradual recovery of the global economy and the creation of new jobs will continue to push the Capital Markets sector of Atlanta back up the hill along with it.

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…

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Where Did All the Subleases Go?

By Wes Vaughan

(posted on Cresa Atlanta’s Blog 5/16/12: http://www.cresa.com/atlanta/blog/2012/05/where-did-all-the-subleases-go/)

It seems that not too long ago, sublease space was everywhere in Atlanta, in various shapes, sizes and locations. Sublease space was (and still is) a worthy option for tenants on the hunt for office space, especially newer businesses, smaller businesses and companies looking for flexible options and reduced rental rates. During the worst times of the economic downturn in 2008-2009, tenants could find a wide number of viable sublease candidates in many of the Class A buildings of Atlanta. Today? Not so much.

By the numbers* (subleases in Class “A” buildings only):

  • – In 2008, Buckhead had over 468,000 square feet (SF) of sublease space on the market; by the end of 2011, there was only 180,000 SF
  • – Midtown had almost 600,000 SF of sublease space in mid-2009; today – around 316,000 SF
  • – Central Perimeter had a whopping 982,000 SF in mid-2008; down to only 376,000 SF in 2012
  • – Cumberland-Galleria: 917,000 SF at start of 2009; now almost 30 percent decline at only 310,000 SF in 2012
  • – North Fulton: 936,000 SF in mid-2010;  but less than 387,000 SF at the end of 2011

*source: CoStar

Keep in mind that the numbers above have some extra padding because they also include “sublease space” being marketed by executive suite companies such as Regus. Let’s pretend that you are a company looking for sublease space between 1,000 to 5,000 SF with more than one year of term left. As of today, you would only find one space in Buckhead, two spaces in Midtown and two spaces in Central Perimeter. If you were to stretch your square footage to the range of 5,000 SF to 10,000 SF, you wouldn’t fare much better in Buckhead or Midtown; only eight spaces are currently available. The available subleases for larger tenants are a bit more plentiful, up to 46 between the five submarkets mentioned above.

So why is this? Did the sublease supply dry up due to the heavy demand … or is this yet another sign our market is improving? Perhaps both. As we have seen in Atlanta the past few years, many tenants in less desirable buildings or suburban markets were lured away by the “unbelievable” deals being offered from the in-town Class “A” properties. Subleases offer much of the same “flight to quality” appeal for many tenants. Tenants who were lucky enough to time the market correctly quickly pounced on this space and found themselves in some fancy offices in some of the nicest digs in Atlanta…at a heavily discounted rate from what the landlord was offering.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right? Many businesses needed to dump their excess office space in order to cut costs, and there were other companies that were happy to take it off their hands. Of course, some of the sublease glut we saw three to four years ago was taken off the market for various reasons; some because they simply could not sublease the space (yes, there are some doggish subleases not worth considering) but others because their business started improving over time and they needed to reoccupy the space, which at the end of the day is good for everyone!

Tenants are finally starting to grow again (hallelujah!) and the market is pulling towards a recovery. Tenants looking for deals, subleases included, need to get active now before landlords take back the reins.

As an expert in commercial real estate, Cresa Atlanta specializes in representing the tenant’s best interests and reducing overall occupancy costs. Our professional “menu” includes:

  • – Marketing your excess space for sublease (as noted, there is a supply shortage)
  • – Renewing and/or restructuring your lease early (one or more years prior to renewal)
  • – Finding the right space for your company – directly with a landlord or through an economical sublease (if there are any left!)

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Welcome to Atlanta…We’re Glad You’re Here!

By Wes Vaughan

Where is your company headquartered? How is that working out for you? Are the leaders of your current city and/or state showing you the love? Are they providing you with enough avenues, incentives, amenities and entertainment for your success?

If you answered “no” to many (too many) of these questions, I know a city that you should talk to

Recently, Georgia has had an influx of new “big name” businesses move their U.S. Headquarters to the state: Caterpillar, NCR, Porsche, Kia Motors, Newell Rubbermaid. We already host 15 of the Fortune 500 companies, including the likes of Home Depot, UPS, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines. Forbes has ranked Georgia amongst the top 10 best states for business and careers twice in the past three years (we were #11 in 2011). Atlanta has also been ranked amongst the top 35 best cities for business and careers the past three years. Why you ask? Our leaders, including the Metro Atlanta Chamber and Georgia Department of Economic Development, have been and are continuing to develop innovative ways to attract (and keep!) businesses to the state, and our city and state are reaping the rewards of new jobs. Georgia’s state deal closing fund has over $125 million available for major economic development projects, one of the largest funds of this kind in the nation. We are looking for deals, people! Thinking about making a change? I know a city that you should talk to

Selling points:

  • Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (world’s busiest airport)
  • Cost of living (well below the national norm)
  • Affordable housing (trust me, I used to live in California…)
  • Nearby universities / talent pool (Emory, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Morehouse, Clark University…)
  • Mild climate (we actually have seasons…fall being my personal fave)
  • Beautiful landscapes and topography
  • A bustling city center with various cultural outlets
  • Professional sports teams (the Falcons, the Hawks and the Braves all made the postseason this past year…oh wait, nope, the Braves blew it on the last day of the season…never mind)
  • GREAT restaurants
  • The Hollywood of the South
  • And last but certainly not least, we have an intangible that many other large metropolitan cities of our kind do not have: Southern Hospitality. Those of us raised in the South were (hopefully) taught to say “Please. Thank you. Yes sir. No ma’am.” We hold doors for ladies and elders. And yes, contradicting the recent push in social media, mine included, we still believe that it’s acceptable to actually TALK to other people…on the elevator, in the street, to your neighbors (well, some of them). It’s also known as friendliness. May not be a big deal to many, but I certainly appreciate it. Am I getting old?

We’re working on our water. We’re working on our transportation. Our urban sprawl. But we’re a city on the rise to greatness and it’s exciting to be here; I hope I can play some part in the future of our continued success story. Come give us a try. I know a guy in commercial real estate that would be happy to show you and your company around…

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The Future’s So Bright…

By Wes Vaughan

Over 360 commercial real estate experts gathered in Miami late last week for the annual Cresa national conference. Amongst many exciting announcements, none was bigger than the news of our new CEO, Jim Leslie. Jim will be succeeding Bill Goade, who has served our company extraordinarily well since Cresa was founded in 1993. Bill is stepping down at the peak of his CEO run, as Cresa just completed its two best revenue years in our 20 year history. Kudos, Bill. 

Leslie already knows Cresa well. He has served as an Advisor to the Cresa Board of Directors since 2002 and was one of the founders of Cresa’s Capital Markets Group, so we leave Cresa in his more than capable hands. Prior to joining Cresa, Jim was President of Staubach, another commercial real estate firm that specialized in exclusively representing tenants. Staubach was purchased by CRE giant Jones Lang LaSalle in 2008 and due to this, Cresa stepped in as the nation’s largest pure tenant advisory firm. Leslie was able to grow Staubach in excess of 35 percent per year during his tenure; needless to say, he is familiar with playing in this sandbox. Game on.

Now I’m aware that these annual company conferences are all about boosting morale and giving people the warm and fuzzies, but of the fifteen Cresa Atlanta attendees (and I’m sure many others), we were all in agreement that throughout the entirety of the conference, the atmosphere contained a pleasant buzz about our company and its bright future. It was announced that our firm’s goal is to double our sales volume within the next five years; quite a pursuit but you could sense by the mood in the room that this was most certainly achievable. And with Leslie as the new fearless leader of many leaders, we all feel compelled and excited to help him achieve Cresa’s goal.

One of our breakout sessions was focused on a panel discussion of Cresa brokers that came from various competitors of ours (I won’t mention names). The discussion was lively, invigorating, enlightening and the unanimous consensus from the panel and audience was that Cresa is most certainly on the right track. The panel all felt some sort of magnetic pull to join Cresa, to get on the train before it moves full steam ahead. We have a very collaborative culture, an individual team as opposed to a team of individuals, and we all seem to prefer the very best for our clients and the very best for each other over the very best for ourselves. This chemistry exudes from Cresa brokers and is recognized by the community, our clients, our prospects and even the Landlords we deal with every day. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard from Landlord representatives whom love working with Cresa brokers because we play hard, but we play fairly and honestly. This might be a crazy question, but why wouldn’t we? Aren’t we doing a disservice to our clients, our company, ourselves, our family, our God if we don’t? Cresa is guided by the concept of “Do The Right Thing” and as nice as that sounds on paper, it’s even nicer to know firsthand that we are walking the walk as well. I have been with Cresa for almost two years now and as I have conveyed to the Managing Principals in the Cresa Atlanta office since I came on, I am extremely grateful to be here and I am more than eager to stay for many years to come.

Stay tuned for my update to this post in five years…

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The A&B Train of Social Media

By Wes Vaughan

Please forgive me for my grade school humor, but it seems to me that Social Media is an A&B Train and you can either “C” your way on or “C” your way off.

Yes, it appears that Social Media is here to stay…for now at least. There are many proponents that swear it’s the future of business. There are many detractors that still don’t believe in it (“What’s my ROI?”). Either side of the fence you stand on, you cannot argue that Social Media is everywhere right now.

Our Cresa Atlanta office had our “Social Media Kickoff” and first ever training session recently. Out of 24 Advisors, I would venture a guess that 12 of us showed up (I’m sure it was just Spring Break). The attendees ranged from a handful of us who have embraced the world of Social Media – we use LinkedIn for business, we Tweet, we Post, we write blogs (or at least we’re starting to) and we have a comfortable seat on that A&B Train. There was another handful of our group that looked like they were forced into the Ludovico technique seen in A Clockwork Orange:

There were two individuals in particular that were flabbergasted by what they were listening to; you could see the beads of sweat on their brows, fists clenched, knuckles white. I believe one of the quotes overheard was “My heart is beating out of my chest right now” (thankfully, no paramedics were needed).

A recent study conducted by PulsePoint Group found that companies that fully embrace social engagement are experiencing four times greater business impact than less-engaged companies. Another study from BRANDfog found that 82% polled said they trusted a company more when top executives communicated via social media. Another 77% said they were more likely or much more likely to buy from a company whose CEO uses social media to define company values.

Many executives, however, still aren’t buying into the power of social media. According to BRANDfog, 61% of Fortune 500 brands were connecting with customers via Twitter as of January 2012, but less than 2.5% of those companies’ CEOs were actively participating on Twitter. PulsePoint Group found that a full 28% of C-suite executives still don’t believe in social engagement. Their number one reason was the inability to gauge ROI, which seems to be the primary doubt of non-believers across the board. One of the hesitant brokers in our office remembers hearing a CFO of a large corporation say about Social Media: “I just don’t need to have another thing in my life that I have to react to right now.”

Perhaps nobody has really figured out how to best use social media yet. After all, did companies really know how to tackle setting up websites back in the late 1990s? And look at where we are now: if your company does not have a website, does it really exist? Check out this Social Media Revolution video to give you a fresh perspective on this developing “trend.” Generations Y and Z think e-mail is old fashioned and some colleges and universities have stopped distributing email accounts. Over 50% of the world’s population is under 30 years old. Heck, my three year old knows how to open and watch Lightning McQueen videos on YouTube without even asking me for help…seriously. If one of your clients, customers or prospects can’t find you or your company multiple times on the first page of their Google search in five years, do you really exist?

The Train is leaving the station. What are you going to do? Me? I’ve lost a step or two (or eight) since my athletic days and I don’t want to pull a hamstring trying to catch that Train. As Erik Qualman says: “We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is how well we do it.” So what do you have to lose? If you spend an extra 30 minutes a day engaged in pushing your name out there via Social Media, do you think that’s going to hurt your business today? Over the next five years? You never know who’s checking you out online…you might just impress your next biggest client with what you have to say. Might be a one in a million chance of that happening, but as Lloyd Christmas once said: “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?!”

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My Story (for those that care to hear it)

By Wes Vaughan

I got started in the commercial real estate business in May of 2007. About seven months later, the housing bubble burst and thus began the long, hard road of what is now known as “The Great Recession.”

Since my timely entrance into the world of CRE, I have been blessed enough to complete over 75 transactions, totaling over 350,000 square feet. Thankfully, my wife stayed married to me through the economic downturn and we even managed to have two happy, healthy boys together. Praise God.

Before my career in CRE, my dreams were focused on fame and success in the film industry of Los Angeles, CA. I’m sure you’ve probably heard of me…I was kind of a big deal. When Hollywood failed to recognize my star potential, I moved to Italy with my then-girlfriend-now-wife, Liz. We lived in Parma (home of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Prosciutto di Parma ham…mmmm) and we taught English to the employees of the Barilla headquarters (you’ve likely bought their pasta from the grocery store) during the week and spent every dime we made travelling on the weekend. Yes, it was amazing. We got engaged in Positano (Amalfi Coast) and soon moved back to California, where I taught American and British Literature to high school students at a small Catholic school in Santa Clara, CA. I did my very best to impress upon these teenagers that Shakespeare was, and still is, the man.

I am proud to be an Atlanta native, a graduate of The Westminster Schools and the University of Georgia (Journalism major…finally coming in handy). One of these days, the Dawgs will win another national championship in football. Hope I’m around to see it…

I represent office and industrial tenants in Atlanta (and elsewhere), advising them on the best real estate strategies for their company – renewal, restructure or relocation. One of my favorite things about being a commercial real estate broker is meeting and helping people, and I hope I am given an opportunity to meet (and possibly help) you one day. Thanks for reading my blog; I hope you find it worthwhile. Please feel free to reach out about anything – office space, movies, Italy, food, wine, Shakespeare, life, whatever.

Proverbs 3:5-6

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