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Category ArchiveGeneral Growth Properties

In Cannes for MIPIM, Brookfield’s Ric Clark Is All NYC

Brookfield Property Partners is no doubt one of the most active developers in New York City.

The firm recently completed the redevelopment of its 8.5-million-square-foot Brookfield Place office and retail complex in Lower Manhattan, a $250 million project it commenced in 2015. Today the property is nearly entirely leased. And the developer is building at an aggressive pace the more than 7-million-square-foot Manhattan West project.

The company is also is a partner on Park Tower Group’s 22-acre Greenpoint Landing mixed-use development in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. And on top of that, the developer recently picked up the leasehold of the HBO Building at 1100 Avenue of the Americas along with Swig Company and signed most of the space to Bank of America (386,000 square feet). In addition, Brookfield and Swig recently signed Bank of America to a 127,000-square-foot space at their adjacent property, the Grace Building at 1114 Avenue of the Americas.

Commercial Observer caught up with Ric Clark, the senior managing partner and the chairman of Brookfield, while in Cannes for his very first MIPIM (or Marché International des Professionnels d’Immobilier). His main order of business at the conference: talking about trends in the United States on a U.S. panel co-organized by CO.

But we got to talk to him about the status of the firm’s projects, Brookfield’s investment in on-demand conference space provider Convene and the company’s recent—so far unsuccessful—attempts to acquire General Growth Properties, Forest City Realty Trust and Regus parent company IWG.

Commercial Observer: You have a lot of things going on in New York City. What is the status of Greenpoint Landing, Brookfield’s foray into the outer boroughs?

So the first building opens up in August. I think it’s just shy of 400 units. The second tower will open in 2020 and we hope that we have two more towers coming up on the heels of those.

Park Tower Group brought Brookfield in to do that project. What attracted you to it?

It really started with a desire to expand our presence in the multifamily business. Up until roughly six years ago we really didn’t have any investments in the apartment sector. But looking back it’s been one of the best performing sectors, particularly in New York City—vacancy is very low—tenants tend to stay for a couple of years, and when they do leave the capital expenses are pretty modest unlike an office tenant. Granted stay longer, but when they leave it is a major capital reinvestment to retenant the space. So the first building that we built was The Eugene [with 844 units] at Manhattan West. We are closing in on 80 percent leased now, and it hasn’t even been open [for a year]. So basically on the heels of that and making a decision to enter the multifamily space, we looked around and thought, Brooklyn was a great alternative to Manhattan. It’s cheaper, so more affordable, and there is a lot happening in Brooklyn.

What’s going on at Manhattan West?

So 5 Manhattan West, formerly  known as 450 West 33rd Street, started as an apparel warehouse—at one point it had the Sky Rink—we were able to convert that and put a new facade, new lobby, new systems and take what was once the ugliest building in Manhattan and make it into a pretty attractive building, which is appealing to those in the innovation and technology businesses. So that [1.7-million-square-foot] building is effectively fully leased at this point.  

One Manhattan West is going up. We did 1.8 million square feet of leasing [at Manhattan West] last year so overall between 5 Manhattan West, 1 Manhattan West and The Lofts building, which is a 200,000-square-foot building that we are repurposing there as well, we are 92.3 percent leased across the project. So we had a really big year there last year.

What else did you do there?

We are about to break ground on a [30-story, 164-room] hotel. We haven’t yet announced the operator. But we hope too soon. So the remaining piece is to lease out the retail. We have signed a couple of retail deals already—like Whole Foods

So the only thing left is 2 Manhattan West—the south tower—where we are actively pursuing tenants. We have started the below-grade work [on that building].

With everything happening in Hudson Yards District, is Midtown East dead?

Between us and Hudson Yards there has been a lot of momentum over there in the last couple of years. [But] the east is not finished yet. There is a bit of a nuclear arms race going on when it comes to upgrading buildings that are somewhat obsolete [in Midtown East]. I think it’ll make those buildings more appealing. Those that don’t spend the capital to reposition their buildings and enhance them, I think are going to struggle a lit bit. But the east is not dead. We just saw the J.P. Morgan announcement [to build new Park Avenue headquarters], which was pretty huge for Park Avenue.  

It’s not exactly Midtown East, but your company now has two buildings off Bryant Park with the Grace Building and the recently acquired neighboring 1100 Avenue of the Americas. Why did you want the adjacent property?

Adjacent and back connected to the Grace Building is the HBO Building, 1100 Avenue of the Americas. There is literally a floor where you could walk from one building to the other.

Interestingly, someone along the chain of ownership built what I’m going to call a “spite wall” on the back of the HBO Building. So when we acquired the Grace Building there was this solid wall that went literally up the north side of the HBO Building.

We were the only one’s pursuing the acquisition of 1100 Avenue of the Americas that could remove that wall [since we also owned the Grace Building], and basically connect the Grace Building plaza to Bryant Park with a renovation of the lobby. The other advantage that we had on that building [1100 Avenue of the Americas] than others is that the building does not have a loading dock. So you literally had to pull a truck up in the middle of the night and offload it to bring goods into the building. We can connect the building to the Grace Building’s loading dock underground.

We saw this as an opportunity to help Bank of America [which is the anchor of 1 Bryant Park] create an urban campus. So they leased the bulk of 1100 [Avenue of the Americas], and also have taken some space in the Grace Building as well.

How is Brookfield Place doing?

So we’ve leased up all of the retail space and the project is 8.5 million square feet and 95 percent leased [in both office and retail]. And I just looked at the [2017] year-end sales numbers before I came here and it had very strong same-store sales.

It really has exceeded our expectations. You can go there on a Friday night, it’ll be crowded. You could go there on a Saturday morning, it’ll be crowded. And it’s a difference; the crowd takes on a different complexion on any day of the week. Sunday morning you’ll see a bunch of dads and strollers. And we are really proud of it.

We’ve heard millennials are to blame for the death of malls. How is Brookfield preparing for the influx of millennials that will reshape the economy?

In a year or two, millennials will make up 50 percent of the world’s working population. And by 2030, it’ll make up 70 percent. So for sure, I think those in the real estate business that are paying attention to that are making adjustments to their real estate to help employees attract, maintain and motivate employees will be more successful.

This crowd was basically born with a smartphone in their hands. And they want everything immediately and they want it efficiently, so we’ve been bringing a lot of innovation and technology to our “places.”

What specifically?

For example, at Brookfield Place we are beta testing an app that will package a bunch of other apps that will provide convenience to those that work within our project. You will soon be able to get in and out of the building by using your smartphone instead of a plastic badge. You will receive security alerts on a moment’s notice if there is some kind of terrorism event or some kind of emergency.

We noticed that when we opened Hudson Eats [in Brookfield Place], between the lunch hours the lines were so long that people were actually turning away. So we found an app called Ritual, with which you can sit at your desk, decide where you want to order your food from, you order your food, the food is prepared, they give you a notice when it is ready. They’ll also let you know if someone else on your floor or in your building is going down to pick up food from there and [inform you if] they’ll bring the food back to you.

Within a couple of months 25 percent of the people that work within Brookfield Place downloaded this app, and sales for the stores that use it went up 25 percent as well. So we are trying to wrap all of those with a Brookfield app just to make the overall experience just as seamless and efficient as we can.

And this is only for Brookfield Place?

We’ve been beta testing this whole thing at Brookfield Place so once we get the bugs out and its working efficiently, we’ll roll it out across the world.

How did you get to know Convene and why is Brookfield so heavily investing in it?

I got a phone call once from a CEO of [Hudson’s Bay Company]—one of our tenants—after we signed a lease with him, saying, “I’m sitting here with my architect and I’m planning my space and I’m planning a boardroom, which I am literally going to use once a quarter. And if you had something where I could rent a catered conference room once a quarter, I could use my space that I rented from you for more productive things.”

And he introduced us to Convene. And we understood the merits of it immediately.

On the one hand, I’m sure our leasing group would rather rent more space to somebody even if it is sitting idle, but I think those that listen to their tenants and solve their tenants’ problems as they relate to efficiency will be more successful.

How much has Brookfield invested in Convene?

We are the largest shareholder now. We sign leases with them in some of our buildings and we do management agreements with them as well. So we think wherever we can work a Convene into our projects it’s a great amenity—one that tenants will respond positively to.

Work space as a service has become huge business with players like WeWork, IWG (Regus) and Convene. Are you afraid that they will take business from traditional landlords?

So for our office business primarily we are in the big-bulk leasing business. So we don’t have a lot of small tenants in our facilities… And for sure the smaller tenants I think—particularly those in a start-up business—need flexibility and I think WeWork or IWG provides that flexibility for those tenants that don’t want to sign a 10-year lease because their business may be very different in a couple of years. I think there is room for both of these. And we are working with a coworking or flexible angle within many of our projects around the world.

Although they have been unsuccessful so far, why has Brookfield made moves to acquire GGP, Forest City Realty and IWG?

So I can’t comment on specific transactions. But I would say [Brookfield Property Partners parent company] Brookfield Asset Management’s real estate business has about $150 billion of assets under management and we got to that scale through [mergers and acquisitions] activity. So we are always looking for mispriced or undervalued opportunities—opportunities where we think either through a better capital structure or because of our operating capabilities or some idea that we have or some synergies with some or our other businesses, we can acquire a business and create value. And I’d say, in all of those transactions that is what we are really focused on. As for the specific ones that you mentioned, we will see.

Source: commercial

NKF’s Regional Mall Guru Thomas Dobrowski Is Taking Retail Doom and Gloom in Stride

Thomas Dobrowski might be one of the reasons why malls are not actually dying. And it’s not just because he sells regional malls, but because he arguably has been to more malls than anyone else (60 in 2017 alone), and whenever he visits one, he shops (that’s 60 purchases last year).

No, he’s not buying anything big—“just a couple small items I can throw in the bag,” the executive managing director at Newmark Knight Frank, said—but he’s still shopping at malls. And just that fact alone, he said, “inherently speaks to—when you get people in the mall they’re going to spend money.”

Dobrowski, who handles regional mall investment sales nationally, sold 13 regional malls last year. (Whenever he gets an assignment, not only does he tour the property he’s selling; he check out the mall’s competition.)

While there’s no doubting that malls, and retail in general, face headwinds—only five malls have either opened or are under development since 2007, while about 200 have closed in that time Dobrowski said—the broker remains optimistic about the future of the industry. “The news does not help pricing. However, it does help bring attention and interest to mall properties for sale,” Dobrowski said, “because savvy investors recognize that this could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pick up malls at good prices.”

Dobrowski didn’t start his career in the mall business. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in finance from Villanova University he worked in Morgan Stanley’s real estate investment banking group. He got into the mall business at the now-defunct Rockwood Real Estate Advisors, where he worked from 2002 through 2014, before NKF came calling. The brokerage was looking to “grow a capital markets platform and grow a national brokerage business,” Dobrowski said.

Since then, Dobrowski has been NKF’s lone regional mall investment sales broker. With the help of a support staff of three who handle underwriting, analytics, materials preparation and research, he sold 13 out of the 30 brokered mall deals last year, making the sellers’ representative’s market share nearly 50 percent.

Being in a business that is not territory based, Dobrowski can be based anywhere in the country, but prefers New York City, his home for the last 18 years or so. (He, his wife and their 3-and-a-half year old son live in the East Village.)

As people continue to speculate about the future of malls, CO sat down with the 39-year-old broker at NKF’s digs at 125 Park Avenue last week to make sense of it all.

Commercial Observer: What’s your take on the doom-and-gloom mall headlines?

Dobrowski: My opinion is, it’s very overblown—the “death of the mall” headline.

Do you only deal with noncore assets?

Look, all the REITs want to hold onto their good assets obviously, or assets that they feel they can add value to so our business today is really split 50-50—50 percent of our sales come from the REITs that are shedding their non-core assets and then the other 50, plus or minus, come from [commercial mortgage-backed securities] special servicers and lenders that have taken back a lot of these malls over the last decade that were overleveraged and now are in many cases distressed. I grew this business out of the distressed mall market [back] in 2011, 2012 when malls started to sell again. A lot of the mall REITS, when these loans came due, and even today, when they come due, if they can’t refinance out of them, they’ll just give the keys back to the lender and that obviously is the beauty of CMBS financing. One of the best sources of lending for regional malls is CMBS debt.

Why is that?

I think because that’s where there is the biggest appetite for that type of loan. A lot of the insurance companies and a lot of the balance-sheet lenders typically have shied away from regional malls, just given the complexities behind them. They’re relatively illiquid in markets. And CMBS historically was the go-to source of financing [for regional malls]. That’s started to change now because obviously the headlines about malls are pretty tough. So that’s really why you see, [with] a lot of the sales today, the valuations are much lower than people ever really anticipated, even though we’re obviously in a really great economic cycle and there’s growth and retailers are doing well in many cases. But buyers are just underwriting out all of the risk associated with most malls. The proof is in the pudding. The reality is a lot of these malls are suffering around the country.

Have the mall owners found financing materially more difficult?

Yes. In the last 24 months, in particular, I would say financing has become one of the major hot points or constraints with respect to really selling bigger malls that require real financing. Because the equity check gets bigger, the number of players gets smaller who can stroke a big check to take down a $50-plus-million-dollar mall, which is a big deal today. Ten, 15 years ago, we were selling malls at $100 [million] and $200 million valuations. If you look at 2017, most malls were, call it between $20 million and $60 million, plus or minus, that sold.

How would you characterize lenders’ level of caution?

Well, much like buyers—but even more. They’re much more cautious where they are really concentrated on two or three main aspects. One is who the sponsor is: Do they have a track record? Do they have an expertise in the space? Because there are a lot of new owners and new buyers starting to enter the mall field today. Next, it’s starting to get into the property: Who are the anchors? What’s my anchor risk? Do I have a Sears, Bon-Ton, JCPenney, a Macy’s, kind of a lot of the anchors that are worrisome today for a lot of folks, and what does that risk look like in relation to really the rest of the mall and what are the options of re-tenanting those spaces? The third one is really then, Who’s the competition for that mall in that given market?

What are the most essential differentiating factors between malls with a positive outlook and those with more cause for concern?

I always give the comparison: It’s like a custom suit. From 50 feet away, your navy blue suit that you buy off the rack at Macy’s could look the same as the one you buy at Brioni, right? So when you look at a mall from an aerial, it could have Macy’s, Dillard’s and JCPenney and Sears and have very similar tenants on the inside, and that mall could be 10 miles outside Manhattan, and it’s killing it. But then you could take that same mall and put it in the middle of Ohio with the same tenant makeup: Once you get closer into it, [it’s floundering]. So what do we look at? I would say the big driver…is what are the options for that consumer in that market and what’s going to continue to drive them to continue to go to that mall into the future. If that mall is in a market that has two or three other malls but the market really only needs one…it’s going to be hard to make a case that [all three] need to exist. They may keep going for a while. Malls don’t die of heart attacks. They don’t die overnight. It takes a very long time for a mall to go away. It could take five years, it could take 10, it could take 15. Once you’re comfortable knowing that that mall can survive in that market, it’s then, What can I do to improve upon the tenant mix that is there today?

There’s enough there you don’t need to sell open-air shopping centers?

Correct. I can comfortably say we’re the only team probably in the country that can say we focuws 100 percent of our time and efforts on covering the regional mall market, which is why we have, arguably, the biggest market share, because we’re just ingrained in this sector. 

What would you say is impacting malls besides e-commerce?

It’s changes in shoppers’ habits I would say and changes in the shopper demographic. I can give the example of, when I was growing up [in Holmdel, N.J.], it was always the mall where you bought everything, from soup to nuts. Right? Malls were woven into the social fabric. You hung out there. It was always where you sort of went shopping for back to school and holidays and everything in between. You first date at the movie theater was at the mall [and] you maybe ate at the food court.

screen shot 2018 01 09 at 12 10 56 pm NKF’s Regional Mall Guru Thomas Dobrowski Is Taking Retail Doom and Gloom in Stride
MALL FOR ONE: Dobrowski has had his hand in selling dozens of malls in his career, including Foothills Mall, at top, Mesa Mall, in the middle and College Square Mall, at the bottom.

What’s the biggest deal you’ve ever done?

The largest mall sale I ever worked on was a mall out in California called Stonestown Galleria, right outside San Francisco. We sold it for $312 million at the peak of the market [in August 2004]. It’s still a great asset. It’s still owned by [General Growth Properties].

What’s the last mall you sold?

Moreno Valley Mall in Moreno Valley, Calif. The all-in purchase price was $63 million. It was one of the bigger sales of 2017. It’s one of the best malls I’ve sold in the last five years.

Why?

It’s a complete contrarian story. This mall was foreclosed and taken over by CWCapital, a special servicer, in 2011. It’s one of the few malls, since they took ownership, it has only steadily improved year over year. And, it’s just a great case study in execution in terms of they brought in Round1 [entertainment company], they brought in Crunch Fitness, they brought in cool retailers that weren’t in that market before, and a lot of it has to do with Inland Empire California, which got hit really hard in the recession but has since emerged and exceeded expectations you can say in terms of population growth. And the mall stood to benefit from that. And we sold it to a private owner outside of Beverly Hills, [International Growth Properties]. This closed on Nov. 28, [2017].

How long does a mall typically take to sell?

Three to six months I would say is average. The time to sell them is not necessarily the part of selling malls that is most challenging.

What is?

It’s just the sheer complexity of the properties and the amount of time and effort that has to go into preparing offering materials and underwriting the asset that I think a lot of brokers would shy away from that, plus it’s a national product type and most brokers focus on regions, and that’s how most brokerage offices are set up. So we don’t sell anything in the immediate New York metro because there’s not really a mall market there.

Are you worried, with the death of mall stuff, about your future with this slice of the market?

I get that question a lot. A lot of people are like, Why do you put all of your chips in this basket, focus on this one product type? The answer is no. If you look at the peak of the market, there were 1,300 malls in the U.S., a well-established fact in 2007. Today, there are around 1,100. We’ve only lost 200 malls in 10 years’ time. If it took 10 years to get rid of 200 malls, is it another 10 or 20 of sales, trades, transactions to get these malls into the right hands of people that will really redevelop them, close them down and have them developed into something else? So, I think there’s a lot of runway left in terms of the number of sales that will happen over the next, call five to 10 years, and candidly, I think it’s only going to ramp up and increase. I think there’s going to be more transactions in 2018 than there were in 2017.


Source: commercial

Mall Developers Bet on the Basics—and a Trampoline or Two

The death of the American mall has been a topic discussed ad nauseam. Whether through overdevelopment, the rise of Amazon or the financial woes of traditional anchor tenants like Macy’s and Sears, brick-and-mortar retail—and the mall meccas that house them—have had their obituaries posted for the last year, or more.

Yet, in seeming defiance of the mournful headlines, private investors, with the funds and ability to reinvent struggling properties, are buying into the regional mall model that has defined the U.S. retail landscape since its creation in the mid-1950s by Victor Gruen.

Way back when, Gruen, the Austrian-born architect created the nation’s first grand shopping center, the 800,000-square-foot Southdale Center in Edina, Minn., in 1956 and still operates as the oldest, fully enclosed shopping mall in the United States. He was inspired by the town center of Vienna where he was born. He envisioned a communal gathering spot with a lively mix of commerce, art and entertainment. A socialist who hated cars, Gruen designed the development with long promenades and parking lots built far away to encourage walking. Gruen also envisioned a property with medical centers, schools and residences, not just an array of retail.

He wasn’t alone. Matthew Bucksbaum and his brothers, Maurice and Martin, the founders of what would become General Growth Properties, bought a struggling shopping center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, around the same time and went on to expand to many small cities throughout the Midwest.

The model was widely embraced, and the rest is history. Today, there are an estimated 1,200 malls nationwide, primarily in suburban areas, inspired by Gruen’s conception—one he grew to despise. They didn’t bring about the vibrant urban centers Gruen envisioned; they led more to the rise of American car culture, suburban sprawl and the decline of walkable downtowns.

Is it any wonder then that the American mall—a concept dreamed up and later cursed by its own creator—would continue to stir debate and contradictory ideas about how to run, refashion or completely reinvent them?

Round1 Bowling
The Moreno Valley Mall is turning itself around by bringing in a bowling alley, gym and trampoline park. Photo: Dan Arnold Photos

Too Much of a Good Thing

“You know, the big question is, How many malls does the country need?”

This is the question asked by Thomas Dobrowski, the executive managing director at Newmark Knight Frank in New York, who handles regional mall investment sales nationally.

“Does it need 500? Does it need 800? There’s no question that the U.S. is over-retailed, and it’s really the regional malls that have been overbuilt. There are just too many, especially with people shopping more and more online and with people looking for more experiential experiences.”

Pete Bethea, an executive managing director at NKF, concurred.

Some of these centers that are in secondary and tertiary markets were just overbuilt with retail. So, instead of there being three viable centers, there might be one,” said Bethea, who is based in NKF’s San Diego office and focuses mainly on open-air suburban mall property sales. “What happens with those other two centers [depends on what] the market lends itself to, right? What is the next evolution of use of that space or that land?”

As mall real estate investment trusts (REITs) have been shedding their B- or C-level malls or noncore assets over the last five years, private equity investors have stepped up to purchase them.

“Contrary to all the news out there, there have been a lot of transactions happening in the enclosed mall space,” Dobrowski said. “Some of the malls we’re selling are almost exclusively to private equity or high-net-worth buyers who don’t have the same scrutiny that an institutional or typical mall REIT would have when it comes to repositioning or redeveloping these malls by bringing in alternative uses.”

Dobrowski said that a lot of the malls he sells are purchased to continue as malls with about one-third bought to be redeveloped.

He pointed to the Moreno Valley Mall in San Bernardino County outside of Los Angeles, which was previously owned by GGP before the company filed for bankruptcy in 2009 in one of the largest commercial real estate collapses in U.S. history, as a prime example of a mall turnaround.

NKF sold the property on behalf of CW Capital, which had bought it back from GGP, for $63 million in November 2017 to International Growth Properties, a small private equity firm in Beverly Hills.

IGP brought in a gym, Crunch Fitness—in a move most mall operators previously shunned, according to The Wall Street Journal—Round1 Bowling and Amusement, Action Time Bungee Jumping (a trampoline park) in addition to movie theaters and anchor tenants like Macy’s already on the premises.

“They really transitioned this mall from a kind of cookie-cutter enclosed mall with your traditional anchor tenants into a shining star of a lot of the malls that we sold this year,” Dobrowski said.

He and Bethea expect the trend to continue given market conditions.

“Pricing now is at a level where it makes sense to purchase a property and then go reinvest and reposition it,” Bethea said. “We’re in the early innings of that starting to happen. There are double-digit cap rates. Certainly, in the world of suburbia, we are starting to approach the 8 or 9 [percent cap rate] in submarkets.”

Dobrowski said the trend will likely accelerate in the next 12 to 24 months, depending on the state of major retailers.

“Last year was a big year in terms of stores closing and bankruptcies, and 2018 will probably be another big year,” he said. “But to redevelop a mall takes a long time. It’s a two- to five-year process, so we’re really just in the early phase of malls being purchased to eventually be redeveloped.” (For more from Dobrowski, see the Sit-Down on page 32.)

Adapt or Perish

IGP’s strategy of incorporating something like a trampoline park is exactly what the mall redevelopers are looking for to attract consumers to their properties, from families to millennials. Some are going even further. The long-stalled American Dream Mall in Northern New Jersey is back in business with construction resumed and developer Triple Five Group targeting a fall 2018 opening. The 6-million-square-foot property at the Meadowlands sports complex will feature the country’s first indoor ski slope, an aquarium, an indoor water park with a 1.5-acre pool capable of generating seven-foot waves and the largest indoor theme park in the Western Hemisphere with four roller coasters.

Triple Five, the Canadian company that already owns the two largest malls in the Western Hemisphere, the Mall of America in Minnesota and the West Edmonton Mall in Canada, is obviously betting big on the megaproject despite the pessimism surrounding traditional brick-and-mortar enterprises of which the shopping mall is emblematic. According to The New York Times, the developer has spent $700 million thus far on the project.

Ami Ziff, the director of national retail at Time Equities, is in the process of adding amenities to reinvigorate a few of its regional mall properties, including the Newgate Mall in Ogden, Utah, for $69.5 million in August 2016 from GGP, as CO previously reported and two malls in Tennessee purchased from Chattanooga, Tenn.-based CBL & Associates Properties for $53.5 million last May.

In addition to adding a Fly High Trampoline Park, which will occupy 41,000 square feet at the Newgate Mall, Time Equities is looking to add amenities that can meet the human’s need to socialize and appeal to social media and Instagram-addicted consumers.

There are plans for flash mobs as a special event, as well as immersive experiences, including a bubble and ball exhibit like the one the company has at its residential condominium at 50 West Street in Manhattan.

At Newgate, Time Equities will be renovating the food court area with the addition of a fireplace and common-area seating meant to evoke a ski lodge with seasonal and community programming—think caroling and hot chocolate around the fire during the winter holidays, s’mores and ghost stories come Halloween.

“There is such a difference in the kind of work that goes into owning a mall versus a strip center,” Ziff said. “You might have a lot of the same tenants, but the fact that you have this common space, there’s a significant burden on the landlord as well as the tenants to produce experiences. There needs to be a whole marketing agenda and program that we roll out at different malls based on different needs, timing and markets.”

Ski slope in Dubai
The long-stalled American Dream Mall will include an indoor ski slope like the one in Dubai . Photo: Getty Images

Alternative Uses

In addition to off-the-hook amenities, mall developers have turned to creating truly mixed-use properties, including creative office space, residential, grocery and, at some, alternative uses like medical facilities, thereby creating in effect the one-stop community center Gruen once envisioned.

“The same Baby Boom population that fueled regional malls and other retail property types in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s continues to do so,” said Mark Hunter, the managing director of retail asset services for the Americas at CBRE based in Chicago. “We’re now seeing Baby Boomers [are] now requiring additional medical services and [how they’re being integrated]. A perfect example of that is the 100 Oaks Mall in Nashville, Tenn.”

In 2007 100 Oaks Plaza, which bought the property the previous year for $49.2 million, redeveloped one of its department stores into a medical center for The Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which leases over half of the 850,000-square-foot building. “I think you’re going to continue to see this trend where there’s a mix of medical, office, entertainment and residential as different markets adapt to the changing environment,” Hunter said.

Data centers could also fill in space left by struggling retailers, given the rise in cloud storage needs, pointing to how Rackspace, a web-hosting company based in San Antonio, moved its corporate headquarters into the local now-shuttered Windsor Park Mall in 2012.

Then there is a model that turns the whole American mall discussion on its head. Billed as a “solution to the retail conundrum,” Case Equity Partners introduced a patent-pending concept called the Shopping Fulfillment Center last month. The SFC, a hybrid of brick and click, combines a vast fulfillment center in the back of a retail center component. In the proposed model, retailers would share logistics costs and require much less in terms of traditional square footage. It would allow customers to peruse or test out their products, but instead of, say, having to stock several varieties of a high-touch item like a sweater, one would suffice with a vast array of options housed in a communal warehouse in back. (For more on the concept, see Chopp’s column on page 35.)

Omnichannel and Co-Existence

Arthur Coppolla, the chairman and CEO of Macerich, one of the country’s leading owners of high-end mall REITs, is bullish about the future of brick-and-mortar retail.

“If you read the social media and the news media, you would come to the conclusion that Amazon and e-commerce are killing all legacy retailers, but I see digital as being the best of friends with brick-and-mortar retail,” Coppolla said during a keynote talk at “Rethink: Emerging Macro Trends in Real Estate” in Los Angeles this past December. (Coppolla declined to be interviewed for this article.)

Coppolla said the common misperception among investors is that Amazon is synonymous with e-commerce “and that there’s nothing else, which is not true.”

Digitally made, vertically integrated brands—brands that have a niche and identified a broad market to disrupt and are not Amazon—are where it’s at in terms of the next great brands.

“Digitally native is a very chic place to be born,” he said. “Digital brands are growing at a far greater rate than e-commerce itself. If you look at the next [few] years between now and 2020, the digitally native brands are going to be generating as much business as Amazon direct.”

If you want a glimpse into the future of traditional retail, he said, just look to its past.

“The future of retail is its past,” Coppolla said. “If you look at legacy retailers, department stores were everything. They distinguished themselves in how they curated brands for their customers. But they cut sales people on their floors and lost touch with their customers. We have to be curators of brands like how department stores used to be.”

Successful malls need to take over where legacy retailers faltered and curate brands. E-commerce, he said, is the driver of brand creation today, and as such, he is actively seeking digitally native brands to his properties and the feeling among these brands is mutual.

“These digitally native brands, they all believe that brick and mortar is where they want to go because, when they open their store, that’s when they feel that they have arrived. It’s the last mile for them in terms of having a relationship with their customer,” Coppolla said.

Not only can e-commerce and brick and mortar co-exist, but according to Hunter at CBRE, the perception that online selling eclipsed traditional retail is much overblown.

“When you really delve into where most retail sales are happening today, as of last year, 9 percent of all retail sales were online, meaning 91 percent of all other retail sales were done in a physical space,” he said. “Our research shows that peaking in the next, call it, eight to 10 years in the high teens. Still, the bulk of retail sales will be done in physical space.”

The more important point, he said, is that, to thrive, retailers must be adept at omnichannel distribution.

“Whether you’re on your smartphone, or you’re in the store, it’s going to be a much more seamless transaction. You’re going to continue to see that happen, and the retailers that can adapt to the omnichannel distribution, they’re going to be very successful,” he said. “Those behind the times, that don’t adapt to that, will struggle more.”


Source: commercial

The Beekman Group Grows With Move to Nearly 8K SF at 530 Fifth Avenue

The Beekman Group, a private equity firm based in New York City, is moving from just under 5,000 square feet at 489 Fifth Avenue to 7,803 square feet in the nearby 530 Fifth Avenue between West 44th and West 45th Streets, Commercial Observer has learned.

Cushman & Wakefield’s Douglas Dolgoff told CO that The Beekman Group, founded in 2004, outgrew its space and rather than take two floors at 489 Fifth Avenue, it opted for a full tower floor (23) at the 26-story, 536,135-square-foot 530 Fifth Avenue. The building’s office portion is owned by RXR Realty and a partnership of Thor Equities and General Growth Properties owns the retail space.

“The main driver was trying to keep the location as close to the old location,” Dolgoff said. “We had a tight set of parameters for where they wanted to end up.”

Beekman liked that RXR agreed to deliver a turnkey installation so “they didn’t have to come out of pocket for construction costs,” Dolgoff said. The value of that construction, he estimated, is about $130 or $140 per square foot.

The lease is for eight years with an asking rent of $85 per square foot, an RXR spokeswoman indicated. Beekman will move in upon completion of the construction, she added.

Avison Young’s John Ryan, Anthony LoPresti and Michael Leff represented the landlord along with Dan Birney and Alexandra Budd of RXR. An Avison Young spokesman didn’t respond with a comment.

Tenants include movie and television show producer Lionsgate in 34,300 square feet, as CO previously reported, and financial firm Ameriprise Financial in about 21,000 square feet.


Source: commercial

High-End Home Fixture Company Pirch Shutters Soho Outpost [Updated]

Pirch, a luxury appliance showroom that epitomizes “experiential” by allowing customers to “try before you buy,” has closed its massive Soho store, according to signage in the door.

“Pirch has decided to restructure and operate out of their Southern California base and therefore a decision has been made to exit all non-[California] markets with immediate effect,” the sign at 200 Lafayette Street between Broome and Spring Streets reads.

A Pirch spokeswoman told Commercial Observer: “Pirch Soho closed officially a couple of weeks ago, although there is still a team handling follow through on existing orders out of the distribution center in New Jersey. Pirch California is fully operative and doing well. It has been determined by management that the path forward for Pirch is based in California.”

The news comes a month after Bloomberg reported that the company was “planning to shutter most of its locations as it overhauls operations.” That included the Soho flagship.

The 32,000-square-foot, three-story store at General Growth Properties’ 200 Lafayette Street opened in May 2016, marking the California chain’s foray into the New York City market. The asking rent was about $400 per square foot on the ground floor, The Real Deal reported. The upscale store was home to “working kitchens where a curated selection of the world’s best appliances can be tested, and special events are held,” according to a Pirch press release. “Vignettes throughout feature working showers, sinks and bathtubs.”

Retailers have been struggling as of late, with experts saying that for brick-and-mortar shops to survive, they need to be experiential. So where did Pirch—which was named one of Fast Company’s most innovative companies in retail last year, and the year prior, one of the most promising companies by Forbes—go wrong?

“I think the Pirch concept was a great idea and a fun experience but unfortunately not too many New Yorkers were in the market for a $48,000 stove,” commented Eastern Consolidated broker James Famularo.

Retail consultant Kate Newlin offered: “Elegant concept, but as one Italian furniture brand told me, ‘This town is filled with dot.com, Wall Street and hedge fund money in the hands of 20-something guys who buy the loft and then have their mothers come in and decorate from Ikea for them.’ Pretty much a recipe for disaster for high-end kitchen redesign, right?”

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The signage posted in the door of Pirch’s store at 200 Lafayette Street. Photo: James Famularo

According to Peter Braus, the managing partner of Lee & Associates‘ New York office, “It shows that even having a really well-conceived, extremely exciting and original retail concept like Pirch is is not enough to fight the tides created by today’s trends. Perhaps they found that people were doing to them what so many other retailers have experienced—customers using their store as nothing more than a showroom to try out the latest products, and then making the purchase on line for a much lower price. It demonstrates vividly that a retailer really does need to  be ‘Amazon-proof’ in order to make it.”

A spokesman for GGP, which acquired the 130,000-square-foot, seven-story building in October 2013 for $148.8 million, said the company is “just beginning to market the space [which spans the basement and the first and second floors] so stay tuned.” No one from Pirch  immediately responded to a request for comment.

Update: This story has been edited to include a comment from a Pirch, the landlord and a retail consultant.


Source: commercial

Sutton Shells Out $15M for Daughter’s Italian Dream Wedding [Updated]

Billionaire real estate investor Jeff Sutton, the founder of Wharton Properties, is known for bringing upscale European retailers to high profile Manhattan store-fronts.

But this week, the real estate investor is going to Italy, where he’s using quite a bit of lucre to throw his daughter Renee an estimated $15 million wedding on a private beach, as was first reported by the Italian press.

The real estate investor has taken over Monopoli, Italy’s Lido Santo Stefano beach resort in the Puglia region for the ceremony on Aug. 31, where his daughter will be wed to Eliot Cohen, Italian magazine Panorama reported.

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Eliot Cohen and Renee Sutton. Photo: Twitter

Panorama (and many other Italian publications) previously said the wedding would cost an insane $25 million, but Sutton told CO the correct number is 35 to 40 percent lower for the nuptials; there will be more than 400 guests, according to the magazine, and eight tons of flowers for the occasion. The couple is staying at the ultra exclusive Borgo Egnazia hotel, a five-star destination. Three planes are bringing guests from Newark Liberty International Airport to Puglia for the event, which lasts a few days. The flights were catered by kosher airline caterer Borenstein Caterers. And a 20-page kosher menu is being prepared for the wedding. Ivanka Trump, daughter of President Donald Trump, is rumored to be attending, according to The Guardian.  

Sutton is worth $3.6 billion and ranked as the 522nd richest person in the world, according to Forbes and was number 10 on this Commercial Observer’s Power 100 this year. Sutton is known in real estate circles for his retail properties in high-profile shopping corridors in Manhattan such as Fifth Avenue, Times Square, Madison Avenue and Soho and 125th Street.

Last November, he completed a deal with Nike and partner SL Green Realty Corp. for a nearly 70,000 square-foot lease at 650 Fifth Avenue worth $700 million over 15 years. The deal picked up “Most Ingenious Deal of the Year” honors from the Real Estate Board of New York as well as the “Deal of the Year” award from CO.

In 2015, Sutton and General Growth Properties closed on a $1.78 billion deal for the Crown Building at 730 Fifth Avenue from Spitzer Enterprises and Winter Properties, as CO reported at the time. The partnership then sold the office section of the tower to Capital Group and SHVO for $500 million. And Sutton later re-signed Italian jewelry and accessories designer Bulgari to a new 15-year, 3,675-square-foot deal in the building.

Update: This article was updated to include a different total cost for the wedding from Sutton.


Source: commercial

With Retail Writhing, What’s the Secret of a Successful Mall?


Source: commercial