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Category ArchiveRic Clark

David Cheikin Leaving Post as Head of NY and Boston Region for Brookfield

David Cheikin, an executive vice president and the head of the New York and Boston offices for Brookfield Property Partners, is leaving the company after nearly 16 years, Commercial Observer has learned.

He resigned earlier this month, according to a Brookfield spokesman, but has agreed to stay on through the end of March. According to the representative, Cheikin “is going to pursue other opportunities.” One source said Cheikin “is going to take a vacation and look around after that.”

According to Cheikin’s LinkedIn profile, he has had “overall responsibility for the performance of Brookfield’s 25-million-square-foot commercial portfolio, inclusive of asset management, office leasing, retail leasing, property marketing, property operations and on site arts/activation.”

Ric Clark, the senior managing partner and the chairman of Brookfield Property Partners, said of Cheikin’s departure in prepared remarks: “Dave leaves Brookfield having had a significant impact on our New York and Boston business over his 16-year tenure. Among many other things, he was instrumental in overseeing the redevelopment and leasing of Brookfield Place New York, which has been a tremendous success by every measure. He also played a vital role in helping to position Manhattan West to become one of New York City’s most dynamic places upon its completion.”

Effective April 1, Ben Brown, a senior vice president at Brookfield Properties, will assume Cheikin’s position, the Brookfield spokesman said.

“Ben has been with Brookfield since 2010 in various roles of increasing seniority, including head of New York and Boston acquisitions since his return last year from London, where he held a similar position,” the spokesman emailed.

Cheikin, who was an analyst and associate at JLL from June 1997 to May 2001, declined to comment through the company spokesman and didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment.

Source: commercial

MIPIM: US Experts Tell World America Is Loaded With Opportunities, So Act Fast

Those that attended Commercial Observer’s panel on United States real estate investing today—the second day of the annual MIPIM (or Marché International des Professionnels d’Immobilier) property conference in Cannes, France—were told there are ample deals to be made in America.

At the event “Developing & Investing in the United States: Where, What & How?” some of the most prolific developers and lenders in the U.S. told real estate professionals not to worry about reports of rising interest rates, to expand their horizons beyond premium “gateway” markets (like New York City or San Francisco) and to act quickly or risk losing the deal.

Brookfield Property Partners Senior Managing Partner and Chairman Ric Clark opened the event by talking about the three trends his company sees affecting the U.S. real estate market: booming population growth of urban areas; the rise of millennials and increases in innovation; and technology for properties.  

Expanding on the first point, Clark said that cities around the U.S. are projected to have 350 million residents in the year 2050, up from 125 million in 1960. In 2014, he said, that figure was 258 million people. 

“Growing urban populations clearly present major challenges, but also major opportunities for those in the real estate business,” Clark told the audience. “The new city dwellers are going to need places to live and work, new schools and hospitals and a massive investment infrastructure will also be required.”

Bruce Mosler, the chairman of global brokerage at Cushman & Wakefield, moderated the first panel about developers’ thoughts on the market, which included Hines CEO of Capital Markets and the East Region Christopher Hughes; SL Green Realty Corp. co-Chief Investment Officer Isaac Zion; and Eran Polack, CEO and co-founder of HAP Investments.

Mosler informed the crowd of the reduced investment activity in New York City and other U.S. gateway markets, which resulted in a 23 percent drop to $96 billion last year from $125 billion in 2016. Comparatively, total investment in non-gateway U.S. markets dropped to $300 billion in 2017 from $339 billion in the previous year—just a 3 percent dip.

Hughes mentioned that investors need not focus only on gateway cities, because there are great opportunities elsewhere in the country.

“It’s a default to look at the gateway cities,” Hughes said. “As you start to look at the U.S. markets you should pay attention to the broader U.S. markets. You’ll make a mistake if you come to the U.S. and think there are only three cities to invest in. Follow the education [centers]; follow the underlying demand drivers.”

Zion pointed out that foreign investors need to understand that deals in the U.S. happen fast, so they need to be decisive.

“The quick ‘yes’ is always the best answer,” he said. “The quick ‘no’ is almost as good. It’s the long, long ‘maybe’ which unfortunately happens way too often. And if you are in that position you are not going to be able to act on potential opportunities.”

The second panel, moderated by Jonathan Mechanic, the chairman of the law firm real estate department at Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, focused on lenders’ views of the U.S. market, and featured panelists Michael Shields, a managing director of ING Real Estate Finance; Christoph Donner, CEO of Allianz Real Estate of America; and Alexander Joerg, a managing director and head of real estate finance at Landesbank Baden-Württemberg.

Since capitalization rates—the expected rate of return on a project—are higher in the U.S. than in major European markets, investors can see a lot of upside, Shields said.

“You are breaking 3 [percent] caps in Paris and Berlin, so our risk guys when they see a 5 [percent cap rate], even though the base rate is higher, they like the U.S.,” Shields said. “And it’s such a big market. There are so many deals compared to [Europe]. London and Paris are the only two markers that have deal flow that compares to the U.S. So we could be a lot more selective and cherry pick a bit and figure out where we can actually compete.”

And since interest rates are climbing, now is the time to act, said Donner, who suspects that the movement in rates will boost deals.

“I think we are going to see more volume just because rising interest rates [means] it’s time now for clients to lock in rates for the long term,” he said, “because on a really long-term perspective these are ultra-low rates.”

Source: commercial

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

It’s MIPIM Time: Why You Should Be Excited for the Cannes Conference

Once again, it’s that time of the year for real estate professionals across the globe to head to Cannes, France.

Just two months ahead of the invitation-only Cannes Film Festival, where movie stars will take to the sandy city on the French Riviera and no doubt trade Harvey Weinstein horror stories, tens of thousands of men and women in business suits carrying briefcases and card holders will storm the streets of Cannes hunting deals during the annual MIPIM (or Marché International des Professionnels d’Immobilier) conference on March 13 through March 16.

The bulk of the events, which is organized by Reed Exhibitions subsidiary Reed MIDEM, will be held at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, a massive conference center on the Cannes waterfront.

MIPIM’s theme for the 29th annual conference is “Mapping World Urbanity,” and the event’s programming will try to address issues like, How will we live in cities in 2030 and 2050? And, what are the best strategies for building future cities in a globalized world?

There are plenty of reasons to be excited for MIPIM, but to approach a conference as big as this (with more than 24,000 people), a roadmap might prove useful. We talked with a few MIPIM-goers from the U.S. to get an idea of what the sophisticated attendant should look out for this year.

Networking (duh)

With approximately 24,200 expected participants from over 100 countries, it’s more than possible to find the right person to talk to at MIPIM, whatever your needs may be.

Of the attendees, there will be 5,000 investors and financial institutions, 4,500 developers, and 3,800 CEOs and chairpeople scrambling around the waterfront and in the Palais des Festivals. And there will be more than 3,100 exhibiting companies.  

And in case the conference center isn’t your scene to swap business cards, networking parties will take over the swanky hotels, luxury yachts and the beach.

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With an array of events and booths, there’s ample opportunities for networking at MIPIM. Photo: MIPIM

“The most important thing for me is the networking,” said Susan Greenfield of Brown Harris Stevens, who has been to the event for 28 consecutive years and has already booked her flight for No. 29. “I go every year because it’s the one place in the entire year where I see almost everyone I know from around the global at the same time.”

She added, “The thing that is so important about this event is you get so many decision-makers. One day I was walking down the street [in Cannes] and who could be facing me walking the other direction? Harry Macklowe. I said, ‘What are you doing here?’ He said, ‘I’m here to look for money, what are you doing here?’ ”

City and country exhibitions

If you’re thinking global and want to know what investment opportunities there are in cities abroad, this is the event for you.

The European cities put on a show at MIPIM, bringing large-scale panoramas of entire cities and models of megaprojects to dedicated pavilions. Last year, London and Istanbul had massive jaw-dropping displays.

“Some of the models and booths are off the charts,” said Jay Olshonsky, the president of NAI Global, who has gone to MIPIM for seven consecutive years and is returning this year. “Some people told me some of the models there are million-dollar [displays]. I always leave two or three hours for myself to walk around because you always see something you’ve never seen before.”  

“Le Grand Paris,” the name for the pavilion dedicated to the City of Lights, will feature 19 exhibitions and events each day. Belgium’s pavilion will feature experts and models of Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia, while Holland’s space will be dedicated to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague.

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Model displays of cities and large developments are popular in MIPIM, such as this one of London last year. Photo: MIPIM

On top of these, there will be booths dedicated to countries from Asia, Africa and North America. Not that the models and displays of cities are there just to be pretty or promote specific projects and the companies that are developing them; more than 370 political leaders and 500 representatives from cities will be in attendance to talk about development in their cities, attract developers and get investments in their locales. (We’ve already heard from the Moscow delegation!)

“If you go to ICSC in Vegas, which is by far a bigger show [with 37,000 attendees], it’s more about the displays about the companies [not cities],” Olshonsky said. “New York City doesn’t come and display at ICSC like Paris does in MIPIM.”

Panel events and keynote speeches

It’s not all deal-making and networking—MIPIM is also a place to learn about development trends across the globe. The event will feature more than 360 keynote speeches and well over 120 panels, sessions, workshops and networking socials covering a wide variety of topics—from Asia and Europe to sustainability and logistics.

And those events will also serve to gather experts across the globe and offer opportunities to get someone’s ear.

“[After networking,] the second thing that I find very valuable is attending these program and panels because I learn so much,” Greenfield said. “You never stop learning and real estate is always changing. If you don’t stay ahead, if you don’t stay involved, if you don’t stay knowledgeable, then you are going to miss out.”

Some panels to look out for include “Self-Driving Cars: Bringing a New Face to our Cities,” “Smart Housing: What Millennials Expect,” “Belt and Road Initiative: Capturing Opportunities Through Hong Kong” and “Urban Logistics: the Next Challenge for Cities.”

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The comprehensive panels with world-class experts are plentiful at MIPIM. Photo: MIPIM

And even Commercial Observer is getting in on the action, co-organizing the U.S.-focused two-panel event entitled “Developing and Investing in the United States: Where, What & How?” on the morning of March 14 at The Ruby Room in Palais des Festivals.

Ric Clark, Brookfield Property Group’s senior managing director and chairman, will deliver the keynote address and Jonathan Mechanic, the chairman of Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson’s real estate department, will moderate the panels. Cushman & Wakefield’s Bruce Mosler, SL Green Realty Corp.’s Isaac Zion, Hines’ Christopher Hughes, Hap Investments’ Eran Polack and Allianz’ Christoph Donner are just some of the panelists. (You can find us there!)

Tech

Come for the drinks and deals, but stay for the tech!

For the past couple of years, the presence of property technology companies has grown at MIPIM. As the sector is becoming a force in the industry—making more investors curious about what’s next to come—MIPIM has stepped up to provide some answers.

There will be a PropTech Lab event at MIPIM for the first time on March 15, where  invite-only real estate executives and tech leaders will meet and talk about the increased impact of technology on real estate.  

“MIPIM events and conferences will be great opportunities for members of the REBNYTech team to meet with industry leaders of tomorrow,” Ryan Baxter, a Real Estate Board of New York vice president for management services and government affairs, who is heading to MIPIM this year again and is a member of the advisory board of MIPIM PropTech, said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to learning more about smart cities and human-centric innovation efforts from around the world.”  

MIPIM also serves as the final leg of the third-annual MIPIM Startup Competition, an international tech competition in partnership with MetaProp NYC, a real estate tech accelerator. Nine finalists at the nexus of tech and real estate were selected from three previous events, MIPIM U.K., MIPIM Asia and MIPIM PropTech (in Manhattan), and those companies will face off in Cannes to determine the best of the lot on March 14.

The competitors from New York City’s MIPIM PropTech that are heading to Cannes are Real Atom, the first online marketplace for commercial real estate debt financing; PlanRadar, a digital software that facilitates project management for construction companies; and Acasa, an app that helps individuals manage household bills.

The winner will receive three passes to both MIPIM U.K. and MIPIM Asia 2018, four passes to MIPIM 2019 (again in Cannes), an automatic selection as a finalist for MetaProp NYC’s 2018 accelerator program as well as brand exposure and coaching at this year’s MIPIM.

And take in Cannes, for goodness sake!

“If you think about it, if you have got to go somewhere 6,000 miles away—for you and I, it’s not too shabby to go to the south of France,” Olshonsky said.  

Cannes is packed with bars, restaurants, hotels and historic buildings all within walking distance of the beach. For those looking to notch Michelin stars on their belts, there are plenty of options. La Palme d’Or, Villa Archange, Paloma and L’Oasis all hold multiple stars.

There are luxury hotels all around the beach area of Cannes. Some leading contenders are Hotel Barrière Le Majestic Cannes, InterContinental Carlton Cannes Hotel and Grand Hyatt Cannes Hôtel Martinez thanks to their astounding architecture and rich history.

And speaking of history, while you’re in town for a real estate expo, why not do a little sightseeing? Cannes is home to Eglise Notre Dame d’Espérance, a 17th century gothic church set atop a hill that overlooks the port area and it provides some amazing views. And there is also the Musée de la Castre, a museum that is set in a castle built by 11th-century monks.

Also just like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Cannes is known for Allée des Étoiles du Cinéma, where stars leave their handprints. Finally, don’t forget to talk a stroll along the Promenade de la Croisette if you didn’t already do so on your way to and from the convention center.

Source: commercial

Brookfield’s Takeover Bid Is the Latest Chapter in Mall Giant GGP’s Turbulent History

When Brookfield Property Partners lodged a $14.8 billion takeover bid for GGP last month, it raised the possibility of one of the biggest real estate mergers and acquisitions seen in recent years—one that would create a massive company with nearly $100 billion in assets globally and annual net operating income of roughly $5 billion, Brookfield said in announcing the bid.

It also marked the latest chapter in the tumultuous history of the Chicago-based real estate investment trust formerly known as General Growth Properties. The past decade, in particular, saw GGP emerge from the wreckage of one of the biggest real estate bankruptcies in history in 2009—when it was unable to refinance more than $27 billion of debt in the wake of the financial crisis—to re-establish itself as one of the nation’s major players in the Class A mall space, with assets ranging from prestigious shopping centers in Honolulu and Southern California to high-street storefronts on Fifth Avenue.

GGP’s renaissance has come under the guidance of Sandeep Mathrani, who left his role as head of Vornado Realty Trust’s retail division to become the REIT’s chief executive officer in 2010, when the company was just getting back on its feet after the bankruptcy. With the help of investment from the likes of Brookfield and hedge fund investor Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management, GGP shed dozens of properties, rid itself of burdensome holdings by spinning off Rouse Properties and the Howard Hughes Corporation into standalone companies and exiled to the past the legacy of the Bucksbaum family—which founded General Growth Properties in the 1950s but also oversaw its descent into financial ruin. Today, GGP has regained its status as one of the largest publicly traded owners and operators of retail properties in the U.S., with a portfolio of more than 120 properties spanning roughly 123 million square feet.

Yet, the Brookfield takeover proposal comes at a significant juncture for both the company and the market in which it specializes. The challenges facing the brick-and-mortar retail sector today have been well documented, with the Amazon-fueled rise of e-commerce having contributed to store closures at a rate unseen since the Great Recession.

Though GGP’s profile as an owner of high-quality, Class A malls has insulated it somewhat from headwinds that have most heavily impacted Class B and Class C malls and shopping centers throughout the country, the company has not been altogether immune from the great retail apocalypse of 2017. The struggles of department stores like Sears, Macy’s and J.C. Penney, which historically were counted on as mall anchor tenants capable of driving customer traffic, have prompted GGP to spend more than $2 billion to redevelop roughly 9 million square feet of space across its portfolio—mostly “anchor boxes” formerly occupied by such department stores that it has sought to reposition into restaurants, cinemas and other uses more relevant to the current retail market climate.

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Sandeep Mathrani. Photo: GGP

Like fellow Class A mall REITs Simon Property Group, Macerich and Taubman Centers, GGP has seen its stock price undertake a slow and steady slide over the last 12 months as investors have increasingly subscribed to the doom-and-gloom narrative surrounding the retail sector. Market conditions have meant that GGP (also like its peers) has found itself consistently trading at a discount to its actual net asset value (NAV); by Nov. 6, the day before news broke of the Brookfield takeover talks, GGP’s share price had fallen to $19.01, down from its 52-week high of $26.63 and well below the company’s consensus NAV of more than $28 per share (analysts who spoke to Commercial Observer for this story pegged GGP’s NAV at anywhere from $26 per share to $35 per share).

Brookfield’s initial bid for GGP, meanwhile, came in at $23 per share, or $14.8 billion in total, and took the form of a 50-50 cash-equity offer comprising $7.4 billion in cash and another $7.4 billion in Brookfield Property Partners (BPY) stock. BPY, a subsidiary of Toronto-based investment giant Brookfield Asset Management, has held a sizable stake in GGP since helping bring the company out of bankruptcy in 2010, and the deal would see it acquire the 66 percent of GGP that it does not already own. (In the third quarter of this year, Brookfield exercised stock warrants to increase its ownership interest in the REIT from 29 percent to 34 percent by purchasing 68 million GGP shares for $462 million.)

“Brookfield’s access to large-scale capital and deep operating expertise across multiple sectors, combined with GGP’s high-quality retail asset base, will allow us to maximize the value of these irreplaceable assets,” Brookfield Property Partners CEO Brian Kingston said in a statement announcing the bid.

Brookfield noted that its takeover offer constituted a 21 percent premium on GGP’s “unaffected closing share price” of $19.01 on Nov. 6, as news of the proposal immediately pushed GGP stock to north of $22 per share the next day and above $24 per share on Nov. 13, when Brookfield officially announced its offer. In the wake of the bid, GGP said it had formed a “special committee” of independent directors—excluding Mathrani and directors affiliated with Brookfield, such as Kingston, BPY Chairman Ric Clark and Brookfield Asset Management CEO Bruce Flatt—to review and consider Brookfield’s proposal and “pursue the course of action that it believes is in the best interests of the company.”

Representatives for both GGP and Brookfield declined to comment for this story.

With the offer coming in well below most analysts’ valuation of GGP, many are split on whether the deal provides good value for GGP shareholders at a challenging time for the retail sector at large, or if it undervalues one of the top publicly traded commercial landlords in the country and could prove a mere starting point in negotiations between the two sides.

“I’m sure everyone would like to get a deal done; the question is, What is the price Brookfield is willing to pay?” said Alexander Goldfarb, a managing director and senior REIT analyst at Sandler O’Neill + Partners, who noted that the initial Brookfield bid “undervalues” GGP below Brookfield’s own internal net asset valuation of the company of around $30 per share.

Goldfarb and other analysts also called into question whether GGP investors would be willing to accept BPY stock as part of any deal. In a note released last month, BTIG equity research analysts James Sullivan and Ami Probandt described BPY’s stock, which has been trading between $21 to $24 per share for most of this year, as “relatively illiquid with very low average trading volume.”

“Our assumption is they’ll have to improve their offer; no one ever throws in their best offer first,” Goldfarb said. “I think Brookfield sees the real story, which is the company being undervalued by the Street.”

Anita Ogbara, a director and credit analyst at Standard & Poor’s, described the Brookfield bid as “opportunistic” at a time when there is “a lot of pressure on valuations” in the mall REIT sector. “We don’t know what the ultimate outcome is going to be, but there’s a clear sign that [Brookfield is] trying to take advantage of the discount versus the true value of [GGP’s] assets.”

While Brookfield’s first crack at a GGP takeover may have been “an underwhelming offer” for many stakeholders, Haendel St. Juste, a managing director and senior equity research analyst at Mizuho Securities USA, said that challenging conditions in the retail space could end up having outsized sway over whether a deal gets done or not. He noted that, speaking to participants at the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts’ annual REITworld convention last month, there is a sense that an offer of around $25 per share “would maybe carry the day.”

“People are disappointed [in the $23-per-share offer], but then again I think there’s been a resignation among folks—that maybe it’s not great on its face, but given the current dynamic, maybe it’s as good as you could hope for or expect,” St. Juste said.

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Brookfield Place in Battery Park City, Manhattan. Photo: Getty Images

Should a deal go through and Brookfield acquire GGP, it is unclear what will become of the company’s leadership and whether the likes of Mathrani will remain in some position or capacity. What appears more certain, according to analysts as well as sources with knowledge of Brookfield’s operations, is that the combined company would look to leverage Brookfield’s exposure in nonretail sectors, such as office and residential, to potentially reposition underperforming properties in the GGP portfolio.

“We are excited about the opportunity to leverage our expertise to grow, transform or reposition GGP’s shopping centers, creating long-term value in a way that would not otherwise be possible,” Kingston said in his statement announcing the bid.

While GGP has already made steps toward pursuing such repositionings—having recently announced a partnership with residential REIT AvalonBay Communities to build apartments at one of GGP’s malls in Seattle—Brookfield would likely seek to further that approach, as it did with select Rouse Properties assets in New Jersey and Vermont in the wake of its $2.8 billion acquisition of the mall landlord last year.

Mizuho’s St. Juste said the integration of a more diverse array of uses at malls and shopping centers is warranted in an environment where “there’s too much retail in the United States” and landlords are seeking new ways to drive traffic.

Sources also said that while Brookfield would almost certainly look to hold long-term onto GGP’s premier retail assets—such as the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, Glendale Galleria in Glendale, Calif., and Tysons Galleria in Washington, D.C., suburbs—it would probably seek to offload other lower-quality properties either through outright sales or joint-venture partnerships.

It would also remain to be seen what happens to GGP’s high-street retail portfolio, a market in which former Vornado executive Mathrani upped the REIT’s exposure via the acquisition of pricey storefronts along luxury retail strips like Manhattan’s upper Fifth Avenue corridor.

Sandler O’Neill’s Goldfarb noted that GGP’s foray into the luxury street retail space was one of the few areas where Mathrani “got pushback” from investors and observers, given that the REIT entered that market “right at the peak” of New York City property values—via deals like its nearly $1.8 billion acquisition of the Crown Building at 730 Fifth Avenue, which GGP acquired alongside retail magnate Jeff Sutton of Wharton Properties.

“[Mathrani] had done [street retail] at Vornado and he saw an opportunity at GGP,” Goldfarb said. “It was just that the prices he was paying were top of the market.” While GGP has found success with its street retail assets—most notably signing luxury fashion brand Bulgari to a pricey lease to maintain its presence at the Crown Building—depressed Manhattan street retail rents could contribute to a change in approach.

Whatever direction is in store for a new Brookfield-helmed GGP, it is almost certain that a successful takeover would shake up the market as far as publicly traded retail landlords are concerned—and very well signal a time of heightened consolidation as the industry takes on virtually unprecedented headwinds.

“It’s created an M&A tailwind and brought some investors back in the space,” St. Juste said, citing how the likes of Simon, Macerich and Taubman have also seen their share prices run up in the wake of the Brookfield bid. “Next year is going to be tough from an operational perspective; without this M&A buzz, the stocks would be down. They’re not trading on fundamentals right now.”


Source: commercial

Developers Talk the Remaking of Downtown, One Brick and Restaurant at a Time

When Larry Silverstein realized he would have to rebuild the World Trade Center in 2001, he never anticipated that the Financial District would experience a renaissance. But after the construction of three new World Trade towers, the new Fulton Transit Center, the Oculus, and the Shops at Brookfield Place, Manhattan’s long-sleepy downtown is seeing something of a rebirth.

 

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“​Sixteen years later, it’s nothing short of remarkable,” said Silverstein, speaking at Commercial Observer’s New Face of Downtown event in L&L Holding Company’s 195 Broadway. He touted the area’s 12 subway lines, its wealth of new restaurants, and its relatively youthful residential community compared to more established ‘hoods like the Upper East or Upper West Sides.

​”We’ve decided we’re moving away from the old fogies up there, because of the youth down here,” said Silverstein, who is himself picking up and moving with his wife from Park Avenue to his new condo development at 30 Park Place. “It’s the youthful vibe, it’s the authenticity, it’s the access to great amenities, access to great transit.”

Downtown Alliance head Jessica Lappin pointed out that the Financial District offers Class A office space at an average of $63 a square foot, a $20 discount from typical asking rents in Midtown, and class B office space for $53 a square foot. And 90 percent of the neighborhood’s jobs are within a five-minute-walk of at least seven subway lines, she said. Their conversation, which occurred during the day’s second panel on the “WTC Effect,” was moderated by Michael Zetlin, the founding partner of Zetlin & DeChiara.

During the morning’s first panel, on how building upgrades could attract tenants to Downtown properties, everyone agreed that millennials and their companies were looking for more efficient workspaces and amenities that could help them attract talent and run their businesses well in the 21st century. Fried Frank real estate chairman Jonathan Mechanic moderated, and the speakers included Brookfield Properties Senior Managing Partner Ric Clark, L&L Holdings Chairman David Levinson, and Matt Straz, the founder and chief executive officer of a human resources software startup, Namely.

Clark explained that he had encouraged his tenants to order an app called Ritual, which allows workers to order food from restaurants in the Shops at Brookfield Place and get a notification to go down and pick up their food when it’s ready, rather than standing in line. He’s also working on setting up a security system that allows tenants to use an app on their phones rather than a key card to swipe into the building.

Most of our tenants look at geography as the key,” said Cushman & Wakefield chairman Bruce Mosler. “They want open space, large floor plates. They want to be around a 24-7 environment.”

Mosler emphasized the need for landlords to bring in companies like Convene, which create communal workspace amenities, like conference rooms, that tenants can choose to rent on an hourly or daily basis. “Ownership that has gone through those processes [to invest in their buildings] are going to reap the benefits,” said Mosler. “And buildings that haven’t been invested in are going to have trouble in the future.”

Levinson explained that he had tried to “future-proof” 195 Broadway, which is a century old but features large blocks of column-free space. However, he noted that “some people want something with a vintage, a history,” even though older properties like 195 Broadway have lower ceiling heights than new construction.

Ultimately, though, everyone wanted to celebrate FiDi’s new lease on life.

You’d come down here at 5:30 at night and there’d be no one on the street,” said Levinson. “Now it’s a full blown, serious community.”


Source: commercial

Ryan Simonetti and Christopher Kelly on the Evolution of Event Space Provider Convene

In early 2011, William Elder, an executive vice president and the managing director of RXR Realty in New York City, received a call from Ryan Simonetti, a young real estate executive he knew.

Simonetti wanted to tell him about his new business: on-demand conference and event space provider Convene, which he co-founded with Christopher Kelly. Elder and Simonetti met at RXR’s 1336 Avenue of the Americas, where Simonetti was hoping to open a Convene outpost, but Elder wasn’t convinced.

“I didn’t get the conferencing thing,” Elder said. “And I said no.”

Elder’s rejection wasn’t exactly crazy. Six years ago, it was still pretty unquestioned that companies needed conference rooms and boardrooms in their offices. But within the next year, Elder started seeing a change. More firms started cutting back on these kinds of spaces. The idea of outsourced meeting rooms became intriguing. In 2012, he decided to work with Convene at 237 Park Avenue, where RXR was spending $50 million to upgrade the building.

As Elder took Fortune 100 companies on tours of the building, anytime he mentioned Convene, the company’s executives eyes would light up.

“Just having Convene working through [tenants’] plans, it just changed the conversation,” Elder said. “The 10 times a year they need that big boardroom, they can use Convene. So not only do they save on the buildout cost, but they save on the real estate cost for having to lease that extra space.”

When RXR bought 32 Old Slip in April 2015, which had a Convene in place, Elder accepted how popular the company was becoming.

“[Simonetti] is very future focused,” Elder said. “He sees things well before [others]. He identified a place in the market where there was a real need and no competition.”

But the vision never changed for Convene’s founders.

“Chris and I have had the same picture in our minds of an office building—the ideal experiential office building—since before we even first started the company,” said Simonetti, the chief executive officer of Convene.

Today, Convene has about 1 million square feet of event, meeting and conference space in the country—between Washington, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia and New York City—that services 25 million square feet of office buildings. The company plans to open another 2 million square feet by the end of next year within another 50 million square feet of real estate.

And over the next five years, Convene is looking to expand into Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco and Toronto. Internationally, the 340-person company also has plans for a London location in 2019.

“Tenants don’t need to take that [extra] space, and landlords don’t need to build common conference areas, and it’s of such high quality that it will help them attract tenants,” said Jeff Lessard, a senior managing director of strategic consulting at Cushman & Wakefield. “It’s a different angle into the industry than like a WeWork, but I would say it’s compelling.”

Convene will soon open a new location in RXR Realty’s 75 Rockefeller Plaza. (The specifics of this new space are not yet set.)

Although Convene’s roots are in on-demand meeting spaces, it has evolved in phases to become a complete hospitality company that transforms an office building into sort of a “lifestyle hotel”—something Simonetti claims was the goal all along. (The evolution of Convene is something that is very much on his mind. “There was a time when Amazon only sold books,” Simonetti told CO.)

After launching in 2009, Convene progressively added new divisions including an in-house architecture and design team, a workplace strategy team and a culinary group led by Regional Executive Chef German Villatoro, who creates menus for onsite kitchens at Convene spaces. Each location has a lead chef and culinary team, and some have cafés, too.

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DOUBLE UP: Convene currently has nine active locations in New York City, including at 1 World Trade Center. Photo: Convene

Next, Convene plans to build technology and apps to connect tenants to its services. Recently, it launched Convene Workplace, a service that will provide working suites at Convene locations for companies with up to 100 employees.

But by getting into the office-space-providing business, Convene is now directly butting heads with companies like WeWork and Regus.

“As WeWork and Regus start catering to companies with 50 or 100 people [and not startups], they are moving into the landlords’ business,” Simonetti said. “So I think landlords are viewing them as competitors, meaning that they now have to respond. We have become the landlords’ response.” Convene’s model is closer to that of a property manager.

And now that the appetite for this kind of service seems to be proven, landlords like RXR, Durst Organization and Brookfield Property Partners are jumping aboard.

“There was a moment in the last six months where adopting agile and flexible work space went from being an opportunity for the landlords to not adopting it being a risk,” said Kelly, the president of Convene. “They want to make sure that they are mitigating risk.”

There are now nine active Convene venues in Gotham with four more under development or in the planning phase.

Convene recently opened on the 64th floor at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and Durst’s 1 World Trade Center, where the location features a café, meeting spaces, lounges and game rooms. It is accessible to all the tenants of the 3-million-square-foot building.

The company also has a location at Durst’s 117 West 46th Street, where the landlord first got acquainted with Convene in a typical owner-tenant relationship last year.

“We are of the opinion that the trend of greater hospitality in commercial buildings is a trend that will continue to grow and, over time, will become even more important,” David Neil, a principal at Durst, said. “Ryan and Chris have tapped into this trend and are well positioned to help landlords like ourselves be at the forefront of this movement.”

A year and a half ago, Brookfield Property Partners led a funding round for Convene that raised $20 million. And the landlord was among other established companies—including Durst and venture capital firms—that pulled in another $68 million in May 2017. To date Convene has raised about $119.2 million since 2009, according to the last announcement of funding. It is hoping to bring in $150 million in another funding round in early 2018.

Brookfield took a step further in its relationship with Convene in September, when it announced a partnership that will allow Convene to design, manage and operate workspaces and on-demand meeting and event spaces at the landlord’s downtown Los Angeles properties, starting with 333 South Grand Avenue and expanding to others in the future.

“Successful landlords will be those that work to provide solutions to their tenants’ desire for efficiency and flexibility,” Ric Clark, the senior managing partner and chairman of Brookfield, said in prepared remarks provided to CO. “Convene helps owners do that by offering flexible meeting, social and coworking spaces, significantly enhancing the consumer-facing experience within a property.”

It was probably always destined that Simonetti and Kelly would found a thriving business together.

Simonetti, 36, grew up in Hillsborough, N.J., as an only child. His father runs a bread delivery route that hauls Martin’s Famous Potato Rolls and has woken up at 2:30 every morning to deliver bread for 27 years (and still does today). It taught Simonetti the value of hard work.

He played basketball in high school and went on to Villanova University, where he met Kelly during freshman orientation, and the pair started hatching plans for extra cash almost immediately. They worked at restaurants, tended bars, bought used textbooks from their fellow students and sold them online and organized ticketed parties and spring break events.

“We were the only two guys at Villanova that didn’t have our parents’ credit cards,” Kelly said.

Kelly, a 35-year-old Armonk, N.Y., native, grew up as one of four boys.

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CONVENING WITH CONVENE: Ryan Simonetti, left, and Christopher Kelly launched Convene in 2009. Photo: Yvonne Albinowski/for Commercial Observer

His grandfather, the son of Greek immigrants, sold nuts on street corners in Manhattan as a child and became a screen door salesman as an adult. Later he ran a hardware store and got into the construction business, passing on his entrepreneurial spirit to Kelly.

While he was in grade school, Kelly’s family would go to Costco and buy items wholesale, including candy for the youngster, who would turn around and peddle it to other children on school buses.

“I always had a hustling mentality,” Kelly said.  “I still remember; Blow Pops were my first product.”

Kelly studied marketing and international business at Villanova. Following graduation in 2004, he took two years to travel around the globe, visiting about 30 countries and living on an average of $20 a day, he said. His travels took him to Asia for six months, one month in Africa, and six months in South America before he ended up in Costa Rica in Central America, where he opened a bar on the beach called Coconuts. (While in Costa Rica, he learned how to speak Spanish and to surf.)

As for his future partner, Simonetti interned for Goldman Sachs in college, and after graduating in 2005, he worked at Lehman Brothers Real Estate on the structured products side until 2006. Then he joined Gramercy Capital. At 26 years old, he was running a $3 billion portfolio that focused on office buildings and hotels.

When the financial crisis hit in 2008, Simonetti received many calls from tenants saying they needed to give back space as they were forced to cut costs.

That was when the idea struck about incorporating flexible conference and meeting spaces with services in office buildings, which became Convene.

“The first opportunity that I identified was why are office buildings not being run more like hotels and is there a way to think differently about how office buildings are built designed and operated,” Simonetti said.

A big problem, he realized, was the companies sign long-term sheets but don’t have crystal balls.

“How could a CEO of any company predict 10 years from now what their business is going to look like, how many employees should they have, what is the design going to be, [and] what that experience is going to be,” Simonetti said. “And I thought, if given a better option, would companies actually outsource a portion of their real estate strategy?”

To help start his business, Simonetti called Kelly, who moved to Colorado in 2006 to start a private jet charter business called evoJets. He had a house, a car and a girlfriend, now his wife.

But he decided to take a vacation and travel to New York and meet with Simonetti. “I had coffee with Ryan, and he explained to me the vision for the company, and I literally never went home [to Colorado] from vacation,” Kelly said.

Convene was born the following year in November 2009, and today Simonetti and Kelly currently live down the street from each other in Tribeca.

Kelly, a married father of two young children, has run a few marathons, a biathlon and a half ironman. He recently completed the New York Marathon in November in a personal best: 2:57:59.

Simonetti, a married father of a 3-year-old boy, practices Muay Thai and boxing and has taken part in two amateur mixed martial arts fights as well as a boxing match. (He won the two Muay Thai bouts, but his boxing record is 0-1, he admitted. He declined to say anything other than the fighter he lost to has more experience in the ring.)

“For me, [martial arts] becomes a great counterbalance to the pressures and stresses of being a husband and father and obviously running a high-growth business,” Simonetti said. “And you learn a lot about yourself when you step into a ring.”

When Convene opens its largest location yet—58,000 square feet at Cove Property Group’s 101 Greenwich Street in Lower Manhattan—early next year, it will be more than just on-demand meeting and event space with concierge service and a kitchen. There the company plans to officially launch Convene Workplace to provide flexible office suites for companies. The service will also open in Convene’s new Los Angeles locations and in the Philadelphia outpost as well.

The recently formed Convene technology department is hard at work on a mobile app for next year that will connect tenants to Convene services within buildings so they can do things like order food from the Convene kitchen for delivery to their office. This app will also be introduced at 101 Greenwich.

“As a landlord, we want to ensure that we cater to tenants’ need to attract and retain the best and brightest talent,” said Kevin Hoo, the founder and managing partner of Cove. “And partnering with someone like Convene, [which] has a competitive advantage and insight into this paradigm, made sense for us.”


Source: commercial

Owners Magazine 2017: Interviews with NYC’s Top Landlords

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At the risk of stating the forehead-slapping obvious, it’s been a strange 12 months.

There’s been a mixture of good and bad real estate news that can paint a picture of continued stability or darkening clouds on the horizon, depending on your point of view.

By October, the vacancy rate in all three major Manhattan markets for office space appeared to be falling, per Cushman & Wakefield data. Hundreds of thousands of square feet have been leased by Spotify, GroupM, Amazon and others. All of that is inarguably good news.

However, a year ago, few people knew that we were sitting on a retail powder keg ready to blow and take some of the biggest names in the industry with it, like Toys “R” Us, Aerosoles, Payless, Radio Shack…you get the idea. This is inarguably bad.

This is one of the reasons why it’s important to have a magazine like this one.

Yes, the data, the deals and the numbers are critical to understanding the state of real estate. But it’s also important to get a sense of what the key players are thinking right now. That’s why we asked 36 of the biggest names in the business what their vision of the market looks like.

We’ve supplemented these questionnaires with our own reported features.

Last year, New York was considered immune to the vicissitudes of the world economy because we were always a safe, stable place to park cash. That looked like less of a sure bet when China announced new outbound investment rules. Lauren Elkies Schram examines the topic in her story in this issue.

Some in the real estate community long hoped for a challenge to Mayor Bill de Blasio in this year’s mayoral election and put substantial money behind Paul Massey (one of their own) to take the reins of City Hall before that fizzled out. At the risk of propagating a Dewey-Truman blooper (we ship this magazine before Election Day), Aaron Short reported what developers are expecting and hoping for in de Blasio’s second term.

While many developers have spent the last few years touting the Far West Side of Manhattan, there is actually quite a bit of activity on the East River, something that Rey Mashayekhi examines in depth.

Finally, Liam La Guerre looked at something that’s always been written off as anathema to real estate developers: technology. It turns out, the shrewd owners are not only interested in tech, but they’re also developing their own. — Max Gross 


Source: commercial

Why More Real Estate Companies Are Getting Into the Tech Game

Over the weekend of Oct. 13 through Oct. 15, the Real Estate Board of New York hosted its inaugural hackathon, which brought teams from 40 different organizations together to compete for who could develop the best app to address real estate problems.

Prescriptive Data, a one-year-old software company, came away with two wins at the event’s sustainable maintenance and operations, and location intelligence categories.

It should be noted Prescriptive Data had a serious leg up. It was spun off from a division of institutional landlord and developer Rudin Management Company to sell its software Nantum, which gathers building data, such as occupancy, electricity usage and other factors, to help maintain optimal indoor temperatures and efficient energy use.

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A screen shot of the Nantum platform. Photo: Prescriptive Data

This is one of the open secrets of real estate and tech: Despite all the hand-wringing about how real estate is populated by dinosaurs who only understand brick and mortar, there are plenty of landlords worried about just how far behind the industry is and have been actively trying to fix the problem. Landlords are investing venture capital directly into new companies, creating venture capital arms or funding venture capital firms that invest in real estate tech, and making their own in-house technology.

The initial version of Nantum, Prescriptive Data’s first product, was created in 2013, and Rudin tested it with its buildings. 

“We wanted to improve our business, and once we developed Nantum and we saw how powerful the system was in our properties, we thought, ‘Wait a minute, we may be onto something here,’ ” Michael Rudin, a vice president at the company, told Commercial Observer.

Rudin started Prescriptive Data last summer and began selling Nantum on the market to landlords. At that time, it was using the product in 17 Rudin buildings encompassing 10 million square feet, according to a release. The company now has more than 12 million square feet of properties on its platform, according to a spokeswoman. (Rudin declined to say if Prescriptive Data was profitable yet.)

And through Rudin Ventures, Rudin has invested in a series of technology companies, including Hightower (since merged with VTS) in 2015, Radiator Labs in 2016, Honest Buildings and Latch in 2016 and Enertiv in 2017.  

But Rudin is hardly the only real estate company to invest in related technology; Blackstone, which has its own tech division with Blackstone Innovations, has invested capital in various startups, including property management platform VTS in January 2015 with $3.3 million.

Today, Blackstone executives, along with Rudin, Equity Office and other large real estate players that use VTS’ technology, make up the company’s customer advisory board. They meet as a group once a quarter to talk about things they like about the product and ways to improve it—on a voluntary basis.   

“They are seeing the value that they are getting for the product, and if they can get a stake in it, it is a pretty great thing for them,” VTS co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Nick Romito said. “It’s better to be in the car than watch the car pass you.”

Brookfield Property Partners, Rudin and Milstein family’s Circle Ventures have invested in Honest Buildings, a project management platform that helps ensure developments are completed on time and on budget. And mall operator Simon Property Group, via Simon Ventures, has invested in Appear Here, a marketplace for short-term retail space (with terms from one day to as long as three years).

Appear Here recently raised funding from Fifth Wall, a venture capital firm that supports emerging real estate-related technology companies. Fifth Wall injected the undisclosed amount into the company to support its expansion in the United States, according to a release on the partnership. This is significant because Fifth Wall has investments from major real estate landlords such as Equity Residential, Hines, Macerich and real estate investment trust Prologis, and Appear Here needs landlords for its model to work.

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Appear Here’s software. Photo: Appear Here

“At our end, we are really trying to disrupt an old industry,” said Elizabeth Layne, Appear Here’s chief marketing officer and U.S. general manager. “But in order for that to be successful, we need landlords to put their space online. We need them to use our dashboard. And that’s a big change for an industry that is just used to using brokers and talking to a person instead of using the internet.”

Fifth Wall, meanwhile, has raised $232.3 million to date and has already invested in many successful tech companies that are seeking to enhance real estate-related services, including OpenDoor, which lets people instantly buy and sell homes, and States Title, which is seeking to revamp the title and underwriting process. Fifth Wall’s success via those startups has raised eyebrows among real estate executives looking to make their foray into the world of tech.

“We launched a corporate venture group in March 2016. The idea started when our CEO had conversations with Fifth Wall,” said Will O’Donell, a managing director at Prologis, during the inaugural MIPIM ProTech event in Times Square on Oct. 11. “The reality of why we started it is everyone at the company has a day job…but if you actually create a group that is 100 percent accountable for identifying where disruptive trends are occurring—where technology is coming out—and forcing the company to deal with it, it’s a very creative and helpful friction.”

The MIPIM event brought out more than 800 professionals—most of whom were new startup founders and marketers—but there was a sizable group of real estate executives from institutional developers and landlords, including Blackstone, AvalonBay, Vornado Realty Trust, Silverstein Properties, Equity Office and Japan’s Mitsui Fudosan. Ric Clark, a senior managing partner and chairman of Brookfield Property Partners, and Owen Thomas, the CEO of Boston Properties, were panelists at one of the forums.

The showing revealed just how hungry landlords are for tech. Many used the time to network with young entrepreneurs and discuss new technologies.

“We ran a very large [request for proposals] back in the spring looking for a technology vendor that we could essentially partner with to handle everything from lease management, lease pipeline, tenant tracking all the way through to the asset management and the accounting,” said Jonathan Pearce, a senior vice president at Ivanhoé Cambridge, during the panel discussion. “And we had very smart people around the table, and believe it or not, there isn’t just one solution that does all of that.”

mipim proptech 467 Why More Real Estate Companies Are Getting Into the Tech Game
A panel at the MIPIM ProTech event about new ventures by real estate companies, which was moderated by VTS co-Founder Brandon Weber. Photo: Reed Midem

When the moderator Ryan Simonetti, a co-founder of online meeting-space provider Convene, suggested a company at the event might have a product that Ivanhoé was looking for, Pearce replied, “I’d love to talk to them.”

“What is happening is as companies have been successful in developing technology, large real estate companies are embracing them, and they see an ability to prosper both on the innovation side and the management side,” said Robert Courteau, CEO of Altus Group, an advisory services and software provider for real estate companies. “By investing in these [startups], it has immediate benefits on their own companies and perhaps make some money in the market. They are being opportunistic.”

Landlords are also ramping up the use of tech in their properties. Cove Property Group and partner Bentall Kennedy are wrapping up construction at 101 Greenwich Street, where they have partnered with Convene.

Convene, which Brookfield has invested in numerous times, will debut a mobile app for 101 Greenwich that will allow employee access through security turnstiles. The app will also allow tenants to give mobile building access to visitors, book Convene conference rooms and order the delivery of food to their space from Convene’s kitchen. In addition to this, Cove is adding facial recognition technology to the building to be used by employees to access their place of employment.

“We look for technology to increase the tenant experience in the building and things that are going to make us run the building more efficiently,” said Amit Patel, the chief operating officer of Cove. “If you are rushing into the building into the morning and you have something to do like a meeting, you want to be able to get into the building as quickly as possible. And it will alleviate pressure off the security staff.”

Last year, developer Savanna employed Cortex Index, which provides building engineers with an app that helps them operate complex HVAC systems more efficiently, at 110 William Street. This helped the developer reduce annual operating costs by $250,000, according to a Savanna release. Now the developer is looking for further tech opportunities.

“As we have done with Cortex and other technology platforms, we will continue to selectively implement technologies that fit within our portfolio and also help drive operational efficiencies and savings, ultimately creating value for our investors,” Nicholas Bienstock, a co-founder and co-managing partner of Savanna, said in a statement to CO. “I think we are now starting to see technologies that generate real payback on the initial investment required to implement them, in addition to providing certain operational efficiencies or data analytics.”

And then there’s the startup Outernets, which transforms vacant storefronts (or any window, for that matter) into interactive digital displays or advertisements. Omer Golan, who co-founded the company two years ago with his wife Tal, said that they have secured a few major landlord investors who are “very much involved,” but he would not reveal the names.

United American Land is working with Outernets, as is office-space provider and soon-to-be landlord WeWork (once considered a startup itself) at its headquarters in Chelsea. The company installs a special material on the glass and a projector system inside that creates the graphics onto the window. Outernets shares the ad revenue with landlords. And the technology also has sensors that pick up demographic data about the people passing by, which they also share with landlords.

golan 191017 139 Why More Real Estate Companies Are Getting Into the Tech Game
Outernets’ technology on a window at Dylan’s Candy Bar in Union Square. Photo: Kaitlyn Flannagan

These technologies are just the beginning as landlords increasingly see their value, Courteau said.

“You’ll see more capital going into [startups] as larger asset owners invest in technologies,” Courteau said. “There is still a lot more capital coming in.”

The next generation of real estate players may be a hybrid of landlord-tech developers.

Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation began offering courses in real estate technology in June, called Hacking for Real Estate 1 and 2, to teach the next generation of developers about the importance of property technology applications.

There students learn how to use a variety of real estate applications and how to think critically about incorporating technology in their projects. The one-year master of science degree in real estate will be useful as technology begins to play a much bigger role in development, according to Patrice Derrington, the director of the program.

“We are teaching our students how to be digitally literate,” Derrington said. “That means capable of all apps, understanding the place for applications, being critical in terms of the usage of applications and having a more incisive look at daily real estate activities and considering potential digital solutions. They even do a little bit of coding to know just what it is like.”

To date, real estate companies have been targeting real estate-related ventures, hardly straying from things that would support their core business. But then there is amazing story of SilverTech Ventures, which works in collaboration with Silverstein Properties (as it was in part founded by Silverstein President Tal Kerret). SilverTech Ventures has been investing in both real estate and non-real estate startups for more than two years.

Kerret and other founders meet with about around 50 to 60 companies each month and choose one startup in which to invest every two months. To date, they have invested in 17 startups, including mobile wallet Cinch, identity protection startup Semperis and property management service Rentigo. Kerret said before the selection they like to spend a few months getting to know the executives.

“The graph is always up and the revenue will always come in the future,” Kerret said. “From the hundreds and hundreds of companies that we have seen it’s always [the same]. It’s like going on a date before you begin seeing someone.”

But for Kerret, investing in young companies provides them with something other than just the next business opportunity or way to enhance their own portfolios.

“I want to have fun with what I do in life, and I want to be around people I enjoy,” Kerret said. “I spend a lot of time with the CEOs, and I would rather spend time with people that I can have more fun with.”


Source: commercial

Amazon Taking 360K SF at 5 Manhattan West for 2,000-Employee Office

Hot on the heels of Amazon’s new fulfillment center in Staten Island, the e-commerce giant—founded by Jeff Bezos—has signed a 360,000-square-foot deal at Brookfield Property Partners 5 Manhattan West building, the landlord announced today.

The digital retail company will occupy the entire sixth and seventh floors and portions of the eighth and 10th floors of the building, which is located on 10th Avenue between West 31st and West 33rd Streets, bringing the building’s occupancy to 99 percent. The building is a part of Manhattan West, Brookfield’s eight-acre, six-building mixed-use development. A Brookfield spokeswoman declined to disclose the asking rent and term of the lease.

Amazon will move into the building next year. In exchange for creating 2,000 office jobs at the property, the state will give Amazon $20 million in tax credits. A variety of roles will be undertaken at the location, with the e-commerce giant hiring software engineers to data analysts to economists. It will also be the primary location in New York for Amazon’s advertising divisioncomprised of sales, marketing, product, design and engineering staffers.

“We’re excited to expand our presence in New York—we have always found great talent here,” Paul Kotas, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide advertising, said in prepared remarks.

Derek Trulson, Josh Stuart, Bill Peters and Clay Nielsen of JLL handled the deal for Amazon, while Brookfield was represented in-house by Jeremiah Larkin, Duncan McCuaig and Alex Liscio and a Cushman & Wakefield team of Bruce Mosler, Josh Kuriloff, Rob Lowe, Ethan Silverstein and Matthias Li. Spokesmen for brokers on both sides of the deal did not immediately return requests for comment.

Brookfield completed a $300 million redevelopment of the 16-story, 1.8-million-square-foot building, formerly known as 450 West 33rd Street (and informally as one of the ugliest buildings in the city), into an all glass structure.

“Amazon’s expansion is the latest example of a leading company drawn to Manhattan West by the unparalleled access, state-of-the-art office space, and experiential culinary, health and wellness and fashion provided by Brookfield’s newest placemaking destination,” Ric Clark, senior managing partner and chairman of Brookfield, said in prepared remarks.

Whole Foods signed a 60,000-square-foot deal to anchor the 100,000 square feet of ground floor retail space at the redesigned building.

As previously reported by Commercial Observer, the Amazon deal at 5 Manhattan West comes just weeks after the company announced a it was opening an 855,000-square-foot, $100 million fulfillment center at the 200-acre Matrix Global Logistics Park. Around 2,250 operations employees will be hired for that new location, and Amazon will receive $18 million in state tax credits in return.

The company also has plans to open a second headquarters that will cost $5 billion to build, and house as many as 50,000 workers, although it has not picked a site for it yet.


Source: commercial