July 11, 2012

The Wednesday Wrap: July 11, 2012

Each Wednesday, The Wrap presents a compilation of recent noteworthy commercial real estate stories from a variety of publications. Below are five stories that caught our eyes in recent days.

“Blackstone to Shed Office Empire” by Eliot Brown and Craig Karmin of The Wall Street Journal.

Seeking in part to take advantage of increasing institutional demand for mostly leased office properties in good locations, private equity firm Blackstone Group LP is preparing to sell its office portfolio, Brown and Karmin reported late Tuesday night.

The portfolio includes more than 100 buildings and totals about 50 million square feet of space. In addition to rising institutional demand for office properties, Blackstone also is motivated by a need “to return money to investors in funds that typically liquidate after seven to 10 years,” Brown and Karmin write.

The value of the office portfolio could be as high as $22 billion, according to the article. During a February analyst conference call, Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman remarked that if his firm decided to sell the office portfolio, “my expectation is that we will really crush it and we will really do extremely well.”

“King and Queen Project Go Under Contract” by Douglas Sams of The Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Speaking of breaking news, it looks like Atlanta’s Concourse Corporate Center, featuring the famed “King” and “Queen” office towers that loom over the intersection of Georgia 400 and I-285, is about to find its new owner. Sams reported late Tuesday that Atlanta’s Regent Partners has formed a partnership with Chicago private equity firm GEM Realty Capital Inc. to buy the 2.1 million-square-foot center.

Current owner TIAA-CREF put Concourse up for sale earlier this year. “Regent and GEM are said to have the mixed-use project under contract and would buy it for just north of $300 million, according to people familiar with the process,” Sams writes. “The deal could close sometime in the third quarter.”

• “U.S. Shopping Center Rents Climb Amid Little Development” by Brian Louis of Bloomberg.

Rents and occupancies at U.S. shopping centers rose during the second quarter as precious little new property came online, according to a new report by research company Reis. The second quarter recorded the third-highest spike in occupied space in neighborhood and community shopping centers since first-quarter 2008. 

Vacancies are falling from a recent 12-year high as a low level of shopping center construction has limited space availability, Reis says.  The second-smallest amount of new space came online this quarter since 1999.  Meanwhile, effective rents averaged $16.55 a square foot, up from $16.49 a year earlier.

Reis economist Ryan Severino said that although the results are “heartening,” he remains “cautious about pronouncing a turnaround until we observe a couple more quarters of improvement.”

• “Capital Markets Have a Long Way to Go” by Jennifer Popovec for National Real Estate Investor.

Given concerns about the global economy, commercial real estate lenders are only looking to finance quality assets in major markets owned by strong sponsors, Popovec writes.

“There’s been no meaningful job growth and uncertainties with U.S. debt and Europe just won’t let people believe the situation will be better six months or a year from now,” Steve Holle, a regional director with Northwestern Mutual, told Popovec.

John Pelusi, managing director at HFF, agrees, saying that other than for multifamily transactions, life companies and major banks have stayed away from secondary and tertiary markets since the credit crisis started in 2008. 

Tom Melody, executive managing director of Jones Lang LaSalle’s capital markets group, says that there are some promising signs in the construction sector.  More capital is available for construction projects in select markets, and banks are willing to commit to larger loans, he said.

"VIDEO: REIT Office Sector Still Struggling" from REIT.com.

Michael Knott, managing director with Green Street Advisors, offers his analysis of the office sector. He touches on why he’s more bullish on high barrier markets, his view on office fundamentals and his outlook for the sector’s recovery. Click here to view the clip.

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