Posts By : CREC

Pollo Tropical spreads its wings to new HQ near Miami airport
Pollo-Tropical-Carol-Brooks-and-Glenn-Rozansky[1]
Pollo Tropical office (Credit: Gigi Alvarez) Inset: CREC’s Carol Brooks and Glenn Rozansky, vice president of real estate for Pollo Tropical

 

After nearly 20 years spent in fragmented office space in Dadeland and a test kitchen in Doral, Pollo Tropical has moved into a newly built-out space near Miami International Airport. 

Pollo Tropical, a subsidiary of Fiesta Restaurant Group, is leasing a 10,000-square-foot building at 7255 Corporate Center Drive, Carol Brooks told The Real Deal. Brooks, president and co-founder of CREC, represented Pollo Tropical in the lease along with senior leasing associate Katie Fernandez-Espinosa. Diana Parker, CBRE senior vice president, represented the Landing at MIA.

The new regional headquarters for Pollo Tropical includes an open floor plan of offices and conference space surrounding a roughly 1,100-square-foot test kitchen. The company went from leasing about 17,000 square feet on noncontiguous floors in an older building in the Dadeland area, plus a test kitchen in Doral, to a smaller and centralized space.

“They had grown over decades into a space that was no longer efficient and it didn’t accommodate their culture. They wanted to consolidate offices, their training facility and test kitchen under one roof with ease of access, abundant onsite parking and onsite amenities,” Brooks told TRD. “Those requirements – the parking and test kitchen – were inherently limited and that pushed us geographically.”

The building is within the Landing at MIA office park, which recently underwent a $17 million renovation, according to a press release. Records show SPUS7 Miami ACC Land LP owns the 50-acre complex. The limited partnership, which is controlled by CBRE Global Investors principal Claudia Walraven, paid $129.25 million for the office community in 2014.

Brooks declined to provide terms of the lease, including rents, but said that in general rents are lower in the Dadeland submarket, and that it’s difficult to compare rent within the airport submarket because of the kitchen and training facilities.

The popular fast-casual chicken restaurant chain added skylights to the building as part of the extensive build-out. Gigi Alvarez of G. Alvarez Studio designed the new headquarters.

“It’s so cool. We really talked a lot about culture; food is what they do, so the kitchen now is exposed to the central work area. Everybody has a view,” she said.

CREC Stays Independent as Consolidation Rules in South Florida.
Carol Brooks co-founded CREC in 1989

Carol Brooks co-founded CREC in 1989

National brokerages have cast ambitious eyes upon CREC, but the homegrown commercial real estate company has rejected several offers from big-name competitors.

Numerous South Florida firms such as CREC have held onto their stand-alone structures despite a wave of consolidations sweeping through the industry.

“The independent firm — our firm — we have the opportunity to be truly entrepreneurial, to be nimble, to shift very quickly, to forecast trends and respond to the dynamics in the marketplace,” said Carol Brooks, who co-founded CREC in 1989.

The Coral Gables-based company has grown to offer a wide spectrum of services, including asset and property management, tenant representation, construction management and creative workout solutions. With additional offices in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, CREC’s leasing and management portfolio is projected to close the year at 13.5 million square feet, up 18 percent from 2014.

Brooks attributes the growth to the company’s institutional infrastructure combined with an entrepreneurial spirit.

She said CREC is modeled after a law firm. The company brings in top performers as shareholders and gives employees investment opportunities in its real estate deals.

“Everybody’s success is intertwined,” Brooks said.

The Keyes Realty Co., like CREC, has also remained independent despite offers from national rivals.

Keyes, which is active in both commercial and residential markets, chose an alternative route to boost its market share. The company joined forces this year with Palm Beach Gardens-based Illustrated Properties, another independently run company that focuses on golf and high-end waterfront homes.

Mike Pappas, president and CEO of Keyes, said the merger allows them to leverage shared resources, specifically technology. The two companies continue to operate under their existing brand names and maintained their management teams and employees after the merger.

“We believe that we are partnering with our associates,” Pappas said. “In fact we celebrate collective independence. We’re independent, and our associates are independent. We allow them flexibility and freedom in our model that lets them do business the way they want to do it, whereas the corporate model is more structured and rule-oriented.”

A number of real estate companies, however, have opted for corporate ownership over the past two years.

Taylor & Mathis of Florida LLC sold to Cushman & Wakefield in August. Cushman also acquired Miami-based property manager Gibson Realty Group last April. The deals followed a $2 billion merger with Chicago-based DTZ, which significantly boosted Cushman’s national footprint.

The mandate after the DTZ merger was to “really grow the company and increase our market share,” said Larry Richey, a managing principal who leads the company’s Florida operations.

Cushman has since added over 300 people in Florida, two-thirds in South Florida.

The company competed against other brokerages for its South Florida acquisitions, Richey said.

Last year, Colliers International Group Inc. took over Miami-based Pointe Group Advisors LLC to strengthen the global company’s services in the region.

JLL went on to acquire Cresa South Florida, which focuses on tenant representation, for similar reasons.

Avison Young expanded its footprint two years ago when it purchased Abood Wood-Fay Real Estate Group LLC, a commercial brokerage and property management company that used to operate as Colliers International South Florida. Avison Young also purchased WG Compass Realty Cos. in West Palm Beach in 2013.

“It’s pretty phenomenal that that has not happened at CREC,” Brooks said.

When asked if CREC would always reject offers, co-founder and chairman Warren Weiser replied, “Always is a long time, but I don’t see us being anything but an independent firm.”

http://www.dailybusinessreview.com/home/id=1202774394381?__nored=2&LikelyCookieIssue=true&slreturn=20161112171817&LikelyCookieIssue=true

This is why your favorite Miami restaurants are closing
CARLOS FRÍAS AND NICHOLAS NEHAMAS | MIAMI HERALD

Mark Scharnitz was sick of doing all the work.

He built a small café, The Corner Muse, that helped breathe new life into Miami’s Edgewater district at a time when drug dealers and street walkers worked openly. But when the neighborhood came up, so did his rent. And at the end of his five-year lease, after he had renovated the space into a thriving restaurant, his landlord tried to nearly triple his rent — and forced him out when he couldn’t pay.

The upscale seafood restaurant Mignonette now stands where Scharnitz’s dream once did.

“You bring people there. You build up the neighborhood. And when your lease is up, they don’t care — you’re out,” Scharnitz said.

Restaurants, like artists, move into depressed neighborhoods where rents are cheap, hoping their fans will follow. And when they do, they are often the first ones priced out.

It’s happening across Miami.

In May, Michelle Bernstein’s signature restaurant in the Mimo neighborhood, CENA by Michy’s, closed after a 10-year run. So did Mimo’s The Federal, even after a drastic, last-ditch makeover.

A key culprit in both cases? Rising rents.

South Florida’s smoking-hot commercial real estate market is pricing restaurants out. Rents have quadrupled in popular areas such as Brickell, Wynwood and the Upper East Side over the last few years, brokers and developers say. (Renters are feeling the same heat on the residential side, too.)

“It’s almost like New York real estate right now,” said Ivo Tsinev, a broker at Colliers International South Florida who represents both national chains and chef-driven restaurants.

The region’s appetite for restaurants is insatiable, research shows. People are eating out more and shopping at grocery stores less.

To wit: In Miami’s greater downtown, restaurant sales hit nearly $735 million in 2014, according to the Downtown Development Authority. That was up 78 percent over 2013.

And South Florida diners are dropping more cash than ever: Consumer restaurant spending in the region is growing at the second-fastest rate in the country, new statistics from brokerage CBRE say.

Landlords see that success and are asking chefs to pay up — or get out.

The perks of being a landlord

Scharnitz decided it wasn’t going to happen to him again.

Five years ago, he bought a building “for a song” ($280,000 for 3,490 square feet of space) on Northeast 54th Street in the heart of Little Haiti. That was before speculators decided it could be the next Wynwood, when he still had to worry about getting robbed like one of his managers did.

He ran his catering business out of the back. In February, when he thought the neighborhood was ready, he opened Philly Grub, making authentic cheesesteaks with shaved sirloin and housemade cheese “whiz.”

The restaurant is part of Little Haiti’s gentrification, bringing with it adventurous new customers — as well as rapidly rising rents. It’s the same old story — even in neighborhoods that have yet to prove themselves, rising rents push out restaurants that blazed a trail.

“People told me I was crazy,” Scharnitz said. “And the crazier they told me I was, the more I knew I had to do it. If you don’t buy your building, there’s just no way you can do it.”

Bernstein, an international award-winning chef raised in Miami, knows all about the dangers of not owning your own space.

She grew up in Mimo — the Miami Modern district along North Biscayne Boulevard south of 80th Street — and led the neighborhood’s revival by using her name to draw fans to a desolate part of town. She and chef/husband David Martinez even bought a house there. They still live there, but their restaurant is no longer part of the neighborhood it helped build.

“It’s devastating,” Bernstein said at the time. “We totally vested ourselves in that neighborhood.”

The issue? The building was sold before they signed a lease extension and the new owners asked nearly three times the rent, almost $60 a square foot. Bernstein had even renovated the restaurant a year ago, thinking she’d be there long term.

For her fans, it was like Emeril Lagasse being priced out of New Orleans.

“It’s indicative of what’s going on and what is going to continue going on in Miami,” said CENA co-owner Steven Perricone, a former New York restaurateur and developer who bought the property for Italian restaurant and market Perricone’s in 1994, when Brickell was a fine-dining wasteland.

Finding an area like Brickell or, perhaps, Little Haiti or Little River, before it blows up is hard.

If a chef wants to open up in an already established neighborhood, owning just isn’t realistic, said Andreas Schreiner, who owns the Pubbelly restaurant group, with locations in Sunset Harbor and downtown Miami.

“It’s a nice dream to do it, but the way real estate prices are now, it’s a little prohibitive, especially on the Beach,” Schreiner said. “We’re looking to expand on the mainland, but even in places like Wynwood or the Midtown corridor, prices have really gone up. So to be able to purchase … it’s just too much.”

At the mercy of the market

Owning a restaurant is a risky business.

The industry is rife with turnover. Some spots close before people even know they are open, even excellent ones such as Bazi, which folded after less than six months in ultra-competitive South Beach, despite a 3 1/2-star Miami Herald review.

But what’s happening in South Florida’s restaurant scene now is different, experts say.

It took Tsinev, the broker, two years to find the perfect space for one client in downtown Miami. He’s even given up using commercial real estate databases to find locations, because there’s too much competition for not enough space. Instead, he cold-calls landlords, from Miami’s Parks and Recreation Department to the Dominican consulate, to see if they’re interested in leasing to a restaurant. (It’s working, he says.)

“The gap is getting wider and wider between what landlords need to recover and what the chefs and all of these restaurants can afford to pay,” Tsinev said. “I’m not saying we’re in a bubble. But I hope it starts slowing down soon.”

The debacle at CENA wasn’t the first time rents have displaced Martinez and Bernstein. Their Sra. Martinez in the Design District folded after their rents went from $15 a square foot to nearly $50, from one lease to the next.

Martinez is stunned at the rents landlords are asking today. In Little Haiti, prices are nearly $40 a square foot. Even in Allapattah, he is seeing landlords asking $30 a square foot compared to less than $10 a year ago.

“Rents go up before a neighborhood proves itself in Miami,” Martinez said. “Rents are going to have to come down unless landlords don’t mind seeing their buildings empty.” More and more restaurants are opening outside the traditional hotspots of Brickell and South Beach. Some chefs are looking to suburbs, such as Kendall and Doral, said CREC broker Rafael Romero. “It creates a bidding war,” he said.

Drew Schaul of leasing firm RKF agreed. “The market is as tight as it’s ever been,” he said. “There’s a limited supply of great restaurant space, especially for the higher-end, chef-driven restaurant concept.”

Not all the new competition is up to snuff.

Many wealthy foreigners see opening a restaurant in Miami as a better investment than leaving their cash in struggling Latin American and European economies, said Emran Ally, a broker at CBRE. Some of the investors don’t know how to run a restaurant or play the real estate market.

“A lot of those tenants overpay [for space] and then landlords start charging more and the menu prices rise and it’s a slippery slope,” Ally said.

And there’s another way Miami’s hot real estate market hurts restaurants.

Most retail leases require tenants to pay property taxes, maintenance and insurance, on top of monthly rent.

If a buyer comes in and scoops up a building for a big price, Miami-Dade County will likely assess the property at a higher value — raising the taxes and leaving the restaurant tenant on the hook for the higher bill. That’s in addition to the new owner asking more rent once the original lease expires.

There are signs South Florida’s commercial real estate market could slow down — but they’re still far off.

For one, Miami’s residential building boom is cooling as sales plummet, meaning retail developers will face less competition from condo projects. The threat of Zika could also hinder tourism in the region, depressing restaurant sales.

‘Feed the neighborhood and it will feed you’

Restaurants can only run so far. Eventually, rents catch up.

Fiorito Argentine restaurant was a pioneer when it moved into Little Haiti, a block north of the famous Churchill’s music venue, four years ago. Most of its customers are from outside the area. The restaurant is drawing people from Miami Shores and El Portal and helping build interest in Little Haiti.

But Fiorito has seen its rent triple since it moved in. The owners, brothers Maximiliano and Cristian Álvarez, hope to grow with the neighborhood, but they already suspect one day they might have to relocate.

“Rents have gone way up,” Maximiliano Álvarez said. “People are running from higher rents, but eventually they all go up.”

When rents go up, chefs can’t just charge more for mac ‘n’ cheese, the way a boutique might mark up yoga pants.

“People feel we’re trying to take advantage of them,” Álvarez said.

Several chefs said the best-run restaurants make about a quarter on every dollar. An average one gets eight to 10 cents.

“Our bread is expensive enough,” jokes Zak Stern, who has developed a cult following in Wynwood as Zak the Baker. “High-quality food shouldn’t just be for the very wealthy.”

But good neighborhoods need good restaurants. A restaurant like Zak the Baker can build a community in ways an Old Navy or Banana Republic can’t.

“You feed the neighborhood and it will feed you,” says Goldman Properties managing partner Joe Furst, quoting his former boss, the late real estate developer Tony Goldman.

When Zak the Baker was looking to open in Wynwood, Furst made it happen. Goldman — which owns more than 30 properties in the neighborhood — designed and built a space for him and financed the deal.

When it came time to open a full production bakery in the heart of Wynwood (set to open in September), Goldman offered Stern a 10-year lease and favorable terms to keep him from moving to Doral or Medley.

“It’s in their interest not to kill the goose that laid the golden egg,” Stern said.

Some landlords see the logic in cutting restaurants a bit of slack.

“The restaurants, they bring people every day,” said Craig Robins, the developer who owns roughly three-quarters of properties in the Design District.

Robins said he generally charges restaurants about 25 percent of what his retailers pay.

Although he makes more money renting to Louis Vuitton, Hermès and Gucci, he says restaurants are crucial to the success of the luxury shopping mecca.

“People go out to eat much more than they shop,” said Robins, who is planning to open 10 restaurants by fall 2017.

Major property owners like Goldman and Robins are the exception. Because they own so many properties, they can afford to rent to restaurants at a lower rate. Smaller landlords can’t always do that, if they’re thinking about the bottom line.

But focusing only on the bottom line can kill a neighborhood.

Just ask Coconut Grove. Landlords brought in retailers and national chains with no connection to the community in the 1990s and the crowds lost interest. Only now that more independent eateries are opening — 33 Kitchen, Ariete, Glass and Vine, Lokal, Panther Coffee and Strada, just to name a few — is Coconut Grove experiencing a revival.

It’s a lesson for Mimo, Little River, Little Haiti — and the chefs taking a chance on the next up-and-coming neighborhood. Your success could be your undoing, unless you buy in on the ground floor.

“Nobody’s going to tell me I have to leave,” said Philly Grub’s owner, Scharnitz. “I’m here for the long haul.”

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CPAC & Lubert Adler Complete Repositioning of Royal University Plaza Shopping Center in Coral Springs
South Florida | City Biz List

Alan Esquenazi and Warren Weiser

37,000-square-foot Orchard Supply store set to open in November

Eighteen months after acquiring Royal University Plaza in Coral Springs, Florida, owner CPAC Royal University, LLC, a joint venture between principals of CREC and Lubert Adler, has finalized a dramatic repositioning that more than doubled occupancy, added 15,000 square feet of rentable retail space, and lured high-profile anchors including Orchard Supply and Total Wine & More to the neighborhood shopping center.

Located at 2556 North University Drive, Royal University Plaza was an underperforming asset when CPAC and Lubert Adler purchased the property for $26 million in February 2015. At the time, the center was 45 percent occupied and in need of significant capital improvements that would help attract major national brands to the center situated at the high-volume intersection of University Drive and Royal Palm Boulevard.

Royal

Central to the JV ownership group’s turnaround was enlisting CREC to undertake an aggressive retail leasing and marketing campaign and oversee a series of capital improvements, including a 15,000-square-foot expansion that opened the door to a new 37,000-square-foot Orchard Supply store set to open in November – one of the brand’s first locations in South Florida.

“As we began evaluating the neighborhood following last year’s acquisition, we quickly identified a lack of available boxes capable of attracting junior anchors,” says Alan Esquenazi, a partner at CREC. “By reconfiguring storefronts and adding additional space, we transformed Royal University Plaza into a top-performing asset in the Coral Springs neighborhood within a year-and-a-half.”

Today, the 115,000-square-foot Royal University Plaza is 94 percent leased and home to a tenant roster that includes Total Wine & More, Pet Supermarket, Jimmy John’s, Third Federal Bank, Hertz Rental Cars, Brooklyn Water Bagel Co., and AAA Auto Club.

“Royal University Plaza is a classic example of a retail asset that benefited from a creative approach to leasing, marketing and construction management,” explains CPAC Principal Warren Weiser. “We identified an underperforming property in a submarket that was home to strong demographics and CREC executed a strategy that maximized asset value and elevated the center’s appeal among some of the country’s hottest retail brands.”

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With high connectivity, Doral offices 98% full, values reported holding

Office values continue to hold strong in Doral, says Douglas Okun, senior vice president of CREC, which manages the Lennar Corporate Center, where occupancy sits at 98%…

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Kopelowitz Ostrow Opens Gables Office
Carla Vianna | Daily Business Review

A Fort Lauderdale law firm has chosen Coral Gables for its first permanent Miami-Dade office.

Kopelowitz Ostrow Ferguson Weiselberg Gilbert signed a 5,000-square-foot lease at 2800 Ponce de Leon Blvd., a Class A office building anchored by Regions Bank. The firm will join others operating in the 28-story Regions Bank Tower, including Wicker Smith O’Hara McCoy & Ford and Breier Seif Silverman & Schermer.

The new location will be managed by veteran Miami lawyer Robert “Bobby” Gilbert, who became a name partner after joining the firm last fall. Gilbert left Grossman Roth to oversee and expand Kopelowitz Ostrow’s complex litigation and class action practice.

“By opening our office in Coral Gables, we’ll be able to continue building our team and providing the full range of services to our clients and co-counsel across South Florida,” he said in a statement.

The office will be home to eight of the firm’s 45 or so attorneys come August.

Carol Brooks, president of Coral Gables-based CREC, represented the firm in the lease transaction. No other details were released.

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CREC Completes Office Leases Totaling 13,000 SF in Coral Gables, FL
CityBizList
Carol Brooks

Hemisphere Media Group expands its Coral Gables headquarters; Law firm Kopelowitz Ostrow Ferguson Weiselberg Gilbert opens its first permanent Miami-Dade County office.

The Coral Gables office market is getting an added boost thanks to the expansion of the only publicly-traded, pure-play US Hispanic tv/cable networks and content platform and a Broward law firm opening its first permanent office in Miami-Dade. Hemisphere Media Group, Inc. will relocate and expand its headquarters to 4000 Ponce de Leon Blvd., while new arrival Kopelowitz Ostrow Ferguson Weiselberg Gilbert will open its newest office at 2800 Ponce de Leon Boulevard. The two leases total a combined 13,000 square feet of Class A office space.

Carol Brooks, President of Coral Gables-based CREC, one of Florida’s largest commercial real estate services firms, represented Hemisphere and Kopelowitz Ostrow Ferguson Weiselberg Gilbert in the two transactions. William Holly of Patton Real Estate represented the owner of 4000 Ponce de Leon Blvd., CMC Group.

The leases come as new investment pours into the Coral Gables business district. A $21 million makeover of the neighborhood’s main retail thoroughfares, Miracle Mile and Giralda Avenue, is underway; more than 85 new restaurants have opened in the last five years; and over 1,500 residential units are expected to come online by 2020.

“The Gables is surging as new companies enter what has always been one of Miami’s most desirable submarkets and existing firms expand,” explains CREC President Carol Brooks, who advised both firms in their leases. “Our tenant representation team took the time to learn the needs of Hemisphere and Kopelowitz Ostrow Ferguson Weiselberg Gilbert, and then created a leasing strategy that will meet both firms’ current and future real estate requirements. The result will be new absorption for the Coral Gables office market.”

Hemisphere owns and operates five leading U.S. Hispanic cable networks, two Latin American cable networks, and the leading broadcast television network in Puerto Rico. The firm was located at 2000 Ponce de Leon Blvd., but recently decided to relocate to an 8,000-square-foot space with the goal of modernizing its space and establishing a defined headquarters that could accommodate its entire staff.

“As we have grown, we took on additional non-contiguous space and this move will put us all under one roof, so we can work more efficiently,” says Hemisphere President and CEO Alan J. Sokol. “After surveying the market with CREC, we concluded that 4000 Ponce was the right choice due to the building’s location and modern finishes. We couldn’t be happier with our new headquarters, and we’re thrilled that we’re remaining in Coral Gables.”

Kopelowitz Ostrow Ferguson Weiselberg Gilbert is a full-service South Florida law firm with approximately 45 lawyers that represent clients of all sizes, from entrepreneurs to large public companies. The firm’s main office is in Fort Lauderdale. The new Coral Gables location, which totals nearly 5,000 square feet, opens following the arrival last year of veteran Miami lawyer Bobby Gilbert, who is overseeing and expanding the firm’s complex litigation and class action practice.

“By opening our office in Coral Gables, we’ll be able to continue building our team and providing the full range of services to our clients and co-counsel across South Florida,” says Gilbert, who will manage the Coral Gables office.

About CREC

Founded in 1989 by Chairman Warren Weiser and President Carol Brooks, CREC (Continental Real Estate Companies) is one of Florida’s largest commercial real estate services firms, managing a portfolio of more than 100 office, retail and multifamily properties totaling 11.4 million square-feet. With offices throughout Florida, CREC specializes in asset and property management, leasing, tenant representation, construction management, development dispositions and finance, and creative workout solutions. For more information, visit  www.crec.com.

About Hemisphere Media Group, Inc.

Hemisphere Media Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:HMTV) is the only publicly traded pure-play U.S. media company targeting the high growth Spanish-language television and cable networks business in the U.S. and Latin America. Headquartered in Miami, Florida, Hemisphere owns and operates five leading U.S. Hispanic cable networks, two Latin American cable networks, and the leading broadcast television network in Puerto Rico. Hemisphere’s networks consist of: Cinelatino, the leading Spanish-language movie channel with over 16 million subscribers across the U.S., Latin America and Canada, including 4.5 million subscribers in the U.S. and 12.3 million subscribers in Latin America, featuring the largest selection of contemporary Spanish-language blockbusters and critically-acclaimed titles from Mexico, Latin America, Spain and the Caribbean; WAPA, Puerto Rico’s leading broadcast television network with the highest primetime and full day ratings in Puerto Rico. Founded in 1954, WAPA produces more than 75 hours per week of top-rated news and entertainment programming; WAPA America, the leading cable network targeting Puerto Ricans and other Caribbean Hispanics living in the U.S., featuring the highly-rated news and entertainment programming produced by WAPA. WAPA America is distributed in the U.S. to 5.2 million subscribers; Pasiones, dedicated to showcasing the most popular telenovelas and drama series, distributed in the U.S. and Latin America. Pasiones has 4.4 million subscribers in the U.S. and 10.6 million subscribers in Latin America; Centroamerica TV, the leading network targeting Central Americans living in the U.S., the third-largest U.S. Hispanic group, featuring the most popular news, entertainment and soccer programming from Central America. Centroamerica TV is distributed in the U.S. to 4.0 million subscribers; and Television Dominicana, the leading network targeting Dominicans living in the U.S., featuring the most popular news, entertainment and baseball programming from the Dominican Republic. Television Dominicana is distributed in the U.S. to 3.0 million subscribers. For more information, visit  www.hemispheretv.com.

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Swiss insurer makes landfall in Coral Gables with $58M investment pay
Sean Stewart-Muniz | The Real Deal

2121 Ponce de Leon Boulevard

It looks like there’s still plenty of foreign investment to go around for Miami’s office market.

Zurich North America, an affiliate of a major Swiss insurance company, just closed on its $57.5 million purchase of the 2121 Ponce office tower in Coral Gables.

The deal was announced Monday by real estate companies Greenstreet Partners and CREC, which formed a joint-venture back in 2005 to buy the 13-story office building for $27.1 million.

Through the years, Greenstreet and CREC started renovating the common areas for 2121 Ponce, which was built in 1970. The companies brought the building up to 95 percent occupancy with an eclectic mix of tenants like the Consulate General of Barbados, Fox Latin America and Valley National Bank. CREC itself even took space in the building, and plans to stay even under the new ownership.

After roughly a decade of holding the property, Warren Weiser, chairman of CREC, told The Real Deal that the partners decided it was a good time to sell amidst a tightening office market.

“The asset performed pretty darn well even through the recession,” Weiser said. “It’s a very good market for both buyers and sellers right now.”

Weiser said the partners had an established relationship with Zurich, which keeps a U.S. office in New York. After touching base in February, the two parties “shook hands” in March and closed the deal last week.

“[Zurich] knows this market,” Weiser told TRD. “They made a very smart purchase because you can’t reproduce this building for the price they paid.”

The most recent sale of 2121 Ponce, which measures 164,848 square feet, breaks down to nearly $349 per foot. That’s more than double the $164 per foot that CRED and Greenstreet paid in 2005.

One explanation for that price explosion can be found in the latest market numbers from brokerage JLL. Although net absorption in Coral Gables was down by a fraction of a percentage point during the first quarter, there was no new office space under construction in the city at that time. Giralda Place has since broken ground with 58,000 square feet of offices. Meanwhile, office vacancies stood at 10.6 percent and rents were asking an average of $38.18 per square foot annually, according to JLL.

The deal was brokered by CREC’s Weiser, Harry Blyden and Andrew Remick, along with CBRE’s Christian Lee, Jose Lobon and Andrew Chilgren. On Zurich’s side, the firm was advised by its “alternative investment management” division. The Swiss insurance carrier has roughly 55,000 employees worldwide, and its North America division specializes in property-casualty coverage, according to its website.

It’s not unusual for insurance giants like Zurich to diversify into real estate: among U.S. firms, Prudential Financial boasts a thriving real estate arm that’s also bought into the Coral Gables office market.

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Tight little island: office space on Miami Beach scarce

As it has historically been, Miami Beach remains a boutique market with very little office space available, sparse parking and no new construction on the horizon, experts say…

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CREC VP Reveals Firm’s 2016 Strategy
jbusby

Joshua Busby, VP

ORLANDO— We’ve been talking with Josh Busby, a vice president at Continental Real Estate Companies, about commercial real estate trends. Over the past months, he’s told us what Central Florida retail markets are the hottest, described how big the retail void really is, and went beyond specialty retail grocers to discuss what else is hot in retail.

In this final installment, we asked Busby about his own form. What are some opportunities for growth and expansion over the next 12 to 24 months?

“With each new project we are appointed to lease, sell or manage at CREC, we are strengthening our existing relationships in the Central Florida market and building on those to create new business opportunities,” Busy tells GlobeSt.com. “The firm is positioned to finish this year strong with significant market share growth in the region and will enter 2016 with a great deal of momentum.”

Specifically, Busy expects investor and tenant interest will grow further in Central Florida’s key submarkets next year. He also predicts the market should capture additional national and international investor interest, particularly from South America.

“Orlando’s position as a top tourist destination, reaching record visitor numbers over the past year, and the establishment of a Major League Soccer team, Orlando City Soccer Club, are factors helping to draw more investor demand,” Busby says. “When a shopping center in the region hits the market for sale, offers come in from all over the country and around the world.”

And Busby sees another factor working in Orlando’s favor: The price wars for well-positioned assets that Miami is experiencing, which he says is driving more investors to turn north towards markets like Orlando in search of quality assets at more accessible prices.

“With all commercial real estate sectors, from retail to office and multifamily, experiencing strong performance in the region, Central Florida is poised for further growth and investment in the year ahead,” Busby says. “We are positioning CREC to continue to expand the firm’s real estate portfolio and benefit from the added market demand.”