Developers Are Turning Rust Belt Hulks into Luxury Hotels

Reprinted from National Real Estate Investor

(Bloomberg)—Covington, Ky., a city of 40,000 across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, seems like an odd place for a high-end hotel. For Mario Tricoci, that’s a selling point.

Last year, the Chicago developer hooked up with a local real estate investor on a $22 million retrofit of a century-old, seven-story, defunct Covington department store that locals say was the first skyscraper in Kentucky made of reinforced concrete.

Tricoci, chief executive officer of Aparium Hotel Group, is in the middle of a small-market spree that started with the conversions of a Milwaukee warehouse in 2013 and a La Crosse, Wisc., chocolate factory in 2015. Aparium has hotels taking shape in a former warehouse for tractors and other farm equipment in Minneapolis, an old fire department headquarters in Detroit, and an obsolete bottling plant for Pabst Brewing in Kansas City. By the time he’s done, Tricoci said, the company could be operating 20 hotels, or more, with a focus on small cities that are nonetheless big enough to have a pro sports team.

The idea is to grab hold of two dovetailing trends: consumers shying away from branded offerings and investors putting money into smaller U.S. cities, encouraged by local economic development types and a diverse set of national cheerleaders. They include AOL co-founder Steve Case, who has been banging the drum for technology startups in minor markets, and commercial real estate firms touting “18-hour cities” on the theory that traditional markets such as New York and San Francisco have become too expensive.

“Coming out of the recession, it felt like a safer environment to play in,” said Tricoci, 44, whose previous company built the Elysian Hotel in Chicago, a five-star offering that opened in 2009 and was later rebranded as a Waldorf Astoria.

While the room rates are cheaper—Tricoci estimates that a $200 suite at his Charmant Hotel in La Crosse would go for $700 a night in New York—the dearth of competition has helped keep Aparium’s early properties busy.

“Every one of these markets has wealthy people who eat and drink and spend money,” he said. “They have major businesses with spending accounts and stipends.”

Aparium isn’t the first hotel operator lured to the rehab business by the prospect of cheap buildings with good bones. The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia sits in a domed Beaux Arts building that was put up as a bank headquarters. The Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel, a Marriott property, occupies a 1906 building commissioned by Henry Phipps, a partner in Carnegie Steel. Kimpton Hotels has a line, called Hotel Monaco, dedicated to the adaptive reuse of historic buildings. Drury Hotels has put beds in an old fur-trading building in St. Louis and a former education department building in Cleveland.

Read the full story at here.

 

 

America’s abandoned factories in hot demand

Reprinted from money.cnn.com

There’s a love affair happening with an unlikely type of real estate: America’s empty factories and warehouses.

americas-demand-for-abandoned-propertiesVacant commercial spaces are in high demand as both startups and multinationals look for facilities to house their U.S. operations.

Several factors are driving this trend, according to Stuart Lichter, president of Industrial Reality Group, one of the largest owners of U.S. commercial real estate.

Many U.S. companies, which had moved their operations overseas to keep costs down, are coming back home to be closer to their customers. On the flip side, foreign companies are also shifting some production to the U.S. to be more competitive and grow their U.S. market.

Meanwhile, some industries that were hit hard by the recession have recovered and are growing.

“Just a few years ago there were many defunct industrial spaces in Detroit,” Lichter said. “A bulk of those are gone as the auto industry recovered.”

Here’s a look at how once abandoned factories and commercial buildings are getting a makeover:

Read the full story at http://money.cnn.com/2016/03/08/smallbusiness/factories-plants-manufacturing/index.html

Tree Project Could Restore Chicago Old Wilson School Site

Reprinted from Battle Creek Enquirer- Part of the USA Today Network

Years after the closure and ultimate demolition of Wilson Academy, a Chicago-based startup’s idea could put the vacant property back to use.

Fresh Coast Capital’s plan is to plant more than two acres at the site of the former school with rows of hybrid poplar trees. Part of the property is owned by the city of Battle Creek, which entered in a management agreement with the company after the City Commission unanimously approved it Dec. 15.

The rest is owned by Battle Creek Public Schools. Fresh Coast Capital has spoken with district officials, who will present the project to the Board of Education this month for a potential vote.

“We have a large land mass in our geographic area,” Battle Creek Planning Manager Christine Zuzga said last month. “We’re going to be faced with challenges in trying to reuse other types of property. There’s a lot of investments in demolitions of blighted properties, but then we want to be able to find a reuse of those.”

Five years after the trees are planted, half of them will be harvested and used for biofuel, according to a city staff memo. The rest will be cut down to sell about 10 years later, when they reach up to 60 feet in height. Both are ways Fresh Coast Capital makes a return on its investment.

Then, the trees can be regrown and kept as a permanent green space, or the property can be used in another way.

But it’s more than a farm, with the trees growing in a park-like setting and without a fenced-in area so it can be enjoyed by the community. It’s also a project that provides health benefits and environmental perks, said April Mendez, Fresh Coast Capital’s co-founder and director of community partnerships.

Read the full story here http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com/story/news/local/2016/01/04/tree-project-could-restore-old-wilson-school-site/77413128/?from=global&sessionKey=&autologin

Vacant industrial spaces are reborn to support a new age of small-scale manufacturing

Reprinted from Center for Community Progress. 

There’s a myth surrounding post-industrial economies, Dan Kinkead, acting executive director of Detroit Future City, shares in conversation about the rebirth of small-scale manufacturing in his hometown of Detroit. View-of-Downtown-Detroit-from-Ponyride1“The myth is that we need to build new economies around technology and innovation completely divorced from industry,” said Kinkead. “But industry is actually evolving and is now highly innovative today.” It’s just on a different scale.

Detroit Denim workshop at Ponyride (Credit: MacQ)

Small outfits working on everything from 3D printing to furniture design are forming in cities like Detroit, and they are looking for space to work. Luckily, in most Legacy Cities, there is a surfeit of vacant industrial space that is proving ripe for rebirth as shared spaces for small-scale manufacturing, where entrepreneurs can rent space in common. Small-scale manufacturing is an umbrella term used for all small businesses producing tangible goods (You can find a full glossary of related terms here).

Dan describes it as “a circular moment where we’re reutilizing things that we already have. Cradle to cradle.” Many of the large-scale industries that once powered the rapid growth of Legacy City economies are now long gone. The entrepreneurial spirit that fueled that growth has not perished, though, and it is that ethos that is the driving force behind this new rise of manufacturing.

To read the entire article, click here. 

Creating a Sustainable Footprint in the Changing Retail Landscape

Reprinted from www.gordonbrothers.com

Today’s retailers face unprecedented challenges in the marketplace as they confront the evolution of not only customer shopping patterns, but also how retail is defined. Historically, top tier retailers thrived because they had the best locations and offered desirable merchandise at a great value proposition. Add to that efficient merchandising controls and tight field operations, and it equaled success.

That model has shifted significantly due to the maturation of e-commerce and the effect it has had on brick-and-mortar efficiency in the omnichannel environment. A recent slew of store closures affecting specialty retail demonstrates the impact of this new reality for the retail industry.

Given this trend, retailers are reviewing lease portfolios with a careful eye on the future and their ever declining sales per square foot ratios. Successful management teams are proactively identifying locations that, while today may be marginally profitable or break even, will turn into negative contributors, given this irreversible trend. Historically, the decision to renew or extend leases was based primarily on store contribution and the key demographics of individual locations. Stores with marginal contribution were identified and decisions were made on whether to renegotiate under more favorable terms or close locations.

In the current environment, retailers are now factoring in the real e-commerce effect (in most cases, double-digit increases) and its impact on future store performance, and making real-time decisions on store profitability. As part of this growing trend, retailers are facing more store closings than ever and are accepting them as part of the changing retail landscape. Understanding that closing stores is not indicative of failure, but rather of an inevitable shift toward an omnichannel marketplace, is important to the success of any retailer. While it’s unlikely that brick-and-mortar stores will ever be displaced entirely by e-commerce, management teams must understand the balance between the two and develop a strategy going forward.

When reviewing lease portfolios in today’s environment, management teams must consider several key factors aside from store profitability: adjacencies to other store locations and e-commerce migration.

Given the sophistication of today’s customers and merchants’ ability to track their shopping patterns, either through loyalty programs or mobile devices, retailers can analyze individual markets to determine how much transference would likely occur should they close a location. With this information, retailers can project an appropriate number of stores in each market and identify potential closures. The ability to close a store and effectively transfer customers to an adjacent location and track buying behavior going forward is crucial to success.

While transferring customers from a closing store to an adjacent store is critical, a second and equally important step is transitioning shoppers to the e-commerce platform. In some cases, retailers may be exiting a market entirely for a variety of reasons, but the ability to retain a core percentage of the customer base online is a primary vehicle for growth in today’s marketplace. In virtually every instance, a retailer’s key initiatives are to increase its online presence and protect the brand.

Read more at http://www.gordonbrothers.com/expertise/byline-articles/Sustainable-Footprint#GBALINK=JCR_Retail_Article

Shrinking U.S. Shopping Malls Get Makeover

Reprinted from The Wall Street Journal

Overbuilding, e-commerce force landlords to get creative with new developments

austin-texas-mallVisitors used to flock to the Highland Mall in Austin, Texas, around the holidays to stroll through the city’s first enclosed shopping complex and admire the giant Christmas tree crafted from poinsettia plants.

But this holiday season, no shopping will be done there. Workers are converting the 600,000-square-foot structure into a campus for Austin Community College with classrooms, lab space and a culinary arts center.

Austin’s economy is strong and its population swelling, but Highland couldn’t attract enough shoppers to stay afloat.

“Competition came up and killed it,” said Matt Whelan, principal at developer Red Leaf Properties LLC, which is working with the college on the project.

An era of relentless expansion for American shopping centers is coming to an end as a toxic brew of overbuilding, the rise of e-commerce and a wave of retailer bankruptcies force landlords to reimagine once-lucrative properties.

Some owners are converting struggling malls into apartments, offices and industrial space, while others are turning big chunks of retail space into parks and playgrounds to keep shoppers interested.

To read the full article, visit http://www.wsj.com/articles/shrinking-u-s-shopping-malls-get-makeovers-1448361001

 

 

Grant funds youth violence prevention work in Camden

Reprinted from http://www.courierpostonline.com/

camden

CAMDEN – What happens when you restore rundown buildings that contribute to violence?

Camden is about to find out.

The Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center has received $6 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to continue its studies on how improving vacant properties affects violence, property crimes and intentional injuries among youth.

The Michigan center, based at the University of Michigan School of Public Heath, will focus on the effects of engaging residents, particularly youth, in caring for properties in their neighborhoods.

The study will be done in Camden, Flint, Michigan, and Youngstown, Ohio over the span of five years.

Marc Zimmerman, professor of health behavior and health education at University of Michigan, says the study will test a “greening” hypothesis — becoming more active in protecting the environment — and “busy streets theory” — which suggests that by taking care of abandoned, empty lots within inner cities, safer streets will be created.

Read more at http://www.courierpostonline.com/story/news/local/south-jersey/2015/10/29/grant-funds-youth-violence-prevention-work-camden/74730382/

Detroit’s other blight crisis: Commercial decay

Reprinted from www.freep.com

In Detroit, many residents live and shop near hulking vacant buildings that have been abandoned for years, places that attract crime, vagrants, graffiti and scrappers.

Many of these blighted buildings line well-traveled corridors throughout Detroit’s neighborhoods. But exactly who owns them and why they remain in terrible condition for so long remains a mystery to many.

Standing on her porch on East Outer Drive among a stretch of homes with well-manicured lawns and hedges, Tomika Brown, 41, described the multitude of problems associated with a giant, crumbling building across the street. The building is so rundown its hard to tell how it was originally used.

“It just be a lot of drunks stopping in there, scrapping,” Brown said. “I want to tell (the owner), ‘tear it down; do something with it.’ It’s an eyesore.”

Covered in graffiti, the building has all the classic signs of urban blight. There is practically no fencing around the perimeter, leaving it open to trespass. Brown said the grass had not been cut for about three months. The Free Press contacted the property owner’s lawyer. It was finally mowed sometime on or after Oct. 5, Brown said.

The indistinguishable structure at 3040 E. Outer Drive is among a handful of vacant commercial buildings throughout the city the Free Press examined in an attempt to shed some light on the properties’ prolonged abandonment and the monumental task the city is facing it having owners take responsibility for them.

The analysis underscored the complexity of the city’s commercial blight problem. While much attention has been given to getting rid of city-owned blighted residential structures, including the rising cost under Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration for demolition, little attention has been given to blighted commercial properties, whose ownership ranges from out-of-town speculators to the city itself.

Read more here:

http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2015/11/03/commercial-blight-detroit/73600778/

Northeast Ohio Old Malls Rot While New Shopping Centers Sprawl

rolling-acres-atrium-63afbf628e008086

Article Reprinted from www.cleveland.com

Even as vacancy climbs at Northeast Ohio shopping centers, ambitious developers are culling new land in far-out suburbs to build more shopping space.

The rotting malls and town centers residents abandon as they sprawl to newer and farther suburbs become the blight of a region, a recurring cycle of waste that leaves the region pock-marked with empty parking lots and caved in roofs.

By 2000, Northeast Ohio had amassed one of the largest surpluses of retail space in the nation, according to a report by the Cuyahoga County Regional Planning Commission. Even what was once the largest mall in the nation sat half empty in North Randall, development plowed on, at Legacy Village and SouthPark and Crocker Park.

Read the full article at

http://www.cleveland.com/akron/index.ssf/2015/08/the_trash_of_northeast_ohio_ol.html#incart_river

Vacant Property Maintenance & the Importance of Inspections

vacant-property-maintenance

Vacant Property Maintenance Planning

Vacant property maintenance is time consuming and tedious. Having an extra property on your hands, especially one located remotely, provides challenges to maintaining your investment. Coordination, repair and proper reporting takes up precious time that you could use to grow your business. At Commercial Asset Preservation (CAP), we’ll inspect and maintain your property so that you can focus on running your business or division.  In this blog, we’ll discuss the key questions you should consider before determining a maintenance plan for your vacant property/properties.

Each of our clients has different property security needs.  These needs are based upon the geographic location of the property, the neighborhood in which it resides, the type of building or facility and the property’s overall condition.

Location, Location, Location

Your once prosperous locations has seen drastic change. That is probably one of the reason you needed to shutter the doors. What can you expect with your property? Properties in neighborhoods with high crime rates may need the following:

  • Graffiti or dumping checks
  • Break-in checks
  • Routine property inspection checks (based upon your needs)
  • Posting of “no trespassing signs”
  • Fencing installation and maintenance
  • Security lighting

Cold Climate

For those properties more exposed to climate change, we recomend regular site checks. This is specifically important during the winter months, when pipes are likely to burst or freeze/thaw impacts the roof. A routine inspection can identify a problem early, saving thousands of dollars of damage. We can work with you to determine the amount of property checks needed.

Utility Management

Many times when properties become vacant, it is easy for clients to let utilities go. We can help you by managing payments. Simply put the utilities in our name. We process the bills and provide accountability and reporting. . The gas is operating and the lights are always on, providing your property with security and protection from elements and other intrusions..

Around-The-Clock Customer Service

At Commercial Asset Preservation, we pride ourselves in our great customer service program. We inspect your property, provide written and visual proof of work completed and detail the problems that need to be addressed. There is someone available around the clock to answer our emergency hotline. Should you have an emergency, around a holiday or even in the middle of the  night, you can get rest assured we’re here to help.  Safety forces can reach us, and receive entry assistance before the need to force entry into your building.

For more information on vacant property maintenance, contact Nancy Carrillo at 407-883-1139 or nancyc@commercialpreservation.com.