Brett Low's career has had twists and turns, but he appears to have hit a stride with Southwest Florida land deals
LandQwest Commercial Real Estate Services’ Brett Low’s real estate career has taken him from managing shopping centers to selling homes.
But in marketing land for high-profile projects in Southwest Florida for Fort Myers investor Private Equity Group and others that he appears to have really hit his stride.
Low’s foray into commercial real estate came shortly after the University of Central Florida in 1998, with the Florida office of North American Properties., where he managed a string of Publix Super Markets Inc.-anchored retail centers totaling 1 million square feet.
“You learn a lot about everything having to do with a property when you manage it,” says Low. “Because you deal with all the problems, you learn pretty quickly which business models work and which don’t. Out of necessity, for instance, I learned how to lease properties.”
By the time he left North American for residential brokerage, in 2002, Low had risen to be a vice president of the company.
But the thrill of hunting for listings and buyers proved alluring — for a time. Within three years or so, though, Low could see the telltale signs of rapid overheating.
“I could see a bubble forming very clearly,” he says. “I sold the same piece of land four different times in two years, and each time, the price went up by $100,000. I just thought, ‘this is unsustainable.’”
Afraid of a crash, Low went back to commercial property management in 2007, with St. Petersburg shopping center owner Sembler Co., where he managed the former Baywalk downtown — today’s Sundial mixed-use center.
“That property had a lot of challenges, a lot of security issues then,” he says.
The experience led him to Boxer Real Estate, which had been retained by a receiver to stabilize the Crystal River Mall, in Crystal River. Once a potent retail center anchored by J.C. Penney and Kmart, by the time Low was brought in the mall had seen better days.
He grappled with a leaking roof and other headaches, until he helped the property turn a proverbial corner and it was sold.
Along the way, Low also worked on the former Channelside Plaza — today’s Sparkman Wharf, a mixed-us, two-story office building that will be one of the centerpieces of the planned $3 billion Water Street Tampa neighborhood — and other properties.
The work was challenging and often rewarding, but in 2015 Low could see that Florida’s economy was turning positive again.
In what he describes as a “make it or break it” move, Low moved to Fort Myers and hung his brokerage license with LandQwest Commercial, which he came to know while working on restaurants at CityPlace, a mixed-use retail and office project in West Palm Beach.
The timing turned out to be impeccable.
Within a year, Low brokered the $5.15 million sale of an 18-acre tract that had been a mobile home park, undergone foreclosure and then stalled out of the recession.
After working with him on the land transaction, Tampa-based Aileron Capital Management tapped Low to lease 10,000 square feet of commercial space in its $33 million Grand Central project, which also included 280 apartments — among the first new multifamily rental inventory to come to Fort Myers in more than a decade.
“It’s an unusual piece of property, and it went through a number of brokers before I became involved,” Low says. “The reason I think I was successful with it was because no one seemed to make the connection that the property was in a (Community Redevelopment Area) zone — I know I didn’t until I talked to the city to determine possible uses, and that’s when I came to realize that (Tax Increment Financing) was available. That made all the difference.”
The Grand Central experience also taught Low a valuable lesson that he carries with him to this day.
“Picking up the phone and doing your homework can have a lot of power.”
So can having the right connections.
That’s how Low came to know Private Equity Group — through LandQwest Founding Principal John Mounce.
Since then, Low has brokered a pair of large land deals for the company: One involving the $11.6 million purchase of Murdock Village in Charlotte County and, more recently, a 60-acre tract slated for apartments in Port Charlotte known as Charlotte Commons.
At the latter, 265 new apartments are being planned on 16 acres.
In both the Commons at Westport site — formerly Murdock Village — and Charlotte Commons, Private Equity Group has asked Low to execute commercial leasing or related land sales.
Private Equity Group officials declined to comment on Low or his involvement with the projects.
“It’s going to be terrific project and have a big impact on Charlotte County,” Low says of Commons at Westport.