The Gulf Coast commercial real estate market must be improving because a boom-time staple, brokers going firm-hopping, has reappeared.
One of the latest examples is a coup for CBRE Tampa: The firm, part of global real estate giant CBRE, recently snagged a trio of well-known industrial space brokers from rival firm Cushman & Wakefield. The new CBRE Tampa brokers are Rian Smith, Kostas Stoilas and Kris Courier. “I'm thrilled to have them on the team,” says CBRE Tampa Senior Managing Director Patricia Nooney.
Smith and Stoilas have worked together for the last five years, when the pair navigated a market with a lot of small deals but few big-ticket leases and sales. “We've been on each other's hips for a while,” says Stoilas, named a senior associate at CBRE Tampa. “CBRE is a market leader when it comes to doing what we do. This was a no-brainer.”
The team's move led to several other personnel shifts. Longtime Tampa-area broker Julia Silva Rettig, for example, was recently named industrial brokerage director at Cushman & Wakefield's Tampa office. Rettig previously oversaw leasing and management in Tampa for Penn Florida Cos., a $60 million portfolio. “This is a very exciting time to be working in commercial real estate,” Rettig says in a statement, “and an equally exciting time to be involved in Tampa Bay's growth.”
Movement among commercial real estate brokers throughout the Gulf Coast was relatively common in the boom. There were more brokers, for one, and many more deals to chase in industrial, office and retail properties. But the recession and subsequent squeeze on transactions forced brokers to stick it out with their firm.
Smith nonetheless doesn't equate his move from Cushman & Wakefield to CBRE Tampa with a total market comeback. “I wouldn't say it's robust, but we are seeing a rebound in build-to-suit products,” says Smith, now a CBRE Tampa first vice president. “Job growth is obviously the key to all this. It's putting Tampa on the map.”
Smith refers specifically to the two biggest economic development stories of the year in Tampa. One is from online retail behemoth Amazon, which announced plans in October to build a 1.1 million-square-foot fulfillment center in Ruskin that will create at least 1,000 jobs. More good news followed Amazon in early November, when the United Services Automobile Association announced it seeks to significantly grow its Hillsborough County presence. A San Antonio-based insurance and financial services firm, USAA intends to invest $164.3 million in the area by 2019, which it says will lead to more than 1,200 jobs. The firm currently has around 1,800 employees in Tampa.
Smith says the growth goes even deeper than jobs. “It helps with relocation consultants for clients who are looking for a larger office,” Smith says. “It shines a spotlight on Tampa Bay for corporate executives.”
Smith has worked the Tampa industrial market for 15 years. He oversaw a portfolio of more than 6.7 million square feet at Cushman & Wakefield. Stoilas, meanwhile, has been in commercial real estate for eight years, a career that includes a stint in Fort Myers and Cape Coral. Courier has two years' experience in the market.
The experience helps the team understand and anticipate market cycles. To that end, Stoilas hopes 2014 will be a year of “more acceleration” in the overall economy. More Amazon and USAA-style job announcements, adds Smith, would be another good thing. “We could use more needle movers,” Smith says. “We need ones that will come in and take blocks of space.”