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A New Cycle


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  • | 10:00 a.m. May 30, 2014
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Leasing assignments are the plums of the commercial real estate business.

So when Gary Tasman recently lost some opportunities to do that because he didn't have a property management arm, he didn't waste time to bulk up his firm by bringing on Pamela and Gene Van Vleck, whose firm, Commercial Property Management Services, manages more than 3.5 million square feet. That's enough space to fill 60 football fields.

In addition, real estate consultant and economic development expert Janet Watermeier joined Tasman's firm as its new president. From 1996 to 2003, Watermeier was executive director of economic development for Lee County before forming her own consulting firm, Watermeier Consulting and Property Services.

Tasman declines to spell out the details of the “merger” that brought the three firms together. But he says his brokerage firm alone was shut out of leasing opportunities. “We didn't get invited to respond,” he explains.

Increasingly, property owners prefer to deal with a single firm when it comes to leasing, property management and advisory services. “Clients want one platform to be accountable,” Tasman explains.

This is important now as new owners acquire distressed commercial real estate. Indeed, Tasman's firm was involved in many bank dispositions of commercial real estate during the downturn and now the new owners need property management and consulting services to boost occupancies, rents and building values.

Pamela Van Vleck, who now serves as the firm's director of property management services, says the five-year plan is to double the amount of commercial real estate it manages to 7 million square feet. “We're going to add 1 million square feet this year,” she says.

Tasman notes that the firm's plan calls for gross revenues to rise five times in that span, though he declines to be specific about current revenues. The staff will likely double to 40 people in that time, he adds.

“From 2009 to 2013, we were kind of hunkered down,” says Tasman. During those years, Tasman and Van Vleck referred business to each other.

Meanwhile, Watermeier left the Fort Myers area for Panama City in the Panhandle to be executive director of the Bay County Economic Development Alliance from 2009 to early 2012, though she still stayed in touch with her network in Lee County.

But landlords are now looking for full-service firms that can help them fill their buildings. Meanwhile, companies are expanding again and looking for advice on finding available space and negotiating rents.
Watermeier estimates Southwest Florida is at a point in the cycle similar to the early 2000s. “We're back on track before we hit the big boom,” she says.

Some of the signs: the inventory of homes is shrinking as people are buying residential real estate, retail space is filling up, and developers are talking about building speculative warehouse space because of dwindling availability. Office space is the only laggard: “Office has a little ways to go,” Watermeier says.

Follow Jean Gruss on Twitter @JeanGruss

 

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