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POWER BROKERS: Southwest Florida Winners

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  • | 8:48 p.m. May 20, 2016
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Leading industry researcher CoStar Group Inc. compiles lists of the top commercial real estate firms and agents in more than 90 U.S. markets based on transactional volume and leasing activity.

The Washington D.C.-based company's most recent annual Power Brokers data, from internal data and submitted material, provides a snapshot of top sales and leasing firms, office, retail and industrial leasing brokers and sales brokers. Overall leasing volume for individuals is based on an aggregation of the square footages of all the lease transactions, according to CoStar.

For 2015, in the Tampa/St. Petersburg market, 20 companies and 40 individuals received awards, while in the Southwest Florida market, 21 companies and 44 individuals were recognized. Here are the winners from Southwest Florida:

CRE Consultants

With offices in Fort Myers and Naples, CRE Consultants is considered one of the top commercial real estate brokerages in Southwest Florida. The Power Brokers' 2015 list certainly seems to affrim that belief.

The firm, which was formed in 1998 as an affiliate of CBRE Inc. and split from the industry giant in 2012, captured eight CoStar awards - tied for the most of any firm in the region.

CRE Consultants, which employs about 40 and generated gross revenue of roughly $5 million last year, also was named among the region's top leasing and sales companies, according to CoStar.

The firm took five of the 10 slots for top office brokers in the Southwest Florida region, recognizing partner Enn Luthringer and founding partner Randal Mercer, along with first vice presidents Brandon Stoneburner and Dave Wallace and associate David Wallace. Additionally, Stan Stouder was listed among the area's top industrial leasing brokers.

Mercer says the firm excelled last year, in part because the majority of its agents have considerable tenure in the Lee County and Collier County markets. He also gives credit to the company's property management division, which often assists leasing agents in assessing tenant needs and seamlessly completing tenant move-ins. "We're able to function at a different level from many other firms because of our property management capabilities."

Mercer also says that because individual CRE agents often act as a team — Mercer typically partners with Stoneburner and the two Wallaces — the four are better than as individuals. "I like to think we get more traction that individuals going solo," he says. "We're able to get more velocity."

pHe says the group completed 63 transactions in 2015, including an 18,000-square-foot relocation of TrakAmerica from Naples to the Riverview Corporate Par in Estero. The firm also represented Hertz Equipment Rental, which is preparing to spin off from its corporate parent. "I think our deep bench in our two offices makes all the difference in the world for us."

Dan O'Berski

Dan O'Berski formed Trinity Commercial Group Inc. in 2011, just as Southwest Florida was emerging from the longest and deepest economic recession in 70 years.

In the five years since, Trinity's managing broker has not only established himself but his Estero-based firm, which now has 22 employees, as well. O'Berski was named a Top Sales Broker, and colleague Doug Olson was listed among the area's most prolific retail agents.

Trinity also garnered slots as a top leasing and sales firm in 2015. Collectively, the firm completed more than 110 commercial deals last year, for tenants such as convenience store Wawa and Fifth Third Bank.

“In 2015, everybody seemed to have a lot of confidence in the market,” he says. “There were a lot of users out looking, and as greater availability of capital that could be secured by those users.”

Mike Concilla

Mike Concilla says 2015 was a year in which he was able to fully leverage Equity Inc.'s in-house leasing, development, construction and property management capabilities.

“Value-add buyers who acquired properties in previous years were able in 2015 to fill up their shopping centers with tenants,” says Concilla, an Equity Inc. senior vice president.

He points to the development of Berkshire Place, a Naples retail center that was fully pre-leased, and Palm Point Shoppes, a 103,500-square-foot center housing Honey Baked Ham, Vitamin Shoppe, Aspen Dental and others, as proof.

Equity also was ranked as both a top leasing and sales firm by CoStar, and colleague Todd T. Sabin was listed as a top sales broker.

Karen Johnson-Crowther

A perennial Power Brokers' recipient, Karen Johnson-Crowther proved herself again in 2015 with a Top Retail Leasing Brokers designation.

Her firm, Colliers International Southwest Florida, an affiliate of the Tampa-based Colliers, also racked up honors in CoStar's top leasing and sales categories.

The managing director and principal's colleagues, Jim Tamblyn and Dannielle Crowther-Robinson, also were recognized, in the Top Office Leasing Brokers and Top Retail Leasing Brokers categories, respectively.

Johnson-Crowther says her most significant work of last year came at the Promenade at Bonita Bay, a once-moribund retail center that has been revitalized with a new mix of retail, office and restaurant tenants and a focus on entertainment and lifestyle-oriented businesses like Evelyn & Arthur; John Craig Clothier; Local Roots Farmer's Market and DeRomo's restaurant, among others.

“But what made 2015 special primarily was it wasn't 2010, or 2011, or even 2012,” Johnson-Crowther says.

Cushman & Wakefield Commercial Property Southwest

The Cushman & Wakefield affiliate in Fort Myers posted a solid performance in 2015, on the way to being recognized as a top leasing and sales firm.

CEO Gary Tasman and directors John Albion and Shawn Stoneburner all scored slots as top office leasing brokers, while Tasman was recognized in the top industrial leasing category as well.

But Tasman notes that sectors such as multifamily and senior living outperformed both industrial and office in 2015.

“They're considered safe haven investments, especially in what are perceived to be volatile times,” he says. “Because everyone needs a place to live.”

Commercial Property Southwest agents sold Continental Properties a pair of sites in 2015 in Fort Myers and Sarasota, where the developer is constructing more than 500 new apartment units.

Lee & Associates

Lee & Associates, a national commercial real estate firm with more than 50 offices across the U.S., dominated the Power Brokers' Industrial Leasing Brokers category for 2015, capturing four of 13 slots.

Agents Derek L. Bornhorst, Robert Johnston, Jerry Messonnier and Bob White all made the cut, according to CoStar.

The company was also listed as a top leasing firm overall for the Southwest Florida market.

“The best thing about 2015 to me was that the trend continued of prices stabilizing and increasing from the dark days of the past decade,” says Messonnier, Lee & Associates' Fort Myers-Naples office president

“We've had steady increases and we're now getting back to a point where users are buying properties rather than just opportunistic investors,” he adds.

“We haven't gotten back to the peak of the past decade, though, and I'm glad for that because those numbers were just not sustainable in many cases, not realistic from a lease rate or a construction cost standpoint. I think we're back now to a fair and steady market.”

Messonnier cites Intelliflex in Fort Myers, a 69-unit, three-building flex industrial project, as evidence of the market's rebound. In 2015, Lee agents sold 67 of the properties' units on behalf of a Michigan-based owner, many to end users in construction-related trades, for between $65 and $75 per square foot, he says.

Adam Palmer

Adam Palmer says commercial real estate conditions in Southwest Florida and beyond were ideal for investment transactions in 2015.

“It was a particularly active year for the investment sector because they could take advantage of an advantageous cost of capital,” says Palmer, a principal and managing director at LandQwest Commercial.

“Many believed interest rates last year were on their way back up, so investors wanted to take advantage of that dynamic, in particular, and lock in properties.”

He points to the $8.9 million sale of 9299 Center building that he executed last year as a sign of the market overall. There, Palmer sold a 42,570-square-foot former grocery store that had been converted to an office building to a New York buyer eager for a steady return with a credit tenant.

9299 Center, on College Parkway in Fort Myers, is fully leased to Lee Memorial Hospital, which uses the property as a call center. Lee Memorial is slated to occupy the building, which was completed in 2004, through March 2025 under the terms of a lease.

Palmer wasn't the only LandQwest broker who was busy in Southwest Florida in 2015, however.

The firm had eight agents on CoStar's list, tied for first place with CRE Consultants. Just as significantly, its Power Brokers were spread over every category save for industrial leasing.

In addition to Palmer, Carlos Acosta, Michael Daly, Ashley Knie, Chuck Smith and Thomas Strauss were ranked. Strauss was both a Top Retail Leasing Broker and a Top Sales Broker, according to CoStar.

LandQwest also scored as both a top leasing and sales firm.


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