CBRE Group Inc.'s plan to set up shop and provide services to Southwest Florida marks a surprising homecoming, of sorts, for the nation's largest commercial real estate services firm.
That's because back in 1998, CBRE — it was known as CB Richard Ellis at the time — flagged offices in Fort Myers and Naples and owned a slice of a brokerage anchored by a slate of veteran brokers.
But when the recession lingered, the firm's Southwest Florida partners decided CBRE's royalty fees, commission splits and other costs were too onerous.
When the group's contract with CBRE expired in late 2011, it didn't renew it. Instead, the handful of brokers formed CRE Consultants. CBRE seemed happy to focus on its existing statewide offices, from Jacksonville to Miami.
Ties between CRE and CBRE remained strong, though. Shortly after its formation, CRE tapped Ray Sandelli, a former CBRE market leader for Florida, as its managing partner. Brokers interacted and shared market info.
As years passed, Southwest Florida rebounded — and then some.
That growth has apparently gotten CBRE's attention. Its new office will cover Naples, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Bonita Springs and Port Charlotte.
“Southwest Florida is a vibrant emerging market, supported by all the fundamentals for sustained economic growth,” says Jeffrey Gage, the CBRE senior vice president who will lead the firm's new office. “We are seeing new investor capital pouring into this region with a focus on existing income property as well as new development across all product types.”
Chase Pattillo, who leads CBRE's Florida operations, calls the new Southwest Florida presence a “logical extension” for the company.
CBRE's move is also striking because unlike the Tampa and St. Petersburg markets, which are dominated by national chains, Southwest Florida commercial real estate firms tend to be independent, or affiliated loosely with parent companies.
It remains to be seen, though, how CBRE and CRE will coexist.
Sandelli says he's not surprised that CBRE would make another foray into Southwest Florida.
“We're slowly seeing more institutional business here,” he says. “And the market's on the right trajectory.”