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Region's CRE markets show enduring momentum in 2018 first half

Despite rising interest rates and other potential headwinds, Gulf Coast deal velocity remained strong in 2018's first half.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. July 20, 2018
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COURTESY PHOTO — At $220 million, the sale of the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point ranks as the largest along the Gulf Coast so far this year.
COURTESY PHOTO — At $220 million, the sale of the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point ranks as the largest along the Gulf Coast so far this year.
  • Commercial Real Estate
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At roughly seven years into the current economic growth cycle, it would be understandable — maybe even expected — if commercial real estate deal flow were to be tapering off somewhat.

After all, many of the quality deals involving trophy office and lodging properties, value-add multifamily rentals, repurposed big-box retail centers and build-to-suit industrial distribution hubs have been done.

Significant capital has already been deployed since the U.S. economy emerged from recession in earnest in 2013, too.

Interest rates, meanwhile, have been creeping up, and are likely to continue their incremental rise, which traditionally has stymied deal flow.

But an analysis of commercial real estate transactions over $1 million for the first half of 2018 in a nine-county area that includes Charlotte, Collier, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota finds that — at least for top-tier deals — deal volume has increased as compared to 2017.

“A lot of what you’re seeing, I think, is the result of construction costs being so much higher than in previous years,” says Gar Lippincott, managing principal of Tampa-based Atlantic American Partners, which provides financing to commercial real estate projects as varied as the 915 Franklin apartment tower in Tampa and the 10-story Current hotel on Tampa’s Rocky Point.

“Replacement costs are 10% to 20% higher when comparing building vs. buying,” he adds. “So it makes more sense in many cases to buy. The shortage of labor and inflation of materials has influenced pricing, and meanwhile, there’s still abundant capital out there and plenty of demand from investors.”

Moreover, the 2018 velocity is being expressed in total dollar volume, as well. The amount of money invested into the 10 largest commercial real estate transactions thus far in 2018 is up vs. the same period in 2017 — by roughly 25%, to $1.17 billion.

“Based on the conversations we’ve had lately with major players in the hospitality industry — pension funds, REITs, high net worth individuals and alike — we don’t see anything on the horizon that would slow the current deal volume down,” says Lou Plasencia, CEO and founder of The Plasencia Group, a 25-year-old hotel consultancy based in Tampa.

"We don’t see anything on the horizon that would slow the current deal volume down.” — Lou Plasencia, CEO and founder of The Plasencia Group

“We’re seeing insurance rates and property taxes increase, and yet, hotels are exceeding their (revenue per available room) levels and achieving record profits,” he adds.

Plasencia also notes that while interest rates have gone up over the past year, capitalization rates for most hotel deals remain compressed — despite the fact that historically the two have edged upward at the same rate.

“The U.S. is still perceived, especially globally, as a safe place to invest.”

As was the case in 2017, apartments continued to dominate investor interest during the first half of this year.

For the first two quarters of 2017, apartments made up half of the Top 10 transactions throughout the Gulf Coast, together with a pair of major lodging and office deals. A lone industrial transaction rounded out the Top 10.

This year, six apartment sales landed in the Top 10 in the nine-county region, with a trio of major hotel deals and an office trade comprising the largest 10 transactions.

“We’ve found transaction volume in the apartment space to be pretty consistent from 2016 through 2018,” says Luis Elorza, a senior director at commercial real estate brokerage Cushman & Wakefield.

“Price per unit is actually up pretty substantially in 2018 as compared with two years ago, from an average of $100,000 per unit in 2016 to $140,000 per unit this year,” he adds. “And that’s because there are a lot of new entrants into the Central and Southwest Florida markets.

“Investors are willing to take lower yields on properties because they like the story of the area, the job growth and population surge that we’ve experienced the past couple of years.”

That heightened interest has spread throughout asset classes so far this year, too, at least where top-tier deals are concerned.

Of the Top 10 transactions by dollar volume in 2017, only three topped $100 million, and the lowest of the group came in at less than $50 million.

For the first six month of this year, however, five of the Top 10 largest sales are for $100 million or more, with No. 10 trading at $68 million.



  1. Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa: $220 million

 Bethesda, Md.-based Host Hotels & Resorts Inc. completed the purchase of the 454-room Hyatt Regency property in Bonita Springs in April, part of a three-property deal with Hyatt Hotels Corp. valued at more than $1 billion. The deal ranks as the largest acquisition of a single Gulf Coast lodging property in history, exceeding the $214 million the same company paid for St. Petersburg’s Don Cesar Hotel & Resort a year earlier. Host Hotels’ President and CEO James Risoleo in a statement described the Lee County hotel as “exactly the type of iconic real estate we target.”


        2. Ritz-Carlton Sarasota: $172.3 million

Also in April, Dallas-based Ashford Hospitality Prime wrapped up what would be a $172.3 million deal for the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota — a record price for a hospitality project in the Sarasota/Manatee submarket. As part of the purchase, Ashford — which changed its corporate name to Braemar Hotels & Resorts in May — took possession of the resort’s 266-room downtown hotel; a Lido Key private beach club; hotel spa; Lakewood Ranch golf course and clubhouse; vacant land; and other assets from SLAB LLC, a Wichita, Kan.-based partnership comprising brothers Robert and Dan Buford and their families.


       3. Urban Centre I and II: $143.1 million

Starwood Capital Corp. finalized its acquisition of the two-building Urban Centre office complex in Tampa’s Westshore business district in March. The Miami-based investment giant bought the 576,000-square-foot complex from Teachers Insurance & Annuity Association, which had owned it since 2005. The deal capped a flurry of activity among Class A office properties in the Tampa area, fueled by rising rental rates and a lack of new construction.


       4. Camden Pier District Apartments: $126.3 million

Houston-based Camden Property Trust has invested the most money thus far in 2018 for a multifamily rental project, buying an 18-story apartment tower in downtown St. Petersburg. The former AER Apartments, which were completed in 2017, contains 358 units. The project also features ground-floor retail space and an adjacent five-level parking garage. Camden officials say the property should generate a 5% yield after lease-up is achieved later this year, the result of in-migration of population and steady job growth in the Tampa Bay area. The company added the complex was purchased for what it believes was 5% to 10% below current replacement costs.


       5. Carlton Arms of Bradenton: $110.25 million

FLF Holdings LLC made a big splash into the Sarasota/Manatee apartment market when it bought the 900-unit Carlton Arms of Bradenton for a record amount for a multifamily rental asset in the submarket. The Jupiter-based firm, which owns more than 2,500 multifamily rental units and other commercial projects, says it was attracted to the property because of its park-like, waterfront setting, solid occupancy and the area’s mix of demographics. The property also is unique in that it sits on 100 acres and had been owned by the same entity —Mahaffey Apartment Co. — since its completion in 1980. MetLife affiliate Brighthouse Life Insurance Co. was brought in as a joint venture partner by Mahaffey several years ago, as well. In addition to traditional amenities like swimming pools and tennis courts, FLF is contemplating adding a kayak launch, pavilions and other improvements for tenants.


         6. Cove Apartments: $96.5 million

Gamma Real Estate of New York spent $96.5 million to buy the Cove Apartments in Tampa’s Westshore district in May, records show. The 689-unit complex, located on the water at 4003 S. Westshore Blvd., was completed in 1979. Gamma acquired the property from Laramar Properties, which had owned it since buying the community for $53 million in 2014, property records indicate. In addition to its Tampa acquisition, Gamma in Florida also owns apartment complexes in Orlando and Jacksonville, according to its website.


         7. Avana Westchase Apartments: $82 million

Greystar Real Estate Partners of Charleston, S.C., acquired the Avana Westchase in June for $82 million, continuing a string of purchases and development projects throughout the Gulf Coast. The 400-unit Avana complex, at 12201 Lexington Park Drive in Tampa, had been owned since mid-2015 by Pollack Shores Real Estate Group. Pollack Shores spent $64.5 million for the complex, records show. Avana Westchase, completed in 2001 and substantially renovated in 2017, becomes the 16th community Greystar — the largest apartment manager in the U.S. — owns or manages in the Tampa Bat region. In all, the company has more than $23 billion in assets under management, according to its website.


        8. Longitude 82: $79.6 million

Passco Cos. LLC acquired the former Springs at Bee Ridge development in Sarasota County from Continental Properties because it was drawn to the area’s growing demographics, the complex’s higher-than-average household income and its relatively new age. The 360-unit complex, completed in 2017, becomes Passco’s ninth community in Florida, ranging from Bradenton to Key West. In all, the company owns 2,700 units in the Sunshine State. At Longitude 82, a series of two-story units, amenities include nine-foot ceilings, a salt-water swimming pool, poolside kitchen, clubhouse and a pair of dog parks.


         9. Spectra Apartments: $71.4 million

Coastal Ridge Real Estate bought this Fort Myers apartment complex consisting of a dozen three-story buildings from Naples-based Stock Development Co. in February. The 324-unit community, which was completed on 32 acres in July 2017 and featured private poolside cabanas and six acres of walking trails, led a wave of new multifamily rental product in Southwest Florida and has since spurred other developers to bring their newly completed product to market.


         10. Tampa Renaissance Hotel: $68 million

Clearview Hotel Capital and Oaktree Capital Management L.P. teamed up in late May to buy the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel from Braemar Hotels & Resorts. Braemar, in executing a strategy to acquire only high-end and luxury lodging product, determined the 293-room hotel in Tampa’s Westshore district no longer fit into its portfolio. The Renaissance, completed in 2004, was attractive to Clearview and Oaktree, among others, because it boats one of the highest revenue per available room performances of any hotel in the Tampa Bay area. The deal marked Clearview’s first in the Tampa Bay area. In all, it owns more than $1.5 billion worth of hotel assets.









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