Monday, May 1, 2017

Chester County’s commercial real estate sizzles

By Brian McCullough, Daily Local News
While the residential real estate market has rebounded from the last recession at a slow, uneven pace, Chester County’s commercial and industrial real estate markets have been going strong for a while, according to those in the business.

Leaders in the industry met at the Chester Valley Golf Club on Thursday to recognize those responsible for the top transactions of the last year and to hear from a Texas economist who gave an upbeat assessment of the national market.

“I would say it’s at least five years that we’ve been back from the recession,” said Adam Cathers, new president of the Chester County Commercial Industrial Investment Council, or CII Council, which put on Thursday’s event. “There’s a lot of both redevelopment within the boroughs and new corporate facilities. It’s been a nice mix of re-use and new.”

The CII Council was started as an informal networking group in the late 1980s and officially incorporated in 1994.

It now has 200 members – commercial and industrial developers, title companies, bankers, attorneys, real estate agents and others involved in commercial development.

“We do business everyday face to face,” said MaryFrances McGarrity of the CII Council. “We refer one another ... it’s a strong group that really enjoys doing business in Chester County.

The following recognitions were given by the group on Thursday:

• Best Collaboration of CII Members: Charlene Tucker of Interland Real Estate and Phil Earley and JoAnn West of Lieberman Earley & Co., and Bruce West of Manito Abstract Co., who worked together to bring about the sale of 782 Springdale Drive in Exton, a 42,000-square-foot Class A office building on 3.9 acres, for $3.5 million.

• Most Significant Land Sale - Adam Knox of Geis Realty Group for the sale of 1295 Ward Avenue in West Chester, an 8.3-acre parcel with a total value of $1.9 million.

• Most Significant Portfolio Sale - Jim Dugan of Neward Grubb Knight Frank for 412, 435, 436, 440 and 457 Creamery Way in Exton. The portfolio contained a total of 267,055 square feet of flex space and true office with a total value of $31.6 million. Taylor Young received special mention for representing the seller, Hayden Properties, on the transaction.

• Most Significant Flex Sale - Jim Lees of Swope Lees Commercial Real Estate for the sale of 901 S. Bolmar Street in West Chester, total of 89,920 square feet with a value of $8.7 million.

• Most Significant Flex Lease - Jack Purcell of the Hankin Group for leasing 260 Sierra Drive in Exton with a total of 41,557 square feet and a lease value of $14.1 million. Ed Hollin of Riley Riper Hollin & Colagreco represented the landlord.

• Most Significant Industrial Lease - Eric Stretch of First Liberty Partners for 231 W. Stewart Huston Drive in Coatesville, a 35,000-square-foot property with a total lease value of $1.3 million.

• Most Significant Industrial Sale - Eric Stretch of First Liberty Partners for the sale of 3172 Lower Valley Road in Parkesburg, which is the new location for Victory Brewing, a total of 212,000 square feet and a total value of $10.8 million.

• Most Significant Retail Lease - Nicole Lyddane and Chuck Swope of Swope Lees Commercial Real Estate for leasing Univest a total of 5,515 square feet high visibility space at 200 North High Street in West Chester. The lease had a $2.1 million value. Duie Latta of the Clarion law firm also worked on the transaction.

• Most Significant Office Lease - Cat Bianco of Workspace Property Trust for leasing 1400 Liberty Ridge in Wayne, a total of 104,818 square feet and a lease value of $14.3 million. Jim Dugan was given an honorable mention for his lease for 52 East Swedesford Road. The 21,008-square-foot building had a total lease value of $6 million.

• Most Significant Office Sale - Kevin Flynn of The Flynn Co. for 748,835 and 855 Springdale Drive, which had an aggregate of 118,000 square feet and a total value of $16 million. Taylor Young, who worked on the transaction, received an honorable mention.

The event’s keynote speaker, Mark Dotzour, an independent economist who served for 18 years as chief economist of the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University in College Station, said the American commercial real estate market remains the envy of the world and produces better returns than the stock and bond markets as well as hedge funds. Don’t believe doom and gloom media reports, he advised.

“Our economy is the strongest on earth – period,” he said. “Everybody wants to invest here.”

Institutional and foreign investors will continue to snap up American real estate due to those higher returns, said Dotzour, who acknowledged that as an economist he could be wrong “about 50 percent of the time ... I’m due for a big miss.”

“It will end when commercial real estate has a viable alternative” Dotzour said of the market’s attractiveness to large investors.
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