Wednesday, December 27, 2017

ImmunoTek Bio Centers Leases 15,000 SF in Allentown

ImmunoTek Bio Centers, an operator of plasma donation centers, has signed a 15-year lease for 15,000 square feet in the Parkway Shopping Center at 1471-1523 Lehigh St. in Allentown, PA.

The retail center, known as Parkway Shopping Center, totals approximately 153,745 square feet and was developed in 1953. Tenants include Dollar Tree, IHOP and H&R Block, among others.

FD Stonewater Acquires River Park I Office Bldg Conshohocken

FD Stonewater has acquired the River Park 1 office building at 1000 River Rd. in Conshohocken, PA from BPG Real Estate Services LLC for $30.64 million, or about $181 per square foot.

The historic four-story office building was originally built in 1870 and was later renovated in 1999. It totals 169,160 square feet and is occupied by Envision Healthcare.

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Jefferson Health signed a 237,000SF Lease, Renamed to Jefferson Tower

by Steve Lubetkin,
In the largest new CBD Lease of 2017, Jefferson Health signed a 237,000-square-foot lease to anchor 1101 Market Street, which will be renamed as Jefferson Tower.
Following mergers with Abington Health, Aria Health, Kennedy Health System and Philadelphia University, and completion of its overall Master Plan, Jefferson will unify the enterprise’s corporate services in the new headquarters facility. Upon initial occupancy, Jefferson will occupy 40 percent of Jefferson Tower at the top of the building with the option for substantial expansion over time. The landlord of Jefferson Tower, Girard Estate, will renovate the lobby, add a direct connection to the Jefferson Station concourse and replace the building’s signage with Jefferson signage.

Pennsylvania’s I-78/I-81 Warehouse Corridor Booming

by Steve Lubetkin,

At the year’s end, warehouses all around Pennsylvania’s I-78/I-81 Corridor are swelling with extra employees and bustling with activity to satisfy holiday wish lists across the Northeast. The Corridor’s enduringly strong industrial market performance transcends seasonality, however. In a new report  research indicates that in 2017, 11.5 million square feet of warehouse space was absorbed, creating about 5,800 new transportation and warehousing jobs, and a 20-basis-point drop in fourth quarter warehouse vacancy to 6.6 percent, vs. 2016. While deliveries modestly exceeded absorption this year (11.8 million square feet delivered), looking at cumulative supply and demand over the past five years shows total net absorption to-date in the cycle still well outpaces new development.

The Lehigh Valley continued to fulfill occupier needs for modern warehouse space as one of the biggest development hubs in the nation, and produced new transportation and warehousing jobs at the fastest pace since 1993. This warehouse market is filed squarely in the “Nice” column on CRE Santa’s list.

*Source:  Moody’s Analytics, 2017 (Harrisburg-Carlisle, Allentown-Bethlehem & Scranton-Wilkes Barre MSAs, seasonally adjusted employment data including forecast for Q4 2017).

In 2018, warehouse development will remain elevated, and considering forecasts from Moody’s Analytics, Econometric Advisors own projections, the real estate firm expects to see another year of annual positive absorption and transportation & warehousing employment growth, if at a moderating pace.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Blackstone REIT Buying 22 Million-SF Industrial Portfolio for $1.8 Billion

In what would amount to its largest purchase since its formation in the summer of 2016, The Blackstone Group's non-traded REIT, Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust Inc., has struck a deal to acquire a 22 million-square-foot industrial portfolio from Cabot Industrial Value Fund IV for $1.8 billion.

The portfolio consists of 146 industrial properties primarily concentrated in Chicago and comprising 18% of the portfolio's base rent). Other holdings are located in Dallas (12%), Baltimore/Washington DC (12%), Los Angeles/Inland Empire (7%), South/Central Florida (7%), New Jersey (7%) and Denver (6%).

The REIT said it industrial vacancy across the portfolio's markets has continued to decline over the past seven years and is currently just 4.6%, while rents across the portfolio's markets have increased 5.7% year-over-year, according to a Blackstone REIT filing.

The continued rent growth in the portfolio's markets resulted in rents on new leases exceeding rents on expiring leases by 9% in the portfolio during the third quarter of 2017. The company believes the portfolio will see further rent increases as the portfolio is currently 90% leased versus average occupancy in the portfolio's markets of 95%.

The portfolio is leased to 377 tenants including e-commerce and logistics companies such as Amazon, FedEx, and DHL as well as Coca-Cola, Fiat Chrysler and the U.S. government.

Blackstone REIT said it expects to fund the acquisition through a combination of cash on hand, property-level debt and borrowings under the company's line of credit. The property-level debt is still being negotiated with potential lenders and detailed terms have not yet been agreed upon. Closing is expected in March or April of 2018.

Cabot Industrial Value Fund IV was formed in the spring of 2013 with an investment strategy of acquiring value-add properties that tend to be smaller in size. Cabot's average deal size up to that time was about $13 million.

Blackstone REIT since it began acquiring properties this year has shown a preference for industrial properties. In April, the REIT acquired a 6 million-square-foot portfolio of predominantly infill industrial assets from High Street Realty Co. for $402 million.

With the Cabot purchase, the REIT's holdings will include industrial properties with an acquisition value of $2.31 billion - making industrial properties, its largest sector holding followed by $1.4 billion of multifamily.

Blackstone REIT's parent company also has shown a renewed interest in the sector. In September 2016, Blackstone Group jumped back into the industrial property space buying 46 logistics properties totaling over 26 million square feet from LBA Realty for a reported $1.5 billion. Previous to that deal, the private-equity company had sold off industrial properties, notably dealing its IndCor portfolio to Global Logistic Properties Ltd. for a staggering $8 billion.

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Monday, December 18, 2017

Bond House Collective Leases Space at One Penn Center

Bond Collective has signed a lease for 22,506 square feet in the office building at 1617 John F. Kennedy Blvd. in Philadelphia, PA.

The 20-story building, known as One Penn Center at Suburban Station, was built in 1929 by Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT) and was later renovated in 1987. The building is currently owned and managed by Realex Capital Corp.

Bond Collective’s lease utilizes the entire 20th floor. Other tenants in the building include the City of Philadelphia, American Heart Association and QTC Management.

Dependable Distribution Leases Space in Philadelphia

Dependable Distribution LLC has signed a lease for 332,640 square feet in the industrial building at 9801 Blue Grass Rd. in Philadelphia, PA.

The food processing plant totals 448,681 square feet and was built in 1978. Hunter Truck is another tenant in the building.

Habitat For Humanity Leases Space in Village Mall

Habitat For Humanity Restore has signed a 10-year lease for 22,400 square feet in the Village Mall shopping center at 200 Blair Mill Rd. in Horsham, PA.

The mall was built in 1972 and renovated in 2003. It totals 274,840 square feet. Tenants include Acme, Dollar Tree and Retro Fitness.

This Week by the Numbers #CRE

by Steve Lubetkin,
As e-commerce claims an increasingly larger portion of holiday retail sales, retailers’ efficiency in limiting and handling returns of merchandise bought online – which could amount to as much as $32 billion this year – will make or break the holiday season for many.

E-commerce consistently generates more returns than brick-and-mortar retail, partly because shoppers often can’t sample online merchandise before buying it and partly due to the widespread practice of online shoppers ordering several versions of a product and returning those that don’t appeal.

Historically, returns of store-bought merchandise have amounted to eight percent of total retail sales. However, for e-commerce, that share ranges from 15 percent to 30 percent, depending on the product category.

Assuming those percentages hold true, the value of returns this season will increase by the same 13.8 percent that Adobe Analytics predicts for the increase in online sales this season. Adobe foresees online sales this season reaching $107.4 billion, up from approximately $93 billion last year. By extension, it is calculated that the projected ceiling for returns is $32 billion, up from roughly $28 billion last year.

“The increased amount of e-commerce returns will benefit Pennsylvania’s I-78/I-81 industrial corridor. We have a huge presence of 3PLs, public warehouses and reverse logistics firms in the area which are able to receive and process returned goods. In the past few years, we have witnessed shipping companies invest heavily to bolster their networks to accommodate the increased online traffic. Since the I-78/I-81 corridor is located within a day’s truck trip of 40 percent of the nation’s population, we believe the region will be an ideal location for returned online goods.”

Those well positioned to thrive in the online-returns market – also called reverse logistics – include third-party logistics firms and owners of 3PL facilities. Many retailers opt to contain costs and preserve their retail focus by outsourcing reverse-logistics functions to 3PL firms that specialize in that field.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Solid Labor Market Gains, with Even More Room for Improvement

Latest Jobs Report Continues to Reflect Solid and Sustainable Economy

Nonfarm payroll employment marched further forward in November, adding 228,000 jobs and also revising October’s jobs upward by 3,000, as reported by the Dept. of Labor on Friday. The average number of jobs added per month in 2017 now stands at 175,000, a slowdown from the same period in 2016 but still defying expectations for job growth as the economy enters what is widely believed to be a state of full employment.

The unemployment rate held steady at 4.1%, as the growth in the labor force over the month added not only to the number of employed but also to the number of unemployed.

The rosy employment picture buttresses the case for optimism as economic conditions continue to swing to the upside. Consumer confidence levels are reaching new heights (in spite of a small dip in November), and household balance sheets continue to improve. Meanwhile, increases in equity and home prices also add to the buoyancy among market participants. Expectations for economic growth settling in above 3% are growing given recent data.

With an economy at full employment -- meaning that everyone seeking a job is able to find one -- how much room can there be for continued job growth above the rate of population growth?

November’s report shows that jobs were added at an annualized rate of 1.9%, more than twice the rate of population growth. With an unchanged unemployment rate, this indicates that individuals are still being drawn into the labor force.

And there may well be a surplus still waiting to be gainfully employed. Labor force participation has been on a steady decline since the end of the recession and has only recently begun flattening out, sitting at 62.7% in this report compared to the pre-recession high of 66% and more than 67% in 2000.

To put these numbers in perspective, an increase of half of one percentage point in labor participation equals almost 1.3 million additional available workers. If the economy were to return to a higher participation rate, there could be plenty of available workers for employers to add jobs without further tightening the labor market.

An encouraging sign is that the labor force participation rate of the prime-aged working population (those between the ages of 25 and 54) has been on the rise after years of steady declines. Accounting for almost two-thirds of the labor force, this is the largest cohort and the most watched, and still has some way to go before reaching levels that were seen in the earlier years of the century.

Wage growth remains muted and continues to weigh on our optimism, but pessimism and caution may be misplaced. The lack of consistent and generous wage growth is clearly a function of the industries and occupations that are growing.

Jobs added in November were distributed by industry sector as shown in Exhibit 3 below. The highest number of jobs was added in leisure and hospitality, many of which are typically part-time jobs with modest wages. Almost 40% of the jobs added in professional and business services were temporary positions, which provide limited tenure and modest wages.

High-wage jobs such as those in information, financial activities, mining, construction, and manufacturing accounted for smaller job gains, dampening the potential for overall earnings growth.

As we noted last month, the picture continues to be one of healthy earnings in a handful of industries that add, in the aggregate, fewer jobs, and weak earnings in sectors that add, in the aggregate, many more jobs.

One cause of low wages and weak wage growth is certainly related to the job status of workers. Retail jobs, temporary jobs, and employment in the leisure and hospitality industry sector and in social assistance are more likely to be part-time and subject to lower wages. During the recession, with jobs being lost across the economy, part-time positions grew as a percentage of all jobs from 17% to over 20%.

Since the end of the recession, the full-time job market is continuing to gain momentum. These positions are more likely to enjoy benefits such as paid time off for vacation and sick leave and to receive health insurance coverage and benefits - added employment compensation which is not included in the earnings data. With the balance between full-time jobs and part-time jobs reverting to pre-recession levels, we are likely to see overall earnings grow.

The flip side of tepid wage growth is that labor costs may place less of a burden on profit margins. With plenty of potential labor available for further job increases, moderated labor costs, and price increases kept in check, there would seem to be less motivation for the Federal Reserve to seek faster interest rate increases, potentially choking off what is arguably a solid and sustainable economy.

Barring any unforeseen event, there are few clouds on the horizon in this fair-weather environment.

Monday, December 11, 2017

MRP Industrial, Hillwood Tee Up Largest Spec Dist. Ctr. Building in Eastern Pennsylvania

Construction Started on First Two Bldgs. Planned in Hamburg Logistics Park on Former Perry Golf Course

A joint venture of MRP Industrial and Hillwood has begun work on two of the three distribution buildings planned in the Hamburg Logistics Park located off I-78 in Berks County, PA.

The 165-acre project on the site of the former Perry Golf Course is approved for three buildings totaling 1.9 million square feet.

The first phase of construction includes the speculative development of 101 and 201 Logistics Dr. PLans for 101 Logistics call for a 336,000-square-foot, single-loaded distribution center scheduled for delivery in the third quarter of 2018. The second building at 201 Logistics will be a 1,240,000-square-foot, cross dock distribution center with expected delivery by year-end 2018.

At that size, MRP/Hillside said 201 Logistics Dr. will be the largest speculative building ever developed in eastern Pennsylvania.

A second phase of construction will include the development of 301 Logistics Dr., a 324,000-square-foot facility.

"Hamburg Logistics Park’s location is another example of the continued growth of the Lehigh Valley industrial market. In addition to its proximity to a valuable labor pool, the park will provide convenient access to the region’s major third party parcel shipping hubs, responding to steady demand for both traditional distribution requirements and direct to consumer fulfillment operations."

Baltimore-based MRP Industrial, an affiliate of MRP Realty, has quickly become one of the largest industrial developers in the northeastern U.S. having built or started 27 buildings totaling over 10.3 million square feet across Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Texas-based Hillwood has been active in the I-78 market for several years.

Ware Malcomb is the project architect with The Conlan Co. serving as the general contractor. Snyder Secary & Associates, a civil engineering firm based in Harrisburg, PA, developed the master plan.

Endurance Buys Bucks County Industrial Park

An affiliate of Endurance Real Estate Group, LLC (“Endurance”) and Thackeray Partners is pleased to announce the acquisition of the Penn Warner Industrial Park, a four (4) building warehouse/distribution portfolio totaling 240,358 SF in Fairless Hills (Bucks County), Pennsylvania (“Portfolio”). Endurance acquired the Portfolio from an undisclosed institutional seller.

The Portfolio of buildings was constructed between 1968 and 1970, and features brick & block facades, 24’-25’5” clear ceiling heights, and an excellent dock door ratio of one door per 6,000 SF. The Portfolio is strategically situated near the intersections of Route 1 and Route 13, providing easy access to Interstate 95, Interstate 195, 295, and the NJ Turnpike. These optimal logistical connections provide unique access to New York City and Philadelphia metropolitan areas and the affluent consumer base of the northeastern corridor, attracting a number of employers to the surrounding industrial market of Lower Bucks County. Existing users within the area include Rite-Aid, Estee Lauder, Pitney Bowes, XPO Logistics, Tara Tape, and Future Foam.

“The opportunity to acquire this Portfolio at pricing that is well below replacement cost attracted us to pursue this transaction. Our attractive basis will provide the new ownership group with flexibility to invest speculative capital. These strategic investments in base building upgrades are anticipated to expedite stabilization from the current occupancy level of 62%”, stated Albert J. Corr, Senior Vice President of Endurance. “Given the strength of the Lower Bucks distribution market as well as Endurance’s hands-on management platform and local ownership presence, this opportunity was a natural fit given our recent value-add acquisition of buildings in the King of Prussia and Mount Laurel, New Jersey markets.” Endurance previously owned this Portfolio from 2003 to 2007.

Current vacancies range from 20,012 SF up to a full building availability of 60,223 SF.

Law Firms And Banks Confront Changes To Traditional Office Layouts

by Steve Lubetkin,
Demographic and working style changes are creating strong pressure for radical changes in office space buildouts, and these changes are moving rapidly into the legal and financial sectors, according to experts in the design requirements for those professions.

Law firms are seeking new ways to build consensus and affect change to adjust to this evolving reality. Philadelphia law firms are likely to feel the effects of an office space shakeout currently underway in New York.

“New York is going through a legal sector transformation, with some megafirms like Skadden [Arps], Millbank [Tweed], Boies, Schiller [& Flexner] breaking out of the traditional mold of downtown markets,” she says. “All of a sudden they’re saying, ‘the product is old, the floors are inefficient, they don’t have the good window lines, and if we want to reinvent ourselves, we just can’t do it in existing product.’ Hence, we’re seeing a flight to quality in markets all across the United States.”

Philadelphia will feel the impact because many major national law firms are headquartered in New York, and when those firms make office design changes, “it has a domino effect in their other locations. It’s going to influence what’s required by the firm moving forward. If they’re doing something very progressive, they’re going to look to their other locations to do something progressive too.”

Law firm clients are increasingly demanding that law firms drop billable hours and move toward fixed fees for legal services, and that is having an impact on how law firms look at their costs, she says. Adding to that evolution, by 2025, more than half of the lawyers in the US will be Millennials, she says, most of whom view success differently than previous generations, and are less-influenced by the traditional trappings of success such as large private offices.

“When you have a fundamental workforce change, people now are not making decisions for their partners of today, they are making them for their partners of tomorrow. In Philadelphia, where we are going to see development opportunities is west [of the CBD] toward the train station, and we do believe there will be, in the coming years, some firms that are either gutting and renovating their current space, or potentially committing to a new building or two.”

Technological advances are making it possible for law firms to reimagine their space requirements in radical ways. She cites Marshall Dennehy, a large insurance litigation firm, as an example of this kind of forward-thinking.

“They moved from 1845 Walnut Street to 2000 Market Street,” she says. “Two years before they moved, they invested in the technology and developed the protocol, that when they moved, they got rid of 80 percent of their paper. And their goal is to go completely paperless. That’s an insurance litigation firm, that has the most paper of anybody.”

Office floor layouts are changing to a more open design, with core support teams in the center of the floor in open spaces, with attorney offices on the perimeter of the floor completely enclosed in glass so that natural light reaches the entire floor.

“It has a transparency that creates better vitality, better collaboration, better energy, better morale." Even with rising space rates, firms can save money on the per-attorney space cost by reducing the amount of space allowed. “They’re actually determining each partner’s pro-rata share of the space costs.".

Bright Insight, the 2017 National Legal Sector Benchmark Survey, conducted in partnership with ALM Legal Intelligence, polled more than 1,500 individuals from law firms across the United States.

“With real estate being the biggest expense for firms, excluding salaries, we are seeing a continued shift to rightsizing and incorporating new workplace strategies that help firms lower the cost of their footprint, while improving operations and client services."

In Philadelphia, about one-quarter of law firms reduced their overall space when they renewed leases, adding that future space design is likely to embrace

“Philadelphia is a little more parochial than some of the other markets, so we lag a little bit on some of those trends, such as single-sized offices. We’re seeing law firms increase their density, and firms that are able to pick up and relocate are looking at doing that. Not all firms can do it, but within the next three years I anticipate some of them to do that.”

Meanwhile, banks are finding that the space requirements for branches are changing as well.

As bank customers become more comfortable with remote transaction opportunities, including online banking, smartphone apps that even permit check deposits, and standalone ATM machines, banks are moving away from large space requirements for the traditional bricks-and-mortar branch, and even changing the way that space is used.

“Our clients are now building branches of less than 2,000 square feet, but it’s a full-service branch,” says Tim Quinn, branch solution sales specialist for NCR Corporation, a major supplier of financial equipment to the banking industry. Quinn described NCR’s vision of the future of branch banking at the New Jersey Bank Marketing Association’s October meeting in Clark, NJ.

“I actually have a client at the University of Maine, on the college campus, they built a new branch that was 264 square feet,” he says. “That was one office and one interactive teller.”

Quinn says remote interactive teller machines, where clients can make deposits and withdrawals like an ATM machine, but can also interact via two-way video with a live bank teller sitting at a central location, are going to replace many branch interactions in bank branches of the future. Other branch space is being reconfigured to emphasize collaborative meetings between financial specialists and customers, with less space devoted to teller transactions, he says.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Super Value Signs Full Bldg Industrial Lease in Carlisle

Super Value, a retailer, has signed a full-building lease for the new 422,400-square-foot industrial building at 192 Kost Rd. in Carlisle, PA.

The warehouse facility sits on 38.8 acres in the Harrisburg Area West Industrial submarket of Cumblerland County, within the New Kingstown Business Park. MRP Realty, Inc. developed the property on spec in June 2016 and sold it to Industrial Property Trust, Inc. before delivery.

Black Creek Divests Centerton Square Shopping Center

Prestige Properties & Development Company, Inc. has acquired the Centerton Square shopping center at 2 - 74 Centerton Rd. in Mount Laurel, NJ from Black Creek Diversified Property Fund Inc. for $129.6 million, or about $304 per square foot.

The shopping center delivered in 2004 and totals 426,415 square feet. It is anchored by a Wegmans, with in-line and outlot space fully leased by multiple tenants including TJ Maxx, DSW, PetSmart, Chipotle, Starbucks, Five Below and JoAnn Fabrics. Target and Costco stores are a part of the center but were not included in the sale.

H&R Block Leases Space on Walnut Street

H&R Block, a tax consulting company, has signed a retail lease for 18,934 square feet in the storefront at 1422-1424 Walnut St. in Philadelphia, PA.

The two-story, 145,750-square-foot retail and office building delivered in 1927 and is currently owned by ASI Management.

Spark Therapeutics Signs 108,000-SF Office Lease on Market Street

Spark Therapeutics, Inc. has leased 107,669 square feet in the 1 Drexel Plaza office building at 3001-3025 Market St. in Philadelphia, PA.

The six-story office building was built in 1953 and renovated in 1997. It is currently owned and managed by Academic Properties, Inc. Other tenants in the building include UPENN Health System Information Services and Drexel E Learning.

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Monday, December 4, 2017

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StayWell Leases 17,500SF in Yardley

StayWell, a national health solutions company, has leased 17,500 square feet at 800 Township Line Road in Yardley, and moved its headquarters locally within the Lower Makefield Corporate Center.

Equus Capital Partners sold Madison Willowyck Apartments

by Steve Lubetkin,

Equus Capital Partners sold its 308-unit apartment community, Madison Willowyck, in suburban Philadelphia, PA, to Gibbsboro, NJ-based Friedman Realty Group for $62.5 million. At the time of the sale, the community was 96-percent occupied.  Built in 1972, the garden style apartment community offers residents a mix of one-, two-, and three-bedroom units with private entrances in a low-density setting. An affiliate of Equus acquired Madison Willowyck in 2007 from UBS.