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Going Green On Top: Heat-Mitigation Design is an Emerging Climate Solution

Going Green On Top: Heat-Mitigation Design is an Emerging Climate Solution on morrissegroup.com

Commercial real estate is a cool key player in new green solutions

Most discussions about climate change and South Florida focus on sea-level rise. The topic is one of the major concerns when predicting storm surges during hurricane season, and it’s a regular headache for more and more residents during periods of King Tide.

Temperature is less frequently one of the region’s climate change talking points—even though South Florida is coming off one of the warmest summers and autumns on record. For many, the feeling is that it’s supposed to be hot here. But is it supposed to be this hot?

CRE can help cool things off

A recent study from the Urban Land Institute, Scorched: Extreme Heat and Real Estate, took an in-depth look at the causes, concerns, and cures for the Urban Heat Island Effect, a very real phenomenon in which asphalt and cement absorb heat during the course of the day and then radiate that heat throughout the evening. The result is a marked heat difference between downtown and rural areas. In turn, this can have a negative impact on the environment, the economy, and public health.

In many areas of the country, the loss of green space for the sake of development has played a huge role in raising temperatures. The good news, however, is that CRE development is playing a larger role in cooling things off. Designers and developers around the country are incorporating cutting-edge heat-mitigating technologies in their new projects.

Among these are the creation of green roofs; gardens in the sky that can reduce a building’s energy consumption and stormwater run-off while improving sound insulation and filtering out pollutants. They also help reduce urban temperatures.

Things to know before going green on top

Although it’s far easier to incorporate a rooftop garden at the start of the design process, existing buildings can also participate in this greener solution—one that is considered a high-impact temperature reduction strategy. There are, though, a few things to consider:

  • A structural engineer first needs to evaluate the load capacity of the roof, since rooftop gardens are quite heavy. A watered garden with a 6” soil depth can weigh up to 40lbs. per square foot.
  • In addition, the waterproof integrity of the roof also needs to be evaluated. The last thing any owner wants is to install a rooftop garden and then discover that there is a leak beneath the soil—or that the membrane was damaged during installation.
  • Working with a rooftop garden designer, owners and landlords can decide the type of garden, the plant selection, any safety issues should the public have access and alternatives if a full garden is not an option.

Embracing heat-resilient technologies comes with unique challenges but also significant rewards for CRE developers and investors, especially in the areas of new project development, marketing, and operations.

South Florida’s coolest solution

There is little doubt that South Florida is hot—in terms of temperature and the real estate market. And Morris Southeast Group recognizes the immense value of finding sustainable and ethical solutions that also enhance ROI. Our professionals can help you brainstorm smart, green CRE options and connect you with leaders in the field.

To learn more about what Morris Southeast Group can do for you, call us at 954.474.1776. You can also reach Ken Morris directly at 954.240.4400 or via email at kenmorris@morrissegroup.com.

Leasehold, Tenant, and Build-Out Improvements in CRE

Three terms which are similar, but different

There’s an old song, made most popular by an Ella Fitzgerald/Louis Armstrong duet, in which the singers lament the differences in how they each pronounce the same words differently. One says “to-may-to,” while the other says “to-mah-to.” As they compare their words, the two must decide if they’re going to overlook their differences or call the whole thing off.

It’s sort of the same thing with leasehold, tenant, and build-out improvements—three terms that kind of mean the same thing. Pretty much, that is. There are subtle differences, and it’s important for landlords and tenants to understand the nuances. Because, like Ella and Louis, no one wants to call the whole thing off.

A look at the similarities between leasehold, tenant, and build-out improvements

In commercial leases, the three terms are industry-specific ways of describing the same idea: improvements and modifications to a structure in order to prepare for a new tenant.

  • “Leasehold improvements” is the accounting term.
  • “Tenant improvements” are from the world of commercial real estate.
  • “Build-out” is the term in the construction industry.

The scope of these improvements is determined by several factors, including if space was previously occupied, the age of the building, and how closely aligned the previous tenant’s business is to that of the new tenant. Modifications can include everything from lighting and plumbing systems to security and Wi-Fi to reconfiguring the space inside and out.

A look at the differences

The differences between the terms become more apparent when examining which party—landlord or tenant or both—is overseeing the work and who will be paying for the improvements. For both parties, this is a critical part of the lease negotiation process and the secret is in the details.

To assist both parties, there are several standard tools at their disposal.

  • Tenant Improvement Allowance (TIA): In this lease concession, the landlord will provide a specific amount of money to be used as an allowance by the tenant to make any necessary modifications. The tenant will oversee the project.
  • Rent Discount: Very often, landlords will agree to free rent or a discounted rent, with the understanding that the tenant will apply the savings to the remodeling project. Again, the tenant oversees the project.
  • Building Standard Allowance: The landlord puts together an improvement package offering the tenant a choice of modification options, such as three paint colors for the walls. The landlord oversees the project, but the tenant is responsible for any improvements not included in the offered package.
  • Turnkey: The tenant provides the landlord with a design plan and estimated costs. The landlord agrees to pay for the improvements and oversees the work.

Preparing for the inevitable bumps in the road

Although there is a definite excitement to moving into a newly remodeled space, it’s important to not get distracted by that excitement. Problems will arise. Delays will occur. To that end, it’s critical that both parties fully understand the tenant improvement project, the costs, and the penalties if either party is unable to fulfill its obligation.

One of the easiest preventative measures is to attach a detailed improvement plan to the lease, including a description of building-standard materials and finishes. At the same time, there must also be a timeline for not only the progression of the project but also a date when work is to be completed—and the consequences, should either party miss that deadline.

An option for tenants and landlords

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how one says “tomato.” It’s more important to work with a team that is as skilled with the subtle nuances of tenant improvement provisions as it is with the details that are designed to protect the financial assets and business goals of landlords and tenants. Morris Southeast Group is that team.

To learn more about owner and tenant representation and what Morris Southeast Group can do for you, call us at 954.474.1776. You can also reach Ken Morris directly at 954.240.4400 or via email at kenmorris@morrissegroup.com.

The War Of The Tenants: How Landlords Can Broker Peace

Landlord can be another word for mediator

When most landlords and developers decided to enter the CRE marketplace, they probably had lots of reasons. Perhaps it was the chance to give back to a particular community, or to reap the rewards of a strong investment, or to provide a high-quality service that others can enjoy. Hardly any of them, though, thought that CRE would be an excellent opportunity to be a mediator.

Nevertheless, that’s exactly what they’re called to be when tenants are at war with one another. As more commercial tenants seek shared spaces and as retail tenants amp up competition for a population adapting to e-commerce, tenant conflicts have expanded beyond the multi-family housing arena.

And adopting some proactive solutions not only heads off potential conflict between tenants, it also comes in handy when a landlord has to take a firm stance.

A strong lease is the number-one tool

To head off any potential conflicts between tenants, a strong lease can set the proper tone from the beginning—especially in an environment where several tenants may be sharing everything, from adjoining walls and amenities to kitchens and parking.

The lease is the landlord’s chance to spell out specific rules that address two of the top concerns residential and commercial tenants have: safety and a peaceful environment. This is a chance to define expectations for tenant behavior and consequences for making threats against or harassing other tenants, as well as violating noise restrictions.

Get the balance right

Where commercial properties are concerned, especially those that house multiple tenants, landlords often try to achieve a sense of balance. This effort, though, has become more complicated in light of a sharing economy, where everything from offices to parking spaces are being used by more than one tenant.

When looking for new commercial tenants, it’s critical to have a full understanding of their business. This includes hours of operation (so that shared parking is achievable) to demographics (so that a yoga studio with evening classes is not next to a music venue) to not filling a complex with high-use tenants (so that customers have trouble parking, which results in their avoiding the complex … which results in a loss of revenue for tenants and the owner).

Develop a resolution policy

It’s especially helpful for landlords and owners to have a procedure to follow when mediating disputes. This guarantees that all tenants and their complaints are handled equally.

  • Consider creating a welcome package for tenants. This information can include basic information about living or working in a specific property, but it’s also a chance for the landlord to again spell out the expectations of good tenant behavior. This can include suggestions on how tenants can appropriately solve a conflict with another tenant on his/her own, as well as steps to take if the matter should escalate.

  • The welcome package should include instructions on how to file a complaint against another tenant with the landlord. Forms for such a complaint document can be included, with specific instructions on how and when to contact the landlord, owner, or property manager.

  • As the person receiving the complaint, there is a tremendous responsibility to respond in a timely manner. The tenant making the complaint wants to know that his or her concerns have been heard. This can be done with a return phone call, email, or letter to assure the tenant that you will investigate and that you take lease-violating behavior seriously. Each complaint, no matter how trivial it may seem, must be taken seriously.

  • At the same time, the landlord should contact the tenant named in the dispute to inform him or her of the situation. While the source of the complaint should remain confidential, this call is the perfect time to remind the tenant that violations of the lease—the landlord’s number-one tool—are grounds for eviction. A written summary of this interaction should be sent to the tenant in question.

  • It cannot be said enough times: document everything. This includes the initial complaint—using the complaint form in the welcome package or an online format—and logs and summaries of conversations and steps taken. This protects the landlord should the infraction result in an eviction and/or if there is future legal action as a result of this dispute.

  • Follow up with the tenant who made the complaint to ensure that the situation was resolved.

  • It may be necessary to conduct a face-to-face mediation with both parties. If this is the case, it is imperative for the landlord to remain professional and impartial. Both parties should air their grievances, and the landlord can rephrase these to help the parties understand that their concerns have been heard. The landlord can then produce documentation, such as the signed lease (there’s that number-one tool again) with the specific expectations for a safe and peaceful environment and the consequences for violating those expectations.

Being a commercial or residential landlord involves the art of mediation

Whether you’re a tenant or a landlord, being part of a dispute—either as a complainant or a mediator—can be messy, time consuming, and complicated. Morris Southeast Group’s property management services can assist in the mediation process. In addition, our tenant and owner representation skill set can help match your vision with the right property to prevent potential conflicts. To learn more about what Morris Southeast Group can do for you, call us at 954.474.1776. You can also reach Ken Morris directly at 954.240.4400 or via email at kenmorris@morrissegroup.com

The Importance Of Due Diligence In CRE

Doing your homework is part of the deal.

When most of us were in elementary school, little did we realize that each time a teacher or a parent lectured us on the importance of doing homework, they were actually preparing us for … commercial real estate. Due diligence — really, just an adult word for homework — is an essential part of the commercial transaction process.

And just like the educational — or tearful, weekday-afternoon — debate over homework, many people wonder how much due diligence is enough? Perhaps, the best way to respond is with another question: Can there ever be too much due diligence?

Due diligence is your time

While true due diligence happens long before a transaction is started or a property is even chosen, in the simplest and most-conventional terms, due diligence is the process that occurs during the time period between a buyer signing a contract and making the decision to move forward with the purchase. It’s during this time that the buyer has the chance to conduct a full review of all data that relates to the property. The more thorough the due diligence process, the more informed the buyer will be in deciding to complete or cancel the purchase.

The actual time period fluctuates in accordance with the complexity of the transaction, however. And it’s possible to incorporate a due diligence checklist into the sales contract with a stipulation that the process will commence once the seller produces the last of the requested documents.

The key elements of due diligence

When it comes to creating a due diligence checklist, there are five basic areas that need to be addressed. These, in turn, can be adjusted to meet the needs of the transaction, the complexity of the deal, and other reasonable items that the buyer may require to make an informed decision.

  1. Probably the most obvious of the data to gather is information on the property. This includes: legal and physical descriptions, property type, current use, zoning, parking, the most recent title policy or title commitment, blueprints, engineering plans, recent surveys, easements, etc. This information is then cross-checked with public data. Any discrepancies should be thoroughly investigated. Be wary of any information that cannot be verified independently.
  • The guts of the property are just as important, if not more so, than its outer appearance. All systems — structural, electrical, plumbing, drainage, security, fire protection, elevator, gas, and heating and cooling — need to be inspected and evaluated. This is also a good time to understand how utilities are delivered and metered, as well as service-agreement terms.
  • When it comes to inspections, it’s an excellent idea to leave no stone unturned. It may be necessary, for example, to work with pest inspectors, engineers, and environmental consultants — to name a few. Additionally, it may be necessary to review building permits, violations, certificates of occupancy, and court cases.
  • If the property has one or more tenants, it will be necessary to gather all legal contracts made between that party and the seller. In addition to lease terms, it’s essential to review security deposits, rent schedules, utility obligations, and any sweetheart clauses, such as a lease extension deal. 

  • Finally, it’s time to talk about the financial health of the property and/or the seller. Information here includes copies of the three most recent years’ tax statements, assessments, property income and expenses, insurance policies and claims, and pending litigation against the property or the seller.

Due diligence is a team effort

Embarking on the due diligence process can be a daunting and overwhelming task. Failure to gather all information by the due diligence deadline can result in the buyer losing his or her deposit if they find something that requires them to back out of the deal.

Fortunately, you there are experts that can help you with this process. In fact, many other experts recommend working with an experienced team that can compile the information, present it, and then advise on the next step. Morris Southeast Group is that team. To learn more about what Morris Southeast Group can do for you, call us at 954.474.1776. You can also reach Ken Morris directly at 954.240.4400 or via email at kenmorris@morrissegroup.com.

Preparing for a Gas Leak On Your Commercial Real Estate Property

Proactive solutions to help CRE owners be prepared for a gas leak emergency

The humidity was thick this past July 6, very typical of summer weather in steamy South Florida. The combination of heat and a Fourth of July holiday weekend meant that business was a little slow in a Plantation, FL, shopping plaza. Fitness buffs were still getting in their morning workouts, however, and coffee drinkers were enjoying their lattes. And according to authorities, someone opened a natural gas valve in a closed pizzeria where the tenant had vacated the premises in December 2017.

Over the course of four hours, more businesses opened, parking spaces were occupied, and natural gas filled the space of the closed pizzeria. When the air conditioner clicked on, an electrical spark ignited the gas, creating an explosion that blew out walls, shattered windows, and crumbled ceilings. Debris rained down on customers inside of the various retail spaces, as well as on those walking through the parking lot. An ordinary summer day in a shopping plaza was anything but.

The explosion was a wake-up call

Sadly, 22 people were injured. In addition to the injured, the explosion has had a tremendous impact on the surrounding commercial real estate. Within days, many of the buildings impacted were determined to be unsafe. To date, only 8 of 25 that operated prior to the explosion have been able to re-open, and some customers have expressed fear about returning to the plaza. Owners of the shopping center, while vowing to rebuild, are facing huge logistical challenges as they work with local building officials and engineers to create a recovery/rebuild timeline.

In many ways, the consequences of the explosion can be felt very far from South Florida. For landlords and owners around the country, it was a wake-up call to take a look at their own properties, operating systems, and responsibilities.

Four ways a building owner can be pro-active

When it comes to owning and/or managing commercial real estate, it’s imperative for owners to protect their tenants, visitors, and investment. That’s common sense, pure and simple. To accomplish this, though, there are several proactive steps to take today that could very well help you tomorrow:

  • As part of the lease process, the landlord/owner is responsible for minimizing risk and liability. This means regularly scheduled inspections of key systems: locks on doors and windows, security systems and cameras, roofing, electrical and heating units, and smoke and fire alarms.

  • Similarly, leases also require the landlord/owner to maintain these same key operating systems and common areas, as well as to make repairs in a prompt manner. Adhering to a strong standard of maintenance enhances other areas of management as well, such as tenant, municipality, and insurance relationships.

  • Speaking of insurance, it’s a good idea to conduct regular reviews of insurance coverage. Generally speaking, CRE insurance has two components: property—which covers the building and its contents from fire, theft, and natural disasters—and liability—which covers bodily injury sustained by third parties on your property. (In addition, owners may also want to consider errors and omission insurance (professional liability insurance) for protection from mistakes or injuries that are incurred as a result of improperly rendering professional services.) Tenants, meanwhile, will also have their own insurance policies.
  • Not enough can be said about developing and maintaining strong relationships between owners and tenants. As part of this equation, owners and/or property managers are well advised to develop an Emergency Action Plan and to provide regular emergency preparedness training for tenants. In addition to preparing for a general crisis, such as neighborhood fires or hurricanes, comprehensive emergency preparedness training can help save lives during a property-specific event, such as a mass shooting on the premises.

Reaching out for assistance

Preparing for what may or may not happen can be a daunting—albeit necessary—task, and it’s not something that you need to do alone. The team at Morris Southeast Group can assist you in reviewing insurance coverage and lease terms, and our property management services stay on top of scheduling maintenance and repairs, as well as coordinating emergency preparedness training. To learn more about what Morris Southeast Group can do for you, call us at 954.474.1776. You can also reach Ken Morris directly at 954.240.4400 or via email at kenmorris@morrissegroup.com.

Can Your Old Building Become Smart with a Retrofit?

Can Your Old Building Become Smart with a Retrofit? on morrissegroup.com

Sure, why not? Why a smart retrofit may now be a good option

Consider the rotary phone. In a popular video on social media, young people are unable to figure out how to use the rotary dial, and there are now millions of people who will never understand the patience it took for the mechanism to complete a zero when dialing the phone. Once considered a technological marvel, the rotary phone is all but gone—except for relics housed in museums, sitting in your great grandmother’s house, or tossed on trash heaps.

Something similar happens in commercial real estate. Many of today’s new-construction buildings come with energy-efficient materials and pre-configured for modern technology, including the latest smart technology systems. And these features are very often at the front and center of any marketing efforts. Older buildings aren’t so fortunate.

Many could be on the verge of being declared obsolete—unless owners and managers undertake a smart retrofit.

Getting smart is affordable

For years, a technological retrofit was often seen as a very expensive and perhaps unattainable option for older buildings. Because of the cost, property owners wouldn’t see a break-even payback for years to come. Very often, demolition and starting from scratch was a more viable solution.

Times, though, have changed. Technology has improved, and there are more products and greater options available—so much so that owners, depending on the scope of the retrofit, can see a break-even payback in less than a year. At the same time, a smart retrofit keeps an older building competitive in a greener marketplace and more relevant to potential tenants. It also increases the property’s overall value.

It takes homework to be smart

No two smart retrofits are alike. Some retrofits can be as simple as upgrading Wi-Fi technology or as complex as complete overhauls of various operating systems. The scope of each one is determined by several factors, including personal vision, building needs, and how much of a financial investment owner wish to or are able to make. If there’s anything all experts in the field agree on, though, it’s that it’s important to do homework prior to initiating any smart retrofit. Typically, the primary goals are to increase a building’s energy efficiency and expand its features such as maintenance monitoring and security. This involves assessing the ways that increasing network connectivity and applying new technology can make these objectives attainable.

Gathering data is the best place to start. This effort includes conducting an assessment of tenant needs, gathering information on surrounding and comparable properties, and doing a performance review of currently operating and management systems within the building.

The combination of a review of two years’ worth of utility bills and an energy audit are critical in establishing benchmarks for how efficiently the building is performing. This process can also help isolate easy fixes—such as repairing leaks and replacing filters—or pinpointing systems in which the property is losing energy and, as a result, money.

Systems most likely to go smart

Once the homework is completed, a smart retrofit doesn’t have to be a full-building project. Working with an energy engineer, it’s possible to fine-tune the project to focus on key areas. Among the most likely systems to require a smart retrofit are: windows, elevators, lighting, HVAC, security, and adding submeters, so tenants can have greater control over their energy use. At the same time, many of these systems can be easily managed through software, computer monitoring, and wireless sensors.

If this still seems overwhelming, consider the task of smart retrofitting one of the world’s most iconic buildings: the Empire State Building in New York. Begun in 2009, the project—through a series of partnerships—zeroed in on key goals. The end result is an annual savings of 38% of the building’s energy and $4.4 million, and the standard now places the building, originally completed in 1931, among the world’s newest energy-efficient buildings.

Asking for extra help is also smart

While undertaking a smart retrofit can seem overwhelming, the Empire State Building and other smart retrofit projects have taught us that owners and managers don’t have to go it alone. In fact, it’s very often recommended to work with the guidance of real estate professionals, such as those at Morris Southeast Group. Our property management services, as well as our links with energy experts in the field, can help you formulate the best smart retrofit plan for your building’s needs. To learn more about how we can help, call Morris Southeast Group at 954.474.1776. You can also reach Ken Morris directly at 954.240.4400 or via email at kenmorris@morrissegroup.com.

Is Co-Living The Next Big Thing in South Florida Multi-Family Real Estate?

Is Co-Living The Next Big Thing in South Florida Multi-Family Real Estate? on morrissegroup.com

A recent real estate trend is performing better than expected

It seems as if everything today is ripe for sharing. From car rides to parking to workspaces, what was once considered private and personal is now open to a communal way of thinking. With this in mind, it really isn’t surprising that co-living is a recent trend in the multi-family housing market.

As recently as 2017, some predicted it to be a movement that would “shake the multi-trillion-dollar housing industry to its core.” While critics and proponents still debate the long-term success of co-living, there is no denying that the idea is causing tremors in the marketplace—and South Florida might soon feel the earth move.

What is co-living?

Co-living comes at an interesting time in the multi-family housing industry. Many see it as a solution in high-market-price urban areas where there is an oversupply of rental properties (many of which are luxury units), an affordable housing crisis, and a millennial demographic that has limited income and its own way of working, playing, and living.  

In exchange for lower rents, co-living provides tenants with smaller private spaces and shared common areas, such as kitchens, lounges, game rooms, fitness rooms, etc. In addition, many co-living buildings also have a community manager to help coordinate group activities, such as movie nights, workshops, yoga classes, lectures, and community dinners.

Co-living provides opportunity

Some of the harshest criticisms have labeled co-living as dorm or hostel living for adults. Taking into account that co-living developers try to create an “intentional community” by matching up potential tenants based on interests and activities, it’s easy to see that comparison.

Nevertheless, it’s difficult to refute the fact that co-living properties are providing a very viable option for Millennials (and aging Baby Boomers) who crave an affordable place to live in some of the most expensive metropolitan areas in the country. Typically, co-living properties are located in up-and-coming neighborhoods, have a strong link to public transportation, and are close to shopping, restaurants, and nightlife. Minimum lease terms generally run from six to 12 months, although some properties offer three-month leases.

Co-living surpasses expectations

As more and more properties have opened, developers and investors have discovered that many results are surpassing expectations. Ollie, one of the largest co-living developers in the country, reports that its co-living spaces are earning more money per square foot than traditional apartments.

Ollie should know. At its Long Island City, NY, building, the company split 169 of its 466 units into 422 co-living bedrooms and common areas, thereby creating the largest co-living property in the country. A two-bedroom unit there can be as little as 535 square feet, which can then be rented from between $1,260 to $2,200 per month. In addition to amenities such as Wi-Fi, furniture, and kitchenware, the rents also cover weekly cleaning services for common areas.

Co-living in South Florida

South Florida has several co-living properties, but 2020 looks to be a major year as several high-profile projects are scheduled to open:

  • Common Marti and Common Mariana, from Common developers, will provide a total of 65 units in Little Havana. The neighborhood was chosen for its walkability and its proximity to office space, retail, and Brightline.
  • Ollie is part of an upscale co-living project at Gable Station, a three-building, a mixed-use property in Coral Gables.
  • Fort Lauderdale’s X Las Olas, from PMG, will be a 650-unit, 41-story tower in the heart of downtown.

Co-living is especially attractive to young professionals and retirees who are interested in being social in expensive urban areas that offer an assortment of cultural and recreational activities. South Florida is that idea co-living market, and co-living may be a unique solution to the affordable housing crisis, as salaries have not kept pace with rents and property values.

To learn more about commercial real estate investments, development opportunities, or other property services, contact the professionals at Morris Southeast Group at 954.474.1776. You can also reach Ken Morris directly at 954.240.4400 or via email at kenmorris@morrissegroup.com.

Filling The Neighborhood Strip Mall Calls for the Proper Mix of Tenants

Filling The Neighborhood Strip Mall Calls for the Proper Mix of Tenants on morrissegroup.com

Success with South Florida strip malls requires a carefully selected blend

With the growth of the suburbs in the 1950s, strip malls often became a vital part of the landscape. Sometimes called village greens, they were the new downtowns for bedroom communities that didn’t necessarily have an actual downtown.

Over the decades, though, the strip mall’s reputation has waxed and waned. Sometimes seen as essential—but often seen as a necessary evil or even a symptom of suburban sprawl—there is no escaping the fact that strip malls provide two key necessities for consumers: convenience and service.

With this in mind, it’s no small wonder that strip malls can arguably still claim a role as the town square. And boy, are they common in Florida; big and small cities alike.

What makes a strip mall?

Generally speaking, strip malls come in three sizes, each based on square footage and occupants:

  • Community centers range from 125,000 square feet to 400,000 square feet, and usually contain supermarkets, box stores, and large discount stores.
  • Neighborhood centers range from 30,000 to 125,000 square feet and may contain one supermarket and a mix of convenience stores (defined broadly as anything that provides a convenient service).
  • Strip centers are less than 30,000 square feet and contain convenience stores.

Attracting lucrative tenants to these centers is not always an easy task, especially since it’s often impossible to accommodate large, nationally known anchor stores. That being said, there are numerous prospective tenants. And creating the perfect blend of them requires flexibility and creativity, all while keeping a constant eye on convenience.

How to create the right mix in a strip mall

Unlike larger shopping malls, which are buckling under the strain of e-commerce competition, smaller shopping centers are able to provide a niche market for tenants who may be Internet-resistant or just service-oriented. These two traits are why consumers continue to need in-person shopping experiences—and strip malls.

Depending on space, the ideal combination of strip-mall tenants includes a mix of the following:

  • Health and beauty (hair and nail salons, day spas, barbershops)
  • Restaurants (it’s not so much about fast food, but more about casual and affordable dining)
  • Fitness (yoga studio, circuit training)
  • Service (dry cleaners, smartphone stores; medical and dental services are also a growing trend in smaller shopping centers)
  • Entertainment (like an indoor children’s playground)
  • A blend of the bargain and upscale boutiques

What do tenants want?

When considering the proper mix for a strip mall, it’s also important to understand what small-shopping-center tenants require. While some of these businesses may be part of a franchise, chances are that most will be privately owned. As such, they have a great interest in ease of access for potential customers to reach them, adequate and convenient parking, and good visibility.

Because strip-mall tenants are smaller operations, there’s also a strong need for high foot traffic, and a proper mix of tenants can help boost that number. One technique is to consider “co-tenancy,” understanding that certain businesses have specific peak times. By creating a balance, it’s possible to keep the parking lot full all day long so each of the businesses can flourish based on patronage patterns.

What can the owners provide?

In many ways, owners of strip malls need to be hands-on. A specific set of skills not only keeps each storefront occupied, but they also help to keep the shopping center relevant.

  • When it comes to rental agreements, don’t be afraid to be flexible and creative. Getting a strong tenant in could mean tenant-improvement allowances, early occupancy, a graduated rent structure, and free or reduced rent. It’s important to learn what works best for the tenant and for the owner.
  • It’s all about the details. Paying attention to landscaping, litter, signage, parking lot upkeep, night lighting, and other aesthetics can make current tenants happy and sway the decision of a brand-new tenant or one relocating from another strip mall.
  • Speaking of current tenants, potential tenants will definitely speak to them. A satisfied tenant can be a tremendous asset to an owner.
  • Consider upgrades. Perhaps there is an outparcel on the property that can be developed to house a single tenant with a drive-thru window.
  • As always, owners should never neglect their due diligence. It’s important to know and understand the credit and financial stability of a tenant, as well as their operating history and experience. If a tenant is a relocation from another strip mall, it’s a good idea to get a better grasp on their reasons for relocating.

Working with a strong team

To help the process go more smoothly, owners and tenants should work with a skilled commercial real estate partner. Not only can professionals help find the perfect location for a particular business, they can also assist in putting together a winning combination of them for a particular shopping center.

Morris Southeast Group has a highly skilled and knowledgeable team of pros for all of your real estate needs, either as an owner or a tenant.

To learn more about our services including property management and investment opportunities, call Morris Southeast Group at 954.474.1776. You can also reach Ken Morris directly at 954.240.4400 or via email at kenmorris@morrissegroup.com.

Can CRE Developers Solve Miami’s Affordable Housing Crisis?

Can CRE Developers Solve Miami’s Affordable Housing Crisis? on morrissegroup.com

New ideas are working to save an affordable city

Don’t be fooled by the number of cranes rising above the skylines of many South Florida cities. While their presence certainly indicates a building boom in the region, it also highlights a problem that is hiding in plain sight—an affordable housing crisis.

According to a recent report from the Miami Urban Future Initiative, a joint project of Creative Class Group and FIU’s College of Communications, Architecture, and The Arts, Miami and much of South Florida’s tri-county area are facing a severe problem: the lack of housing affordability brought on by high housing costs and low wages.

A closer look at the affordable housing crisis in Miami

Miami certainly isn’t alone in having to deal with an affordable housing crisis; cities across the nation are also facing the same dilemma, to varying degrees. But all too often, the topic is the pink elephant in the room. We know it exists and we know it’s bad, but a discussion of low-income housing can ignite a NIMBY (“not in my backyard) debate involving neighborhoods that don’t want solutions in their area.

Not talking about it, though, not only perpetuates the problem—it makes it worse. That’s a big reason discussing “Miami’s Housing Affordability Crisis” is important. It gets the dialogue started. Although the picture it paints of the South Florida community isn’t always pretty, it is certainly significant:

  • On a global ranking of least affordable large metro areas, Miami ranks 7th.
  • While housing prices have rebounded since the Great Recession, wages and income have not kept up.
  • Six in 10 employed adults are considered housing burdened, spending more than 30% of their income on housing. This statistic places Miami in the top spot on a national list of metro areas. Further complicating this issue is that more than half of the area’s workforce are low-income service workers, and therefore face the greatest challenge.
  • The crisis is both geographically and racially concentrated, with minority populations having little income remaining after paying for housing.
  • Housing in the region is expensive, putting Miami on a par with Washington, DC. Salaries in the two cities, though, are not the same—which the places Miami 2nd on a national list of cost-burdened homeowners and 1st on a national list of cost-burdened renters.
  • More than in other cities in the nation, climate change and sea-level rise have the potential to only make the crisis worse.

CRE investors and developers can make a difference

Nevertheless, things aren’t all gloomy. In fact, the affordable housing crisis is creating a challenge and CRE developers and investors are working to meet it head-on. In recent years, more investors have expressed an interest in purchasing buildings that are part of an affordable housing program or are at a market-based low-value rather than starting such a project from scratch. Original development projects are simply too expensive.

While some of these for-profit investors are interested in raising rents, a majority is content to keep the rents relatively low. “Affordable” can also be a smart business practice. Generally speaking, affordable housing properties tend to be fully occupied and provide a dependable, consistent, and steady income. For many investors, low-income and affordable housing can even be a safer bet than a class A apartment building—as demand is continually strong.

Local solutions making a difference

For a better look at what’s happening on a local level, consider the 16 Corner Project in Miami’s Overtown community. There, a joint effort between a private real estate developer and the city’s Omni Community Redevelopment Agency resulted in the successful rehab of a 1950s apartment building.

The partnership was a cost-sharing marriage that combined development skill with agency financing, which resulted in high-standard, low-income housing—and the developer is still able to see a profit.

Additionally, the University of Miami’s Office of Civic and Community Engagement developed an online mapping tool that has identified more than 500 million square feet of vacant, unused, and under-utilized land across Miami-Dade. Much of the land is located along transportation hubs and is ideally suited for low- and middle-income projects. The tool, known as Land Access for Neighborhood Development (LAND), is easy to navigate, free, and updated every two weeks.

Looking for South Florida possibilities

When it comes to CRE investments, a lot of time is spent talking about and searching for those big-ticket items—pristine properties and big returns. The truth, though, is that all properties and all housing needs have value. Because, when done correctly, they provide for all members of the community.

The pros at Morris Southeast Group believe in the South Florida community. It’s why we live, work, and play here. It’s why we love it here.

To learn more about affordable housing property investment and development, property management services, or other investment opportunities, call Morris Southeast Group at 954.474.1776. You can also reach Ken Morris directly at 954.240.4400 or via email at kenmorris@morrissegroup.com.

Parking in a Changing CRE Marketplace: Adapting & Futureproofing

Steps to take today and for tomorrow

When it comes to parking, people generally have a lot to say—and when asked to comment on the state of it, they usually turn to words like “headache,” “necessary evil,” or some words this blog can’t repeat. Let’s just say that it’s safe to say that most people loathe parking, especially in crowded cities. Along with traffic in South Florida, it’s very often a big downside of time spent behind the wheel.

And that’s actually a little disappointing (bear with us). Because in today’s rapidly changing CRE landscape, parking is actually kind of an exciting topic, with new challenges leading to some cool new ideas.

Why parking is changing

A combination of increased residential and commercial properties in congested downtown areas, a changing demographic that telecommutes and sees little need for car ownership, shared workspaces, advanced automotive technologies, and ride-sharing options are all coming together to change parking needs.

The result is parking garages that are strangely both over-crowded and under-used, depending on the hour and/or the day of the week. Further complicating matters are future predictions that parking garages will become very close to obsolete. To meet the challenge, there are two general courses of action: meeting today’s needs and future-proofing for tomorrow.

Solutions for parking today

All too often, parking garages are somewhat of an afterthought in CRE—which is odd, since in many cases, they are actually the first impression many visitors have of a building. They are, in a sense, the true lobby. And as such, they often need to step up their game.

To help make parking more convenient and personal, some garages have created reception areas, valet services, parking assistance technology (such as LED lights for drivers to easily locate available and handicap spaces, and digital signage of available parking on each level), automotive detailing services, designated areas for taxis and ride-sharing vehicles, and improved lighting and security.

In addition, many garages have established shared parking arrangements with neighboring businesses. The needs of the businesses involved help to determine how best to establish this parking partnership. For example, a commercial business may need parking spaces during the workday, while another—a restaurant, perhaps—needs those spaces in the evening. Sensors, counters, and other technologies can help negotiate overlap times.

Solutions for parking tomorrow

Developers and architects now sit at a crossroads when it comes to parking garage design. Municipalities want either a minimum or a maximum number of spaces, while many predictions point to a future in which parking will be a thing of the past. One report, for example, projects that those five years old and under will not get a driver’s license.

To meet this challenge, more and more garages are being designed with an eye toward futureproofing so they can be easily converted into other uses. This means level rather than graded floors, ceiling heights that meet office and residential standards, openings that can be easily fitted for future window placement, and open shafts that can someday house ductwork and wiring.

Around the world, the future is here. The repurposing of parking garages is already happening, from Wichita, KS, where a parking garage was converted into an apartment building, to London, where one became a hub for small businesses. Making preparations now not only helps a building project stay relevant for a longer period of time. It’s also cost-efficient in the long term, as it costs far less to repurpose than it does to demolish and start from scratch.

Paying attention to parking is critical

While parking may not become completely obsolete anytime soon, predictions indicate it could significantly diminish in relevance. For developers, investors, and owners, it’s a smart idea to keep an eye on parking trends. In the present, adequate and convenient parking keeps visitors and tenants satisfied. For the future, it keeps the CRE property relevant and profitable if one plans to hold the property for many years.

The Morris Southeast Group team has already seen the struggles malls have had in meeting the challenges created by e-commerce. When it comes to the future of parking garages, it makes sense to prepare today so they remain adaptable.

To learn more about parking solutions and requirements, property management services, investment opportunities, and/or other services, call Morris Southeast Group at 954.474.1776. You can also reach Ken Morris directly at 954.240.4400 or via email at kenmorris@morrissegroup.com.

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