The entire CBM organization gathered at Guido’s, a lux Italian restaurant on the Los Angeles’ Westside, for our annual holiday party this past Thursday.

What a scene! The team thoroughly enjoying fine dining, a few choice cocktails, and merriment galore! But the group also reflected on the value of our shared experience. And celebrated the collective that makes up CBM’s sum total.

In this review, each attendee took a moment to share a bit about themselves. Their background, what brought them to CBM, how long they’ve been with the firm, and what they’ve appreciated about their tenure here.

And amid many hilarious tales, heartfelt remembrances, and warm regards, a theme emerged. CBM isn’t just a company. Management isn’t just a gang of taskmasters. And our team aren’t just a bunch of employees. We are a family. And collectively, we continually help and support one another. Looking out, lending a hand, and lifting each other up at every turn.

So, with another year in the books, we bid a fond farewell to 2018, and look toward 2019 with great anticipation!


After nearly 30 years in the saddle with CBM, veteran property manager Dan Hirsch has decided to hang up his profession and move on to life’s next great adventure!

“I hope to do some traveling, as much as my vision permits,” said Dan, comically squinting his eyes, and adding “But I’ll be available for consulting on as-needed-basis. Though my hourly rate will be fairly steep.”

Dan’s rye comments underscored one of his most celebrated traits, his unflappable sense of humor. In addition to his humor, Dan’s always calm and collected approach has been the hallmark of his lengthy property management career.

These sentiments were echoed by several fellow CBMers who’ve been in the trenches with Dan for many years, including CFO Roger Sur, Controller, Janice Adair, and fellow property managers Pamela Ozell + Roselene White, each of whom lauded Dan’s exceptional wit and even-keeled temperament.

All of CBM wishes Dan the very best after he formally parts ways with the firm this December 31st!


It’s no secret to anyone in the commercial real estate industry that retail leasing transaction volume has slowed.

Commercial real estate reached the height of its resurgence, amid the full bloom or our “economic recovery,” roughly 18 months ago.

In the ensuing months, however, deal velocity has slowed, and fewer leases are getting done. This isn’t to say the market has ground to a halt or is anywhere near careening off a cliff. If anything, the recent down-turn is normalization. The huge upswing in leasing transactions over the past three years was unsustainable. And the recent shift is not unlike a correction in an inflated and over-valued stock market.

Key Factors Contributing to the Current Retail Leasing Decline

While “corrections” are inevitable in any market, there are three specific factors underling this latest falloff.

The Economy is BOOMING!

First and foremost, the economy is exceptionally strong. Commercial enterprises of all stripes are prospering in a financially stable environment that shows no signs of erasure. And this is particularly true among small businesses, which comprise a dominant chunk of retail strip center tenants.

Meanwhile, much of retail leasing volume hinges on turnover. In many cases… A new tenant goes in, and either their business fails before the term of the lease is up and they vacate. Or, they hang on until the end of their lease but chose not to renew because their business is ultimately unprofitable.

And this fairly consistent turnover creates a stead volume of vacancy, which in turn leads to new deals.

But given the economy’s remarkable strength currently, few strip center businesses are failing. In fact, a great many small businesses are more profitable than ever!

Inventory is Exceptionally Low

Secondly, much of the vacancy that blighted retail shopping centers in the depths of the “great recession” has been reabsorbed. This is particularly true of top-tier, A and B quality spaces (which command the steepest rents).

In essence, the aforementioned thriving economy has driven vacancies down to extraordinarily low rates. And as a result, there is simply very little desirable inventory available at the moment.

Many Landlords Are Harboring Unrealistic Rental Rate Expectations

The third factor, however, is actually the biggest culprit behind the slowing deal volume in the retail strip center segment.

And that factor is? Unrealistic expectations among strip center landlords on the rental rates their remaining vacancies are able to command.

As already noted, the vast majority of A and B quality space has been snapped up. These are your Main + Main locations, end-caps, high street visibility units, and the other highly desirable spaces.

So, what’s remaining? These are your C, D and E quality spaces. Centers a bit off the beaten path, elbow units, obstructed in-line spaces, and other less than desirable sites.

Ultimately, however, these spaces can, and should, lease as well. As the only saying goes… “Everyone (in this case, every tenant) has their price.” But the cold, hard reality is C, D and E quality spaces command lower rents. And the “price” these types of units should be offered at is markedly lower than A and B quality spaces.

Low inventory, however, has sent retail rents skyrocketing. And many strip center landlords have either been spoiled by the high dollar deals they’ve secured on A and B quality space or are pining for deals they’ve heard of other owners transacting on similar space.

Meanwhile, these landlords are being completely unrealistic about the quality of their remaining C, D and E vacancies. In short, they’re looking for A and B quality rental rates on C, D and E quality space.

The Solution?

It’s high time to gain some perspective on the quality of your product. C, D and E quality spaces are inherently flawed. Poor location, low visibility, obscure size, etc… make these units distinctly less desirable.

And less-than-desirable spaces do not command top dollar rents. It’s simply a fact. Thus, it’s time to stop comparing your C, D and E quality spaces to A and B space, be realistic about the value of

these units, and ask for reasonable rents.

Need Help Leasing A Long-Lingering Vacancy in Your Shopping Center?

Are you one of the landlord’s struggling to fill a difficult to lease space? CBM’s industry-leading leasing team is here to help! Our crew has leased PLENTY of seemingly UNLEASABLE space in our 30+ year tenure in SoCal retail real estate. And our agents know exactly what it takes to lease your vacancy.

For additional information about our leasing services or to hire a CBM leasing agent to lease your shopping center, please visit our Services page: cbm1.com/services


From the youngest to oldest, three veteran CBM team members both celebrated recent birthdays.

David Levcovitch, long-time Encino-based leasing specialist, is well into his 7th decade here on planet Earth. Meanwhile, Jeff Lerner, CBM’s IT manager, has good 40+ years of ground to cover if he ever hopes to catch up with David. And somewhere in between is Ms. Tina Flor, property manager extraordinaire (and that’s all we can reveal about her exact age ;—)

Regardless of their age gap, this fabulous trio came together and celebrated their birthdays with CBM’s entire Encino office. And we have the pix to prove it!

Congrats and happy birthday to David, Tina + Jeff — here’s to many, many more!

[Check out the happening on video here!]


In our ongoing Frequently Asked Questions series, we’ve answered…

How Much Does Property Management Cost? And  What Services Does Property Management Include?

So, what’s up next?

How Often Will a Manager Visit My Property?

Let’s start answering this question by digging into…

Why Do Property Managers Conduct Regular Site Visitations?

Monitoring Your Property’s Physical Condition

Maintaining your retail shopping center’s physical condition is imperative! This is important for several reasons…

First, you want your property looking good and in peak condition, so it’s appealing to would-be customers. Because, of course, your tenants depend upon those customers to say in business.

Secondly, you want to ensure your property is good physical condition and free from any potential hazards. This is critical to avoid any potential trip-and-fall or similar accidents that could result in personal injury lawsuits.

Foster + Maintain Positive Tenant Relations

Nurturing positive and productive tenant relations is also key to sustaining a profitable shopping center.

Your tenants are your property’s financial lifeblood. Ensuring their needs are met and concerns are satisfied is crucial to promoting their continued residency in your shopping center.

Thus, consistent access to a sympathetic ear empowered to address your tenants needs and concerns is VERY important to them. And ultimately, tenants take comfort in knowing a landlord representative FREQUENTLY visits the property they inhabit to offer that sympathetic ear.

The Best Way to Accomplish These Goals?

Have a property manager conduct regular site visits!

Site Visitation Overview

Physical Inspection

When a manager visits your property, they pay close attention to your center’s overall condition, in addition to monitoring specific details.
This includes evaluating:
== > The quality of vendor services
== > The health of landscaping
== > The condition of the parking lot, sidewalks + curbs
== > The overall appearance + integrity of the building’s structure + façade
== > And much, much more!

Tenant Relations Management

In addition to conducting physical inspections, regular site visits also afford tenants a forum to:
== > Voice concerns or issue complaints (about property or neighborhood conditions, vendor services, disputes with other tenants, or frustrations with lease terms they are struggling to satisfy)
== > Offer assessments of property vendor services (poor cleaning or trash collection may be negatively impacting their business)
== > Point out maintenance issues, mechanical or structural problems, and any potential hazards (which may be negatively impacting their business)
== > Develop a simpatico relationship with their property manager (which is often instrumental in avoiding a number of potential crises)

Now that you understand WHY managers conduct regular site visits, the question then is…

How Often Will a Manager Visit My Property?

Typically, managers visit individual sites once per week.

In our nearly three decades of retail property management experience, we’ve determined that weekly visits are the optimal frequency to ensure a property is consistently maintained and remains in peak physical condition.

Are there exceptions?

Of course!

More Frequent Visits

In some case, managers visit a site more frequently than once per week. Reasons for additional visits may include…
== > Persistent maintenance, cleaning or trash removal problems a manager is working to correct
== > Construction, remodeling or other special projects your manager is monitoring
== > Tenant meetings
== > Tenant move-in + move-out oversight

And these are just a few examples, many other situations may necessitate additional site visitations.

Less Frequent Visits

In other cases, managers may visit sites less often than once per week.

The most likely reason for this is when the 12th through the 15th of the particular month falls in the middle of the week. Managers are usually quite busy between the 12th and 15th of each month preparing monthly landlord financial statements and narrative reports.

Thus, a manager may not be in the position to visit every site in their portfolio.

Are Regular Site Visits to Monitor Your Shopping Center a Concern?

Professional property management would likely benefit your property.

For more information about our management services, visit our Services page at: cbm1.com/services.


Sale-Leasebacks Gain New Appeal for Retail Owner/Occupiers

By Globe St | June 25, 2018

Scott Holmes, Marcus & Millichap “Retail companies operating out of a property they own face new tax rules,” says Holmes, “and many could benefit from selling their property and leasing it back from an investor.”

CALABASAS, CA—Strategy changes for retail owner/users have become more frequently debated, says Scott M. Holmes of Marcus & Millichap, who reports that this shift in approach is largely due to changes to the tax code. This bodes particularly well for the sale-leaseback sector, as the SVP and national director of retail indicates in the firm’s Retail Spotlight.

“Investors’ desire to own stabilized assets with long-term tenants,” he says, “and the ability of owners to unlock equity for reinvestment into operations keep retail sale-leaseback transactions steady.”

This consistency in deal flow occurs against the backdrop of equally firm market fundamentals. “Encouraging single-tenant trends persisted last year,” Holmes states, “as demand for single-tenant locations held firm and rents continued their upward trend. Limited development will support the current trends through 2018, reinforcing the demand of these generally stable assets.”

Simply put, the new tax code minimizes some former benefits of ownership for companies operating from a location they own. “Previously,” says Holmes, “owner-user companies could deduct all of their interest expenses on their taxes, but the new provisions restrict the deductibility of business interest for companies with gross receipts in excess of $25 million. Now, interest totaling just 30 percent of earnings before taxes, depreciation and amortization can be deducted on taxes.” By selling the property and leasing it back from the investor, the facility cost once again becomes deductible.

Investors are focusing heavily on several single-tenant retail types, including quick-service restaurants. These assets are especially attractive, given their brand visibility and ability to resist both economic mishaps and e-commerce. “Investors also seek grocery stores, discount stores, fast casual dining, pharmacies and a range of other business types,” Holmes adds.


In a prior post, we addressed our #1 most frequently asked question: How Much Does Property Management Cost?

Which brings us to our second most frequently asked question: What Services Does Property Management Include?

This is a GREAT question! And obviously, key to any landlord’s decision when considering hiring a property management company to oversee their portfolio.
So, to answer this all-important, burning question, here are the 7 Primary Services Retail Property Management Services includes:

Accounting

At CBM, we employ a dedicated accounting department and use specialized property management-specific software to monitor and track all aspects of Accounts Payable (AP), Accounts Receivable (AR) and Common Area Maintenance Reconciliation for our entire management portfolio.

Software platform – We use a property management software platform called Skyline, which is specifically design for commercial retail properties.

Accounts Payable – Our AP services include paying, recording, and cataloging all utility bills, vendor invoices, mortgages, and property taxes. At the end of the year, just hand your CPA our General ledger to provide a complete property accounting!

Accounts Receivable – Our AR services include receiving and depositing monthly rents and Common Area Maintenance (CAM) payments. Additionally, to make these payments, most of our tenants use an automated online bill pay service (ClickPay.com) that debits funds from their bank account and transfers them directly into the property’s trust account.

Common Area Maintenance Reconciliation – Our accounting department conducts Common Area Maintenance Reconciliations, ensuring tenants on Triple Net (NNN) leases are paying their proper share of Common Area Maintenance (CAM) fees.

Site Visitation

CBM property managers visit the sites they manage on regular basis with detial reprots that include photos communicated electronically. These visitations serve several purposes:

Monitor property condition – Managers ensure the property is in good physical condition and free of any damage or hazards that may cause accidents and lead to lawsuits. Additionally, managers monitor the property as a whole, and take note of any larger issues that may require maintenance – HVAC systems, roof, building façade + structure, parking lot, sidewalks + curbs, etc…

Confirm + evaluate vendor services – Managers ensure vendors are not only performing the services for which they have been contracted, but executing those services at a high level.

Develop a rapport with tenants – Managers make themselves visible to tenants onsite, both to establish authority at the property as an agent of the landlord, and to allow tenants the opportunity to voice concerns and make complaints.

Tenant Relations Management

Managing tenant issues is a never-ending and thankless task. Tenants gripe and complain. Tenants have disputes and conflicts (with one another and landlords). And tenants ask for breaks and reductions in rent and CAM payment, often accompanied by hardship pleas (whether legitimate or not). Meanwhile, dealing with this relentless stream of demands is exhausting and often emotionally draining.

To mitigate this drudgery, property managers step in to create a buffer between landlords and tenants. Managers fields tenant requests and report all communications to landlords. Landlords are then free to make carefully considered decisions, without pressure from emotionally overwrought or manipulative tenants.

Ultimately, managers enforce lease terms, carefully balancing landlord rights and tenant concerns. In short, exercising a firm but fair hand.

Vendor Oversight

To ensure your property remains in peak physical condition, property managers closely monitor vendor services to confirm consistent and high caliber performance.

As part of site visitations, managers verify that sweeping + general cleaning, trash removal, landscaping, and other Common Area Maintenance task are being executed. And executed with careful attention to detail.

Additionally, if a vendor fails to perform a contracted service, performs inconsistently, or performs poorly, the manager will hold that vendor accountable. And if the vendor fails to improve, the manager will terminate their services and hire a replacement provider.

Finally, if a vendor’s fees increase while their level of service declines, a manager will source alternative providers, solicit bids, and make recommendations as to which alternative makes the most sense for the property.

Project Management

Over time, as a property ages, wear-and-tear is unavoidable. Eventually, building exteriors + facades, roofs, HVAC systems, parking lots, sidewalks + curbs, etc… all need to be replaced.
Obviously, this is a Herculean task that involves identifying contractors, soliciting bids, selecting a suitable vendor, and overseeing the project.

Now, a property manager is by no means a general contractor. And possesses neither the expertise nor legal authorization to act as one.

But your manager can help you…

== > Source contractors for various construction projects

== > Solicit construction bids

== > Advise you on the pros and cons of each option

== > And interface with your contractor of choice, acting as your agent in monitoring the construction process

Lease Assignments + Subleases

In many cases, tenants come and go before the term of their lease is fulfilled. It’s just the reality of the retail strip center world.

Of course, to vacate before a lease term has expired, a tenant must “assign” their lease or or sublease their space. And while not quite as difficult as executing a brand-new lease, assigning a lease is still an involved process that requires fully qualifying a replacement tenant.

Managers undertake this qualifying process, conforming prospective replacement tenant’s use-type acceptability, verifying their experience and business ownership track record, and determining their overall financial fitness. Ultimately, managers strive to ensure the replacement tenant will meet the vacating tenant’s financial responsibilities.

Lease Renewals

Whether lease options are in place or an initial lease is simply expiring, tracking and executing lease renewals is an integral part of maximizing a shopping center’s profitability.

To ensure lease options + lease renewals are handled accordingly, managers…

== > Keep landlords appraised of approaching renewal dates

== > Update landlords on tenant decisions to exercise options or vacate following lease expirations

== > Advise landlords on current market rents to negotiate competitively price renewal agreements

== > And assist landlords in negotiating financially beneficial lease agreements

And These Are Just a Few of the Core Services Property Management Provides…

For more information, visit our Property Management Services page at cbm1.com/propertymanagement


Why Fitness Tenants Are Leading Retail Leasing

By Globe St. June 29, 2018

Petra Durnin is the director of research and analysis for the Southern California market at CBRE.

Fitness tenants are driving retail leasing activity in Southern California. According to a new report from CBRE that looked at retail leasing activity, fitness tenants are among the top five retail users in Southern California, and they are expanding. This is a stark change from the activity from this retail segment in the past, when fitness centers were not considered a primary tenant. Today, fitness centers are occupying big boxes as well as smaller footprints and in some cases can even serve as anchors in shopping centers. Last year, there were nearly 1.2 million square feet and 100 transactions of fitness centers in Orange County, the Inland Empire and Los Angeles. This year, there has already been 400,000 square feet in fitness leasing activity and nearly 40 transactions. We sat down with Petra Durnin, director of research and analysis at CBRE Southern California, to talk about the research and what is driving fitness center activity.

GlobeSt.com: Why have fitness tenants become such active retail occupiers?

Petra Durnin: Fitness clients seek more experiential retail options that extend beyond the workout period. Fitness centers provide a service that is internet proof, occupy much of the space left behind from big box/department store closures, fill non-peak retail hours, and attract new customers willing to travel farther for unique fitness experiences. The natural partnership between anchor tenants such as grocers is formed due to the trend towards healthy living. Nearby amenities such as restaurants, coffee shops and personal services attract gym goers, increase foot traffic and sales.

GlobeSt.com: These were once considered undesirable tenants. How have landlords responded to this new demand, and has the lease negotiation or vetting process changed?

Durnin: Fitness retailers have become much more demanding in their requirements for stronger co-tenancy, earlier termination rights, and more exclusive contracts to protect their brand and business. There is also strong demand among budget-oriented fitness clubs that require 15,000 square feet and up to provide a no frills experience and a clean/well-equipped center.

GlobeSt.com: Is the growth of fitness operators enough to absorb the space from some big box closures that we have seen? Why or why not?

Durnin: Big box product appeals to many different types of tenants, but those located in close proximity to amenities that tie in to fitness and health will appeal to gym goers and attract fitness tenants.

GlobeSt.com: Restaurants have been another tenant that has driven retail leasing, but there is some talk about a surplus of restaurant options. Is there any concern about the number of fitness spaces opening or if the consumer demand can support the trend?

Durnin: The rise of health and fitness supports the current growth and options are important in relation to the live/work/play paradigm. Both the aging population and younger generation will further drive the evolution of this sector.

GlobeSt.com: Is this a lasting trend? What is your outlook for fitness center activity?

Durnin: A future trend could be for fitness clubs to locate near residential communities or medical/hospital complexes. They could partner with mixed-use and lifestyle centers with a larger experiential platform instead of traditional retail centers. Boutique fitness clubs could look to diversify further to provide an even more personalized experience with unconventional offerings such as trampoline parks and skydiving centers.


Did The Supreme Court Just Save Retail?

By Globe Street, June 22, 2018

WASHINGTON, DC–In September 2019, a mall in Toronto owned by Ivanhoé Cambridge will debut the first Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group’s concept of indoor family entertainment experiences specially designed for retail locations. Called CREACTIVE, it basically lets shoppers take the stage and flex their inner circus skills. “CREACTIVE is perfectly aligned with our vision for the future of retail: to join forces with the right partners to offer innovative experiences for the benefits of local families and communities,” said Claude Sirois, president, Retail at Ivanhoé Cambridge in a prepared statement.

CREATIVE is the latest example of how retail is remaking the shopper experience by offering exciting experiences and entertainment. Experiences and entertainment, it can be noted here, cannot be disintermediated by the Internet. Retail has been heading in this direction for some time and for many reasons — a main one being the bleeding it has suffered from online sales competition.
South Dakota v. Wayfair

Yesterday the US Supreme Court struck a blow on behalf of physical retailers with its 5-4 vote in the case South Dakota v. Wayfair. Essentially it ruled that US states may impose sales taxes on Internet businesses, even if they don’t have physical locations in those states.

The justices, led by Justice Anthony Kennedy, overturned the court’s 1992 decision in Quill v. North Dakota, which had affirmed the “physical presence” test for state sales-and-use tax collections.

“Each year the physical presence test becomes further removed from economic reality and results in significant revenue losses to the States,” Kennedy wrote. “These critiques underscore that the physical presence rule, both as first formulated and as applied today, is an incorrect interpretation of the commerce clause.”
A Game Changer?

At its heart, this was a story about states seeking to recapture lose sales tax revenues as well as one about the supposedly unfair advantage that internet retailers have had for so many years over brick-and-mortar stores that must pay sales taxes.

Now that the Supreme Court has spoken, the question becomes how much of a benefit will physical retail realize?

One thing is for certain: the trend of experiential retail offerings such as CREATIVE is here to stay. Or put another way, the concept and culture of e-commerce is so baked in with consumers that the additional costs that will be imposed will not be a game changer.

“Physical retailers surely will benefit from this decision, but the universal sales tax imposition alone will not be enough to reverse retail’s decade-long slide, in part because consumers already are very comfortable with shopping online, and the lack of sales tax is only a relatively minor consideration in their shopping decisions,” Colliers Chief Economist Andrew Nelson tells GlobeSt.com.
What Sales Tax Holiday?

He notes that surveys by comScore show that the lack of sales tax is the primary factor motivating only 10% of online sales, while free shipping (54%) and the availability of exclusive online deals (23%) are far more important.

Also Nelson says, most consumers no longer enjoy the online sales tax holiday anymore.

“Amazon — by far the dominant e-commerce retailer, with more online U.S. sales than the next nine such retailers combined, according to ecommerceDB.com — already collects sales taxes on all products it sells directly in 45 states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia though not always on goods it sells on behalf of affiliates.” And with other leading retailers having followed suit, as a practical matter most consumers are already paying the tax.

Indeed University of Richmond tax law expert Hayes Holderness tells GlobeSt.com that Amazon quite expertly has flipped the script on e-commerce from “buy it sales tax free” to “buy it conveniently from your home.” “In light of this change, don’t expect the ruling to hurt the growth of e-commerce in any significant way,” he says.

With this Nelson agrees. “The diversion of these sales from physical to online retailers undoubtedly has hurt brick-and-mortar retailers, but physical retailers are facing a host of other challenges that are forcing a fundamental reckoning.”

He notes that e-commerce itself is nearly not responsible for all of the problems befalling the nation’s malls and shopping centers. “Online sales still account for only 10% of non-auto retail sales, rising to 20% or more if the retail categories that typically are not sold online are excluded, such as groceries, home improvement, small convenience items and prepared foods.

“Physical retail will still have to find ways to counter e-commerce’s convenience argument, and the change in tax collection obligations is unlikely to alter that fact,” Holderness says.
Challenges In Both Camps

It should be noted that this decision will move forward into the online retail world ease. E-commerce vendors will have to figure out how to handle the byzantine system of sales and local taxes, although many have anticipated this ruling and gotten a jump on this issue. “How it is implemented will be important and will be subject to much debate especially as the tax relates to companies doing business across and within every state,” says James M. Rishwain, Jr. Partner of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.

Meanwhile retail, for all the challenges it is still facing, can expect easier times — although not necessarily because of the ruling.

“There’s reason to believe that some of the worst pain is behind us as industry players adapt to the new market and consumer realities,” says Collier’s Nelson. “But that doesn’t mean retailers can now rest. Hardly. Retail sales will not swing strongly back to physical retailers just because sales taxes will now be universal online.”


5 Trends in Retail Reinvigoration

By Globe St | May 30, 2018

The face of retail has changed over the past decade with the introduction of e-commerce and changing consumer spending habits. Though it may appear this is having a negative effect on the retail real estate world, it’s become an age of reinvigoration for these properties.

With Partner touching around 10% of CRE transactions in the US (during due diligence or development), we asked our staff from across the country “What are you seeing? What are some of the interesting retail transformations happening?” In this informal poll, these 5 trends stood out:

1. Big Box Getting New Purpose in Life

Many of the big box and anchor mall stores are being left vacant due to poor performance, bankruptcy of retail chains, or in favor of a smaller space for those still operating. While these spaces are generally considered a difficult property to reuse due primarily to the sheer size, a new type of consumer is creating different needs and therefore bringing new life through re-purposing.

We’re seeing the repurposing of ‘big box’ retail stores into self-storage facilities, especially those with highway visibility and those that can be fitted for the often requested climate controlled storage fact, we are seeing self-storage not just transforming big-box stores but also underused urban mid-rise buildings with the suburban to urban shift. For example, we helped Hickory Capital with the adaptive reuse of a 75-year old downtown Cincinnati building into high-density storage.

We are also seeing examples of grocery stores conversions to medical office or assisted living. These projects are unique from an engineering perspective with the need to re-work the mechanical, electric and plumbing (MEP) system demands that are required in order to support medical needs, such as specialized ventilation/heating/cooling systems, electrical system support for emergency generators or medical equipment, and plumbing systems that can accommodate the new use.

Another trend we’re seeing is conversions to trampoline parks, a reflection of consumer desire for “experiential” visits and a more family-friendly destination. We see this particularly in the Midwest region via former grocery stores. Some lenders hesitate to finance such a creative reuse, but others including 44 Business Capital (a division of Berkshire Bank) are willing with the right safeguards in place. In one instance, we provided construction risk management support for the conversion of a former HHGregg into the Altitude Trampoline Park in Sanford, FL.

2. From “Busted Mall” to “Experiential Destination”

Consumers are driving retail to move from the traditional, now-struggling suburban malls to lifestyle centers where retail is a part of an overall experience. Consumers are looking for an experience – whether it be going to a restaurant, catching a movie, or just enjoying outdoor recreation. By creating a mixed-use campus, retail shopping can be more of a leisure activity and not a chore. A notable example is Orlando’s former Festival Bay Mall / Artegon Marketplace. We contributed pre-development due diligence here for luxury developer Dezer Development in turning this struggling mall in a prime location into an entertainment complex and event center. The redevelopment includes an automotive museum featuring Mr. Michael Dezer’s private collection of James Bond movie vehicles. A movie theater and non-traditional anchor tenant, along with the large parking lot presenting hospitality opportunities will ultimately bolter the property’s value and overall experience. In another creative example, we performed environmental due diligence at a Prescott, AZ retail property being transformed into an activity center featuring rock climbing, yoga studio and a café.

3. Industrial to E-commerce Warehouse

With the inventory of space sitting vacant in prime locations, some investors and lenders are looking for ways to make these facilities useful again and the e-commerce trend is helping. The need for warehouse and distribution facilities in metro areas are at an all-time high and with little to no green lots, these large, open, unoccupied buildings can be an answer. In the time of Prime’s 2-day or same day delivery model, inventory must be easily accessible to not only to urban and metro areas, but to surrounding suburbs and even more rural areas. With these projects, we help clients to take a close look at whether the structure and configuration are appropriate for distribution purposes. We answer questions such as: is there enough turning radius in the dock area? Is the clear height sufficient in all or certain areas? Is the concrete pad suitably flat for lift truck traffic, and strong enough for heavy racking systems?

4. Retail to Residential

A multi-building/strip mall style retail may initially seem difficult to re-purpose, but thinking outside the big box is key to creating attractive possibilities. We’ve been involved in multiple projects where retail strip malls centers or and multiple stand-alone retail buildings are turned into multifamily or student housing when in the higher education setting. We’ve also seen a larger stand-alone retail building be converted into multiple housing residential spaces. In an urban example, we were involved in the conversion to luxury apartments of an historic downtown Detroit building with a long-time vacant big box store.

5. Digital Brands Expanding into Brick and Mortar

The convenience and easy accessibility of online shopping has become a daily habit for most consumers but there are still some who like to see and feel the actual product before making a purchase. Some exclusively online retailers, like Modcloth, Glossier, and Boll & Branch have begun opening small ‘showroom’ type stores with a variety of online inventory displayed, customer service representatives that are knowledge about the product available to answer questions, and in store ordering systems that will still give you the convenience of delivery to your door.

More than others, retail is an evolving market in terms of commercial real estate, and we are fortunate to have the hands-on experience of the changes that are occurring today. Distinct trends have emerged and it’s clear that thinking outside the big or small box is worth the risk and investment.