Thursday, October 29, 2009

Are Your Commercial Property Taxes Increasing or Leveling Out in a Declining Market?

If so there is an great opportunity to reduce your property tax burden!

The 2010 Property Tax Protest period is coming quickly. Whether you did/did not see an obvious decline in property income or sales comparisons, you can and should appeal your assessment. Current market and economic conditions indicate tax assessments for the majority of properties will be higher than necessary resulting in excessive taxes. Therefore, I would encourage you to have Harvard Property Tax Consultants property represent you in reducing your 2010 assessment. If it’s your money, shouldn’t you keep it?

We know that time is money and we have no intention on wasting yours. Our 30% fee is incurred only if a savings is realized. But if we can’t reduce your property taxes, then our service is free.

Send us all of your Dallas County commercial property address that you own to, fax it to (214) 853-5040, or mail it 2222 Elm Street, Suite 200 Dallas, TX 75201 so we may make an analysis of your property and assist you in reducing your tax burden. We will assess your property and contact you to review your assessment-free of charge. You may also contact us directly at 469-737-7708.
Please don’t hesitate. You have nothing to lose and money to gain!

Josiah W. Ford

Professional Property Tax Consultant – License # 10853

What is Harvard Companies, Inc.?

Harvard Companies is a full service commercial real estate firm headquartered in Downtown Dallas. We specialize in sourcing, brokerage, developing, tenant representation, property tax consulting, and landlord representation in Greater Dallas properties. We meet and often surpass investors’ and tenants’ needs and requirements.

Whether you are seeking investing, developing or leasing opportunities in Downtown or Uptown Dallas, we’re here to work with you.

If what you want is not on the open market, we will create a market or find comparable properties. We take pride in our extensive research capabilities, our wide array of close "inner circle" relationships and creative negotiations and solutions.

We are still working hard for our clients in this “tough” economy. Here is a recent testimony of one of our clients!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Commercial transactions


Universal Technical Institute bought the 108,800-square-foot Regent Office Center at 5151 Regent Blvd. in Irving. Josh Whiteand Rob Kingsbury of Jones Lang LaSalle negotiated the sale with Richard Crow and Marc Meyers of Meyers & Crow Co.

Osburn Commercial Concrete purchased a 43,500-square-foot light industrial building on 3.3 acres at 2747 Oakland Ave. in Garland from Northfield Property LLC. Chris Stout of Bradford Cos. arranged the sale with Ryan Wolcott and Michael T. Grant of TIG Real Estate Services.

A German investor sold 195 acres of land on Ovilla Road in Red Oak to a land-banking investment group from Scottsdale, Ariz. Martina Crevecoeur of International Capital brokered the sale.

An investment partnership purchased Highland Oaks, a 91-unit apartment property in Irving. Nick Fluellen and Will Tolliver of Marcus & Millichap brokered the sale.

Texas Stockyard Llano Ltd. bought a 22,296- square-foot office building at 3217 California Parkway in Forest Hills from BREOF AIP Dallas LP. Bryan Graham of CB Richard Ellis handled the transaction.

A California partnership bought a Taco Bueno restaurant ground lease at 2305 E. Southlake Blvd. in Southlake. Tommy Tucker of Marcus & Millichap handled the sale.

An investment group purchased an 11,000-square- foot office condominium building at 4601 Old Shepard Place in Plano. Doug Boettcher of Castlebrook Management Inc. negotiated the sale with Jim Dutka of Sanctuary GP II LLC.


Samsung Telecommunications America leased 261,025 square feet of industrial space at 1750 Westpark Drive in Grand Prairie from Duke Secured Financing 2009-1ALZ. Dave Anderson and Pat O'Keefe of CB Richard Ellis negotiated the lease.

Mach 1 Air Services Inc. leased 185,010 square feet of industrial space at 1850 Westpark Drive in Grand Prairie from Buckhead 170 Westpark Industrial. John Brewer and Steve Koldyke of CB Richard Ellis negotiated the lease with Trace Elrod of Jackson & Cooksey.

DCM Manufacturing Inc. leased 46,848 square feet of warehouse and distribution space at Post & Paddock II at 2800 112th St. in Grand Prairie from MP Post & Paddock. Michael W. Spain and Jim Ferris of the Bradford Cos. negotiated the lease with Walter Floyd of NAI Huff Partners.

U.S. Renal Care Inc. leased 25,595 square feet of office space for its corporate headquarters in the Park Center building at 2400 N. Dallas Parkway in Plano. Scott Collier, Doug Carignan and Cally Blankenship of Jones Lang LaSalle negotiated the lease with Trey Smith of Capstar Commercial Real Estate.

Mitsubishi Electric Automation Inc. leased 20,000 square feet of industrial space at Heritage Business Park II at 1000 Nolen Drive in Grapevine from A&B Properties Inc. Kevin Santaularia, Michael W. Spain and Todd Lambeth of Bradford Cos. negotiated the lease with Colliers International.

Horizon Distributors Inc. leased 16,160 square feet of space at West Park Distribution Centre at 3717 Commerce Place in Bedford. Jerry Smith of Capitol Realty Advisors negotiated the lease.

L-3 Communications, an aircraft modernization and maintenance contractor, leased 14,505 square feet of industrial space at 711 Directors Square in Arlington. Dave Anderson of CB Richard Ellis negotiated the lease with Scott Ehley of International Capital LLC.

Penn Mutual Insurance leased 10,889 square feet of space from Folsom Investments at Two Bent Tree Tower at 16479 Dallas Parkway in Addison. Gary Hammond of Folsom Investments handled lease negotiations with Bob Myers of Myers Commercial Inc.

Lockton Inc. expanded its office lease by 6,562 square feet at the KPMG Centre at 717 Harwood St. in Dallas. Paul Whitman and Brooke Armstrong of Jones Lang LaSalle negotiated the lease with Duane Henley, Nathan Durham and Travis Ewert.

TNT Dental signed a 5,131-square-foot lease at 6700 Pinecrest Drive in Plano. Dan Spika of Henry S. Miller Brokerage arranged negotiated the lease with Tom Kuhlman of Lincoln Property Co

Lenders could take ownership stakes in some of Dallas' top buildings

Ownership stakes in some of the Dallas area's biggest office projects could be handed over to lenders.

Wall Street firm Morgan Stanley – which paid $6.5 billion to buy Fort Worth-based Crescent Real Estate Equities two years ago – is scrambling to meet $2 billion in debt requirements due next month.

One option being considered is to turn over a share of the properties – including several of Dallas' most prominent buildings – to lender Barclays Capital, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Morgan Stanley's purchase included stakes in Dallas' Crescent complex in Uptown and downtown's Fountain Place and Trammell Crow Center. Suburban office buildings were also in the deal.

Morgan Stanley doesn't own all of the properties.

In 2004, Crescent sold a 60 percent stake in the Crescent complex to a JPMorgan Chase & Co. subsidiary. JPMorgan Chase bought a 76 percent share of the Trammell Crow Center and Fountain Place.

Morgan Stanley representatives wouldn't talk about the Crescent debt issues Wednesday. "There's lot of speculation going on, and obviously there's no comment," said spokeswoman Alison Barnes.

Crescent representatives didn't respond to requests for information.

The original purchase from Crescent included more than 50 office buildings nationwide.

Morgan Stanley has already written down hundreds of millions of dollars in value on the Crescent properties.

Barclay's $2 billion loan on the real estate is due Nov. 2. The debt was originally due in August but was extended.

Commercial real estate values have plummeted since Morgan Stanley made the Crescent buy in August 2007. And lenders have all but closed the window on making additional loans for commercial properties.

Morgan Stanley reported Wednesday that it has taken a further $251 million write-down of the Crescent properties for the quarter that ended Sept. 30.

Another high-profile Dallas real estate deal wound up in the hands of lenders last summer.

In July, developer Hillwood handed over its ownership share of buildings in Victory Park to a German investment group that had provided funding for the developments.

"It is apparent that any purchase with high leverage conducted in the past four years is likely upside down on value relative to the in-place debt," said John Alvarado, managing director in Jones Lang LaSalle's Capital Markets Group. "This phenomenon is not unique to the Dallas market; it is happening everywhere.

"It is also not a reflection of weaker real estate fundamentals as much as a liquidity shortfall in the debt markets and a higher risk premium desired by capital sources today as compared to two years ago," Alvarado said.

"The Crescent properties do hold a unique position in the market – particularly the Crescent and Trammell Crow Center – and should retain more of their original values than almost any other properties in the market."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dallas City Council approves subsidy packages for Deloitte, Continental Building

By RUDOLPH BUSH / The Dallas Morning News

The Dallas City Council approved two major subsidy packages Wednesday aimed at drawing workers and residents to downtown.

A $17.5 million tax-increment subsidy was approved for Cleveland-based developer Forest City to restore the vacant and decaying Continental Building on Main Street.

And the council voted unanimously to provide a $2 million grant to accounting giant Deloitte in exchange for the firm's agreement to move 470 employees from Irving to an office at Chase Tower in downtown Dallas.

In 2005, Forest City received $68 million in city subsidy, mainly for redevelopment of the Mercantile Building, which has since become one of downtown's largest apartment complexes.

The deal became one of the richest tax subsidy packages in Dallas' history but proved to be too little to restore both the Mercantile and the Continental as intended.

So the council returned to the subsidy table for the Continental on Wednesday, with the hope its redevelopment will bring downtown more of what it desperately needs – residents.

The $17.5 million in tax increment money – paid out over many years – will be used to help repay federal loans Forest City also needs for the deal.

Tax increment is a portion of property tax money the city sets aside in a specific area as property values rise.

Most of the tax increment raised for the Mercantile and Continental deals comes not from downtown but from growth funded through private investment in Uptown.

Council member Ann Margolin was alone in voting against giving more subsidy money to Forest City.

She said that while she believed the deal was a good one, she wanted the city to study how it doles out tax-increment funds and whether they might better be used for other projects.

"We are on a course that is going to use up the [tax-increment] money pretty quickly," Margolin said.

Mayor Tom Leppert, along with the rest of the council, said the deal was important to keeping downtown's redevelopment momentum going.

Leppert said he expects that, eventually, the city will not have to provide subsidies for downtown redevelopment.

"Clearly, we're dealing with some challenges that weren't invested in long ago. We're trying to kick start that," Leppert said.

Deloitte's move

In the day's second subsidy deal, the grant to Deloitte, to be paid in four installments from 2011 through 2014, requires the company to maintain at least 1,111 employees in the Chase Tower office.

Margolin said she voted for the deal because it makes good business sense for the city.

"The economic model is very conservative and shows over 10 years the employees should bring about $8 million to the city," she said.

Many at City Hall hope the benefit becomes much greater over time.

Deloitte plans a $20 million renovation to its downtown offices, Assistant City Manager A.C. Gonzalez said.

An investment like that suggests the firm may be thinking of making Dallas a major regional headquarters, if not something more.

Southern Dallas plans

The council deferred action on a zoning and development plan for neighborhoods around the University of North Texas campus in far southern Dallas.

The plan, devised around new urbanist principles of walkability and connections to rail lines, is intended to define how the area around UNT will grow in coming decades.

City Hall has high hopes that its plan will spur strong urban neighborhoods centered around stations on DART's planned Blue Line.

UNT's Dallas campus is expected to support 25,000 students and thousands of faculty and staff members.

The school should be a strong impetus for growth in one of the few areas of Dallas that still has large open stretches of developable land.

But council member Tennell Atkins, who represents the area, said he had concerns about elements of the development plan and asked that it be returned to council's economic development committee for a hearing on Dec. 9.

Specifically, Atkins is worried about a provision that prevents the covering of creeks and streams. He said that could affect construction of the planned DART lines.

He also said work needs to be done on requirements governing building height and setbacks from the street.

Nearly 250 Dallas-Fort Worth commercial properties facing foreclosure next month

By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News

A McKinney mixed-use development tops the long list of North Texas commercial properties scheduled for foreclosure next month.

The Times Square at Craig Ranch complex includes four levels of apartments and retail space and is located at 7951 Collin McKinney Parkway.

Bank of America, which loaned $44.48 million on the project in 2006, said in legal filings that it plans to sell the property at the November 3 foreclosure auction in Collin County, according to information collected by Foreclosure Listing Service.

The McKinney development is the most expensive of almost 250 commercial properties scheduled for foreclosure next month in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, according to Addison-based Foreclosure Listing Service.

A Telecom Corridor office building $27.75 million in debt at 2350 Lakeside Blvd. in Richardson is also set for foreclosure in November. Wachovia Bank provided the mortgage on the 24-year-old building in 2007, according to the filings.

And Compass Bank has filed to foreclose on a warehouse at 2200 Big Town Blvd. in Mesquite that has $25.7 million in debt.

The D-FW commercial property foreclosure postings for November add up to more than $482 million in debt.

So far this year, almost 2,000 commercial properties in Dallas, Collin, Tarrant and Denton counties have been posted for foreclosure, according to Foreclosure Listing Service.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Arts District Development Delayed

Museum Tower developer John Sughrue has been waiting for more than a decade for the vision of the Dallas Arts District to become a reality.

But as the Oct. 12 opening of the AT&T Performing Arts Center draws near, marking the Arts District’s coming-of-age, Sughrue’s long-planned 42-story, 123-unit Museum Tower condo project faces its own frustrating reality: Frozen credit markets are preventing the developer from getting the nine-figure loan he needs to get the $200 million project off the ground.

“We’ve been on the site for 13 years now, and we’ve been waiting for the Arts District to transform into a truly great neighborhood,” said Sughrue, CEO of Dallas-based real estate development and investment firm Brook Partners Inc. “It’s done that. Now we’re waiting for the banking system to heal itself so we can launch the project.”

Other developers with projects in the Arts District find themselves in a similar position, says John Crawford, president and CEO of business group DowntownDallas.

“Certainly the completion of the Arts District is going to expedite people’s interest in doing development downtown,” Crawford said. “Most of the commercial projects are going to be predicated on the financial markets loosening up, and for office buildings, on getting tenants.”
Developer Craig Hall of Hall Financial Group is planning a $120 million mixed-use tower in the block bounded by Flora, Crockett and Leonard streets and Ross Avenue. The plans call for about 430,000 square feet of office space and 30,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space.

Hall acquired the site, which has a large parking garage on it, in 1995. The city has approved a $9 million Tax Increment Financing incentive to encourage Hall to build the tower. To get the incentive money, Hall must start construction by the end of 2012 and get a certificate of occupancy for the project by the end of 2015.

Like Sughrue, Hall is waiting for the credit markets to improve.
“I would love to do that building,” Hall said. “My guess is it will be a 2011 or 2012 start. It’s just so hard to tell with the economy. The market is very tough.”

Hall and other area developers are excited about the completion of the Wyly Theatre and the Winspear Opera House, which will be dedicated in Oct. 12 ceremonies. The openings are being celebrated as the official completion of the cultural/institutional components of the Arts District, although one key piece — the City Performance Hall — is not yet complete.

“I think (the near completion of the Arts District) is just going to be fabulous for private development,” Hall said. “It’s a nice thing for the community and we expect to be part of it as soon as it’s possible.”

Projects unfolding

One private project already completed, in early 2008, is developer Billingsley Co.’s One Arts Plaza, a $150 million, 24-story, 1.1-million-square-foot mixed-use project at Routh and Flora streets.

The company plans two more buildings, called Two Arts Plaza and Three Arts Plaza, each of which will be of similar size to the initial building, said Michelle Carrig, director of marketing for Carrollton-based Billingsley Co.

About 80% of the 61 condominium units at the top of One Arts Plaza have sold, and the 10 floors of office space in the building are fully leased, with major tenants including 7-Eleven Inc. and law firm Thompson & Knight LLP, Carrig said. The project also has five restaurants on its ground floor.

The 22-floor Two Arts Plaza will be just north of One Arts Plaza at Routh Street and Woodall Rodgers Freeway. It will include 50 condos on the top floors over office and retail space, along with an urban park in front.

Construction on Two Arts will begin as soon as Billingsley Co. lands a lead corporate tenant willing to lease 100,000 square feet or more, and construction will take about two years, Carrig said. The company will start selling condos in Two Arts as soon as the lead office tenant signs on, she said.

“We have finalized the architecture and we’re pretty much ready to go,” she said. “The thing we’re waiting for is a tenant and financing. We think that will take some time, but things will come back around.”

Plans for Three Arts Plaza, to be built on what now is a surface parking lot east of Two Arts, are more fluid. Conceptual drawings call for a 25-floor tower that’s thinner than One Arts. The building may be a hotel or more office space, Carrig said.

“The market will dictate what it is,” she said. “We’ll wait to see what Dallas beckons.”
It’s not lack of financing, but lack of demand for condos and hotel rooms that’s stalling a project planned along Flora, between Olive and Pearl, said Graham Greene, president of Metroarts Corp., the entity that owns the land. Another entity would probably do the development, although that has not yet been determined, according to Greene

Greene plans a mixed-use development with a boutique hotel, condo and retail space, although the cost and scope of the project will be determined later. He envisions 80 to 150 condo units, 80 to 125 hotel rooms and about 60,000 square feet of space for restaurants, galleries, florists and similar retailers. The project is tentatively being called 2121 Flora, which is the property’s address.

The near completion of the Arts District’s cultural institutions is a positive development, but it isn’t enough to move 2121 Flora off of indefinite hold, Greene said.

“It just wouldn’t be very intelligent to try to do this at this time,” he said.
Plans are even less clear for a surface parking lot south of Ross Avenue between Leonard and Routh streets. Dallas-based real estate investment and management firm Spire Realty Group LP has acquired approximately 8 acres there over the past 10 years, said Jon Ruff, senior vice president.

“I can’t say anything about it yet,” he said. “We’re working on plans. It will be a significant project, in keeping with its location.”

The timing of whatever Spire decides to do with the property will be driven by the market, Ruff said. The firm, which owns the 1.1-million-square-foot Bryan Tower office building in downtown Dallas, owns and manages all of its projects, he said. In addition to office buildings, Spire has been involved in condo, apartment, hotel, retail and parking projects, he said.

Development forecast

A 2006 study of the developmental impacts of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts found that rising land values in the area suggested the market was ripe for development. The study looked at changes in market value of commercially zoned land for certain properties along Olive and Pearl streets and found that those values increased by 17% to 49% between 1999 and 2005.

A look at the values shows even more dramatic increases since then, with land values for the same properties along Olive and Pearl soaring by 67% to 143% between 2005 and 2009, according to the Dallas Central Appraisal District.

Getting the right mix of development in and around the Arts District is critical to the district’s long-term success, said Veletta Forsythe Lill, executive director of the Dallas Arts District. Lill’s job is to market the district as a whole.

“We are coming close to reaching our critical mass of cultural institutions,” Lill said. “Now we need a critical mass of residential and retail.”
Beyond projects in progress, long-term implications of the Arts District’s completion on commercial development are hard to determine, said Bernard “Bud” Weinstein, an economist with the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University.

“Does the Arts District spur residential development, does residential development spur the Arts District and how do those affect office and retail? Only time will tell,” Weinstein said. “The different components feed off of each other.”

More than 20 of Museum Tower’s condo units, which start at $1.4 million, are presold, showing strong demand to live there, Sughrue said. That demand makes him believe that the tower will be among the first major commercial real estate projects nationwide to find financing once the credit markets rebound, he said. After the project gets started, construction will take about 30 months, he said.

“It’s an epic project,” Sughrue said. “It’s been an adventure getting here and there’s plenty of adventure in our future, but it’s a worthy project and it’s going to be a great addition to the Arts District.”

Bill Hethcock

Blockbuster Eschews Stores, Favors Kiosks

DALLAS-Store closures and kiosk openings were the prime themes of the presentation made by Blockbuster Inc. at the Deutsche Bank 2009 Leveraged Finance Conference. The mega-entertainment chain's executive vice president and chief financial officer Thomas M. Casey acknowledged that the company is moving away from the "old model" of 5,000 square foot stores, and into the new one of small kiosks, with plans to have almost 10,000 kiosks in operation by the end of 2010.

In the meantime, between 810 and 950 retail stores will be shuttered between now and then. "We have the benefit of short-term leases in existing stores," Casey explained, adding that cash flow also comes from liquidating inventory. The challenge, however, is transferring revenue from closed stores to stores still in operation, he remarked.

The reason for the closures is, of course, economic. Blockbuster's financial troubles have been well-documented, as the company has struggled with the economic downturn and encroaching competition from NetFlix Inc. and Redbox Automated Retail, LLC. Casey acknowled that "the story of 2009 has been to preserve cash, get refinancing done and live to fight another day."

The combination of store closures and debt restructuring should put Blockbuster in a pretty good position to join rival RedBox in the kiosk arena. Casey said Blockbuster's relationships with the major studios, as well as brand recognition will help it compete handily with Redbox, which has a claim to fame of offering movies through kiosks in grocery stores.

"The customer goes to kiosks as an impulse buy, and the dollar-a-day proposition is attractive," Casey remarks. "We really believe that's an emerging window."

These 5,000 sq ft spaces will be comming available soon. We will have more information on what spaces will open soon.

Amy Wolff Sorter

Friday, October 2, 2009

D-FW office leasing slide continues

The Dallas-Fort Worth office market continued to soften in the third quarter, according to a new report by Delta Associates.

The area's office market recorded negative 1.3 million square feet in absorption, compared to a positive 1 million square feet in the first half of 2009. Absorption measures the net change in occupied space.

Overall office building vacancy climbed to 17.7 percent in the third quarter, rising from 16.9 percent at mid-year and 17 percent a year ago, according to the report from Delta Associates, the research affiliate of commercial real estate firm Transwestern.

Office rents declined slightly during the third quarter and have slid 4.3 percent year-to-date.

Robert Deptula, principal in the Dallas office of Transwestern, called it "the greatest tenant market since the early 1980s."

Deptula said it feels like the market is improving, albeit slowly.

"Based on the number of tours and phone calls and requests for information, it certainly seems like tenants are getting focused on their real estate requirement, and that's slowly starting to translate into some closed deals," he said.

On the development front, 2.8 million square feet of office space is under construction or renovation, dropping from 4 million square feet at mid-year and 6.8 million square feet a year ago. About 60 percent of the space is pre-leased, compared to 46 percent at mid-year and 52 percent a year ago.

Investment sales volume plunged to $162 million through the third quarter of 2009, compared to $1.5 billion during the same period a year ago.

Dallas Business Journal

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Natural Grocers planned for lower Greenville in Dallas

Lower Greenville Avenue will have a grocery store again. By early summer, Natural Grocers will anchor the soon-to-be built eco-friendly Greenspace Center at 2001 Greenville.

Madison Partners is developing the site of the old Arcadia Theater property. The 32,000-sf building plans to be LEED certified and has additional space for restaurants.

Construction is scheduled to begin early next year. The location is just south of the longtime Whole Foods Market which moved nearby in Lakewood.

[Dallas Morning News]