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The Advantis advantage

Joining forces with Florida's largest landowner opens new doors for this century-old real estate firm.

Advantis, the Atlanta-based commercial real estate services firm, was acquired by The St. Joe Co. of Jacksonville, Fla., in spring 1999. The move combined Advantis' 100 years of real estate experience with the vast holdings of St. Joe, Florida's largest real estate operating company. It's no surprise that Advantis executives predict a future full of possibilities.

"We've seen nothing but optimism since the acquisition," notes Sharon Ryals-Taylor, who oversees Advantis retail properties from the company's Norfolk, Va. office. "Since the acquisition, we've already seen more institutional organizations wanting to align with us because of St. Joe's impeccable reputation. This change has definitely opened up many new doors with all levels of clients."

Since 1997, St. Joe has worked to transform itself into one of the Southeast's premier real estate operating companies. St. Joe's corporate partners include Grimley, Vigers & Advantas (GVA) and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based Florida Real Estate Advisors (FREA). A global real estate network, GVA's reach spans 85 offices on five continents in 70 countries. In 1998 alone, GVA affiliates completed more than $113 billion in transaction volume. FREA, which joined the corporate family in 1998, provides management, leasing and investment disposition services to owners of commercial real estate.

It was through the integration of these companies that Advantis was created anew. The regional powerhouse now has more than $1 billion in annual transaction volume and a 30 million sq. ft. management portfolio of office, industrial and retail properties throughout the mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

Moving forward at a steady pace William L. Mason, president of Advantis, is enthusiastic about the St. Joe acquisition. "Integrating acquisitions and branding a new identity is important because it was a new beginning for the company," he says.

According to Mason, Advantis spent its first year under the new ownership streamlining and integrating operations. "By the end of 1999 most of the changes were in place," he says. "We now have a strong management team and regional managers in place in our various offices. The company also is experiencing tremendous internal growth. We're expanding our business lines throughout our system, including our presence in West Florida. We started acquisitions at the beginning of 2000 in Tallahassee and we're now moving into Panama City."

Much of what Advantis plans to do is based on the feeling that a void exists in premier commercial real estate services in the Southeast, according to Mason. "There's been a trend in the industry toward globalization," he says. "But our expertise is in the Southeast. That's where we feel we can be more successful in providing our services."

An interconnected web of services Advantis' fundamental premise is that a full-service commercial real estate services firm has an obligation to provide complete and accurate market information - information upon which reliable recommendations and sound decisions can be made.

The company's approach is to carefully consider clients' objectives, anticipate their needs and deliver innovative and effective solutions. Advantis achieves this with advanced technology, strong resources, extensive market knowledge and experienced people. Advantis offers comprehensive services that are designed to meet the specific needs of the investor, buyer, seller, owner and tenant.

Enthusiasm spreads Ed Kimple joined Advantis in 1995, focusing his efforts in the retail arena. His areas of expertise include shopping center development, tenant representation and leasing neighborhood and power centers. Ryals-Taylor joined the company in June of 1973. Both agree that Advantis hasn't changed tremendously since the St. Joe acquisition, but that certain real estate concepts have.

"We've seen `downtown' shopping trends move to malls and shopping centers throughout the country," notes Ryals-Taylor. "There's also a push to enter the tenant representation business. We realized years ago that moving from a third-party management source and broker to shopping center development would be key to our growth."

St. Joe is the largest landowner in Florida, but it also has holdings in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. "Other acquisitions have transpired since buying us," Kimple says, "but otherwise St. Joe's holdings haven't changed that much."

For Kimple and Ryals-Taylor, the future means evolution. "Because of St. Joe's land holdings in Florida, we'll be involving ourselves in `start-to-finish' projects that include hospitals, housing, shopping centers, office buildings and everything else that is needed," Kimple notes. "In essence, we're developing communities in which people live, work and function in their daily lives, and we'll manage them once they're completed."

Kimple says the common element that Advantis and St. Joe bring to a project is a strict focus on client needs and a commitment to superior results. "Our resources now bring an increased amount of breadth and depth to our offerings, and clients recognize us as a leader in our industry," he says.

A bright future Mason says the strong momentum caused by the acquisition hasn't ebbed at either company. "St. Joe remains a client of Advantis," he says. "We appreciate the business and provide St. Joe with the same services we do other clients. We're constantly working to improve our service level and meet the needs of our client base - whoever it may be. Going forward we plan to be a leader in the technical end of the business, and we'll continue to focus on capital investments."

Throughout it's 100-year history, Advantis has acquired and/or merged with a number of firms. Primary changes in the corporate profile include:

- 1899 The Lowenberg Co. founded.

- 1928 D. H. Goodman Co. formed.

- 1946 Goodman Segar Hogan, Inc., formed.

- 1985 Dominion Capital became partners in Goodman Segar Hogan, Inc. The residential company arm was developed.

- 1993 Goodman Segar Hogan, Inc. merged with the commer-cial real estate services arm of Armada/Hoffler of Chesapeake, Va. The company name was changed to Goodman Segar Hogan Hoffler, L.P.

- 1994 Goodman Segar Hogan Hoffler, L.P., merged with Virginia Realty and Develop-ment Co. of Richmond, Va.

- 1995 The company merged with Vanguard Associates, Inc., of Durham, N.C.

- 1996 The fast-growing regional company joined GVA World-wide, and its international partnership of commercial real estate companies in 20 countries.

- 1997 Larson, Ball & Gould, Inc., of Washington, D.C., and Bryant & Associates of Atlanta joined Goodman Segar GVA, thereby extending the geo-graphic reach of the company from Washington to Atlanta.

- 1998 Goodman Segar GVA was purchased by the St. Joe Co.

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