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10 Must Reads for the CRE Industry Today (December 11, 2018)

Harvard University’s endowment has been buying large tracts of agricultural land in California, reports the Wall Street Journal. Former Bloomberg L.P. executives will be charged with construction fraud, according to The New York Times. These are among today’s must reads from around the commercial real estate industry.

  1. Harvard Quietly Amasses California Vineyards—And the Water Underneath “Steve Sinton, a rancher, was baffled when a company he’d never heard of began buying large tracts of agricultural land near his pastures at above-market prices. The firm, Brodiaea Inc., over a few months in 2012 acquired more than three square miles of a flat-bottomed valley. ‘It was surprising, the prices they were willing to pay,’ says Mr. Sinton, a partner in a family-owned ranch that raises cattle and grows grapes. A conventional agricultural business’s returns couldn’t have justified those prices. ‘It didn’t make sense to me.’” (Wall Street Journal, subscription required)
  2. Treasuries Struggle for Direction as Stocks Sharply Reverse Losses “Treasury yields held their ground Monday after stocks came off their lows, offsetting the geopolitical jitters from U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to delay a vote on her Brexit plan in Parliament. The 10-year Treasury note yield was mostly unchanged at 2.856%, off the intraday low of 2.868%. The 2-year note yield picked up 1.6 basis points to 2.727%, while the 30-year bond slipped 1.6 basis points to 3.129%, its lowest since Sep. 13. Bond prices move in the opposite direction of yields.” (MarketWatch)
  3. Developer Backs Out on Buying Historic Dallas Morning News Campus After Amazon HQ2 Bypasses Dallas “A development group is dropping its plans to purchase the historic Dallas Morning News building in downtown Dallas. An affiliate of Dallas developer KDC and investor Hoque Global signed a contract in October to pay $33 million for The News' more than 7-acre former campus on the southwest side of downtown. The developers pitched the property at Young and Houston streets as a site for Amazon's second headquarters complex. But Amazon decided to split its $5 billion investment between Washington, D.C., and New York City.” (Dallas Morning News)
  4. New York Touted Real Estate, Eminent Domain in Bid for Amazon “In their bid for Inc.’s second headquarters, New York City and state officials dangled prime real estate at the tech giant and offered to use eminent domain to scoop up any necessary properties for a campus, newly disclosed documents revealed Monday night. The city suggested four main neighborhoods as locations for Amazon’s second headquarters: Midtown West, lower Manhattan, along the Brooklyn waterfront and Long Island City, Queens. In the bid, each neighborhood included tantalizing properties to serve as a potential campus.” (Wall Street Journal, subscription required)
  5. Former Bloomberg Executives to be Charged in Construction Fraud Scheme “More than 18 months ago, the Manhattan district attorney’s office opened yet another investigation into fraud in the city’s $62 billion construction industry, this one involving Bloomberg L.P., the financial information and media company owned by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is considering running for president in 2020. As investigators peeled back the complex layers of contracts, contacts and under-the-table favors between electrical contractors, vendors and corporate executives they made a startling discovery: It was an inside job.” (The New York Times)
  6. Nine Surprising Real Estate Opportunities That Will Grow in 2019 “Anyone who hopes to succeed in the real estate industry needs to stay up to date on the latest market trends. Whether you're an investor or a broker, you'll have to keep an eye on which areas have properties with high growth potential and which ones are stagnant or declining. If you're looking for a promising real estate market to invest in, look no further than these recommendations from Forbes Real Estate Council. Although some of these sectors or markets have underperformed in the past, our expert panelists predict big growth here over the next 12 months.” (Forbes)
  7. Latest Tweak to Proposed L.A. Rules on Airbnb-Type Rentals Alarms Tenant Activists “To stop apartment buildings from being turned into ‘rogue hotels,’ Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin put forward a plan. Under his proposal, Angelenos would be allowed to rent out only their “primary residence” for short stays on websites like Airbnb. Tenant activists and the hotel industry backed the idea, saying it would prevent corporate entities from buying up housing and renting it out constantly to a revolving door of travelers.” (Los Angeles Times)
  8. BMO Harris Inks Deal for Namesake Union Tower “BMO Harris Bank will consolidate its Chicago offices in 2022 at a new 50-story tower next to Union Station, the bank announced today. In a deal that will bring 3,600 Chicago BMO employees into a single location, the Toronto-based bank has signed a lease for 14 floors at the skyscraper, which will be dubbed BMO Tower, the bank said in a statement. The move into 500,000 square feet will consolidate the company's Loop offices at 200 W. Adams St., 111 W. Monroe St. and 115 S. LaSalle St. according to a BMO spokesman, which together account for more than 800,000 square feet today.” (Crain’s Chicago Business)
  9. The Rise of the Architect-Developer “In the Irish Channel area of New Orleans, 12 new homes cluster on a former warehouse site. Angular, covered in corrugated metal, and painted white, the homes are jigsawed in a way that makes room for patios, courtyards, and parking. Inside, they have polished-concrete and wood floors, energy efficient fixtures, and soaring ceilings. But what’s most special about these houses isn’t just their modern design: it’s the creativity that went into building on a site where the law, at first glance, only permitted three single-family houses.” (Curbed)
  10. Midtown’s MetLife Building Getting Much-Needed Overhaul “One of Midtown’s least-loved office-building public spaces is about to be made more lovable — and a lot easier to navigate. The confusing, two-level, 50,000-square-foot lobby of 200 Park Ave., aka the MetLife Building, is set for a major beautification via the tower’s owner, Tishman Speyer, and its California-based investment partner, Irvine Company. The landlord has commissioned MdeAS Architects to reimagine the heavily traversed public space that runs from East 45th Street to Grand Central Terminal’s main concourse.” (New York Post)
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