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10 Must Reads for the CRE Industry Today (February 22, 2019)

Kushner Cos. bought a portfolio of apartment rentals in its biggest deal in more than a decade, reports the Wall Street Journal. Saks Off 5th will close up to 20 stores, according to Chain Store Age. These are among today’s must reads from around the commercial real estate industry.

  1. Fed Says U.S. Economy Ended 2019 with Solid, but Weakening Growth “The U.S. economy maintained ‘solid’ growth through the second half of 2018, likely expanding ‘just under’ 3 percent for the year, though consumer and business spending had begun to weaken, the Federal Reserve said on Friday in its semi-annual monetary policy report to Congress. In a document that balanced its mostly positive outlook for a still growing economy against an array of emerging domestic and global risks, the U.S. central bank laid out why it had put further interest rate hikes on hold last month.” (Reuters)
  2. Kushner Cos. Pays $1.1 Billion for Suburban Apartment Portfolio “Kushner Cos., the family real-estate company of President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, said it has acquired a portfolio of rental apartments for $1.1 billion in the firm’s largest transaction in more than a decade. The purchase comes less than a year after the company unloaded a Manhattan office tower at 666 Fifth Avenue to Brookfield Asset Management Inc. in a deal that valued the property at about $1.25 billion. The earlier transaction, in which Brookfield leased the office building for 99 years, relieved Kushner Cos. of $1.1 billion in debt due this year.” (Wall Street Journal, subscription required)
  3. Builders Are Shrinking U.S. Homes to Keep a Lid on Costs “For the third year in a row, new homes are shrinking. But at almost 2,600 square feet, the average new home built in America is still far from a tiny house. Most potential homebuyers say that they want a property smaller than the typical single-family house builders started in 2018. So what gives? Builders are starting smaller houses to try and reduce purchase prices, said Rose Quint, a top researcher with the National Association of Home Builders.” (Dallas Morning News)
  4. Army Landlords Agree to Expand Tenant Rights, Curb Fees in Latest Reform After Reuters Reports “The U.S. Army’s private landlords committed this week to providing military families greater say and safer homes, endorsing a military blueprint that aims to reduce hazards in base housing and give tenants a stronger voice when problems arise. Executives from seven real estate companies, which manage some 87,000 Army housing units at more than 40 bases, pledged a series of reforms following a Pentagon meeting earlier this week with the Army’s three senior leaders – Secretary Mark Esper, Chief of Staff Mark Milley and Sergeant Major Daniel Dailey.” (Reuters)
  5. Up to 20 Saks Off 5th Stores to Close “Hudson’s Bay Company continues to downsize its retail portfolio. The retailer said it is performing a ‘fleet review’ of Saks Off 5th’s 133 stores, and estimates closing up to 20 U.S. locations. No other details on the closures were announced. HBC also announced it will shutter its Home Outfitters chain in Canada. The moves are part of the company’s strategic plan to reduce costs, simplify the business and improve overall profitability. Home Outfitters operates 37 stores across Canada, all of which are expected to close this year.” (Chain Store Age)
  6. It Started with a Jolt: How New York Became a Tech Town “Euan Robertson started his job with New York City’s economic development team at an ominous moment. It was Monday, Sept. 15, 2008, the day Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and ignited the financial crisis. Mr. Robertson made his way through City Hall’s sprawling open office to a conference table, where he huddled with top advisers to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. ‘No one knew what was going to happen or how bad it would be,’ Mr. Robertson recalled. ‘But everyone agreed we’d better come up with a plan.’” (The New York Times)
  7. Limited Scope of Testing at SF Shipyard Housing Area Leaves Site’s Safety in Doubt “The state health department has finished crawling through a San Francisco housing development with radiation scanners and says it found no hazards. But a review of the state’s final report on that effort, released this month, shows that its testing was superficial and did not address key questions about health and safety, prompting some experts to call the whole effort misleading.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
  8. More Bi-Lo Grocery Stores Are Closing in SC, Reportedly Two Are in the Midlands “Last year the parent company for Bi-Lo closed 94 of its stores across the U.S., and 19 of those supermarkets were in South Carolina, The State reported. On Thursday, Southeastern Grocers announced announced plans to close 22 more of its stores, including 10 located in the Palmetto State, according to postandcourier.com. Two of those grocery stores are in the Midlands. The Bi-Lo on Columbia Avenue in Lexington is closing, and reportedly the one on Emanuel Church Road in West Columbia will also close in March, according to Facebook posts.” (The State)
  9. Morgan Stanley Provides $71M Refi for Garment District Hotel “Raber Enterprises, a development company led by Lance Steinberg and Frank Chan, has bagged a $71 million refinancing from Morgan Stanley on a hotel it built recently in the Garment District, according to city property records. The loan, which closed on Valentine’s Day, replaces three chunks of debt from M&T Bank that funded construction of the hotel, the Crowne Plaza HY36 Midtown Manhattan, dating to 2015. Morgan Stanley’s debt consolidates a $49 million building loan, a $12 million senior loan and a $9.5 million project loan, and also adds $500,000 in new debt on the building, which stands at 320 West 36th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues.” (Commercial Observer)
  10. J.P. Morgan Moves Investment Bankers into Open Office Spaces “J.P. Morgan Chase is breaking barriers—literally. The bank is tearing down walls in many of its investment banking offices and instituting shared desks, an approach that has been popular in the tech industry for years, according to Reuters. Walls came tumbling down for J.P. Morgan’s investment bankers in San Francisco and are in the process in Dallas, Phoenix, and Columbus, Ohio. Instead of private offices, there are booths like you might see in a diner, quiet zones, and big tables to share.” (Fortune)
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