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10 Must Reads for the CRE Industry Today (March 24, 2017)

St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard has said he thinks just one more hike this year would be appropriate, Reuters reports. The General Services Administration has ruled Trump International hotel in Washington DC violates neither lease nor federal agency rules, MarketWatch reports.These are among today’s must reads from around the commercial real estate industry.


  1. Fed's Bullard says he's okay with another rate hike this year “St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard on Friday said he would be ‘okay’ with a second rate hike this year, but reiterated his view that the Fed would not need much more to keep inflation in check. ‘One hike here or there is not the issue,’ Bullard said in Memphis. Bullard said he thought just one rate hike this year would be appropriate, but suggested he would not fight a second one. The Fed raised rates earlier this month, and most Fed officials expect to do so twice more this year. President Donald Trump has said he wants tax cuts and plans to slim the federal rule books, and some Fed officials have said they may support faster rate hikes if the programs boost growth or inflation. But Bullard argued Friday the Fed has time to wait and see if fiscal policies give a boost to productivity growth, and thus to overall economic growth, adding that revenue-neutral tax reform and deregulation were among policies that could have a positive impact.” (Reuters)
  2. Trump Hotel isn’t violating lease, federal agency rules “President Donald Trump’s real estate company is allowed to keep its lease for its luxury hotel in Washington, DC, a federal agency said Thursday. The General Services Administration ruled that the Trump International Hotel was not in violation of a lease that forbids an elected official from receiving any benefit from the agreement. Trump signed the agreement to restore what was the Old Post Office Pavilion — on Pennsylvania Avenue, roughly halfway between the White House and the Capitol — before he became president.” (MarketWatch)
  3. Starbucks in hiring spree fueled by continuing store expansion “Hosting its 25th annual shareholders meeting in Seattle, the coffee giant announced plans to create more than 240,000 jobs around the world, including 68,000 jobs in the United States, by 2021. Fueling the company’s ambitious hiring plans is its continuing aggressive store growth. Starbucks will open 3,400 U.S. stores and 12,000 global stores by 2021. Starbucks said it had reached its initial goal, announced in 2013, to hire 10,000 veterans and military spouses ahead of the original 2018 deadline. The retailer is increasing the goal to 25,000 total hires by 2025. By 2020, the chain also plans to hire 100,000 younger employees who are either not in school or unemployed, building on its earlier commitment it made to hire 10,000 by 2018. Starbucks exceeded that goal also. In addition, Starbucks plans to open 100 additional military family stores throughout the U.S. during the next five years.” (Chain Store Age)
  4. As Trump targets energy rules, oil companies downplay their impact “President Donald Trump’s White House has said his plans to slash environmental regulations will trigger a new energy boom and help the United States drill its way to independence from foreign oil. But the top U.S. oil and gas companies have been telling their shareholders that regulations have little impact on their business, according to a Reuters review of U.S. securities filings from the top producers. In annual reports to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, 13 of the 15 biggest U.S. oil and gas producers said that compliance with current regulations is not impacting their operations or their financial condition. The other two made no comment about whether their businesses were materially affected by regulation, but reported spending on compliance with environmental regulations at less than 3 percent of revenue. The dissonance raises questions about whether Trump’s war on regulation can increase domestic oil and gas output, as he has promised, or boost profits and share prices of oil and gas companies, as some investors have hoped.” (Reuters)
  5. Economy Watch: Architecture Firms Enjoyed Stronger Billings in February “The American Institute of Architects’ Architecture Billings Index returned to a growth mode in February, after a weak showing in January, the organization reported on Wednesday. The February index came in at 50.7, up from a score of 49.5 in the previous month. The score reflects a minor increase in design services. The new projects inquiry index was 61.5, up from a reading of 60.0 in January, while the new design contracts index climbed from 52.1 to 54.7. As a leading economic indicator of U.S. construction activity, the index reflects the nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. In recent years, the index has pointed to construction spending growth, though not consistently throughout the real estate industry.” (MultiHousing News)
  6. Blackstone Sells Columbus Office Portfolio “CBRE Group has announced that Blackstone sold a 1.1-million-square-foot office complex located in Dublin, Columbus’ largest and most desirable suburban office submarket. An affiliate of New York-based Group RMC Corp. paid $77 million for the portfolio, which consists of seven Class A/B office buildings. Built between 1991 and 2002, the multi-story, multi-tenanted buildings were 76 percent leased at the time of sale. According to CBRE, these properties have executed 16 leasing totaling nearly 200,000 square feet over the past 12 months.” (Commercial Property Executive)
  7. Sitt: Investors take ‘conservabull’ route when deciding where to park cash “Call it the Running of the 'conservabulls.' Joseph Sitt, head of Thor Equities, employed the term on Bloomberg TV on Wednesday, referring to investors who are looking for a safe place to park their cash. ‘What they are looking for is, ‘How can I invest my money and be a bull but, at the same time, be safe?’ he said. ‘I would liken them to tourists. Folks like cities to invest their money that have less exposure.’ He said the threat of terrorism or the ‘Game of Thrones kid’ running North Korea has people careful about where they choose to invest. Even President Donald Trump poses a potential ‘global shock risk,’ he said. ‘Donald Trump put a little fear. What’s he going to tweet at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning?’ he joked. ‘That concern makes people become what I call conservabulls.’ Madrid, Milan and New York City are probably the safest bets, Sitt said. He cited HNA Group’s $2.2 billion contract to buy 245 Park Avenue.” (The Real Deal)
  8. This Mexican politician paid nearly $1 million for a Miami condo. But she wanted to keep it quiet. “Alejandra Barrales, the leader of a major Mexican opposition party, paid $990,000 for a condo in Sunny Isles Beach last year, Miami-Dade County property records show — but she doesn’t appear to have disclosed the expensive purchase in a list of her assets. The luxury, two-bedroom condo is located in a twin-tower development called 400 Sunny Isles that offers views of Oleta River State Park, Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Barrales, who has led the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) since July, secured a $297,000 mortgage on the unit from Eastern National Bank in February 2016, county records show. She bought the condo through a Florida company called Maxba Development that is registered under her name. But Barrales, a former union leader, did not include the property in a disclosure of her assets, according to Univision and Mexican blogger Julio Roa, who teamed up to break the story earlier this week. Her purchase marks the latest in a string of under-the-radar deals for Miami homes by politicians and financiers from Mexico and other countries.” (Miami Herald)
  9. First look at Queen Mary Island, the proposed $250M attraction at Long Beach’s troubled ship “The company that took over the lease of Long Beach’s troubled Queen Mary last year announced plans to renovate the ocean liner and the land around it. Now, new renderings of the proposed $250 million redevelopment give us a glimpse of what to expect for the 65 acres of waterfront that will be transformed into a destination called Queen Mary Island. The master plan for Queen Mary Island comes not long after the release of a report that detailed the extensive and costly repairs that the 1930s-era vessel urgently requires in the next few years. So dire is the ship’s current condition that any major flood might sink it into the lagoon where it’s moored. Repairs are expected to cost anywhere from $235 million to $289 million over about five years. Queen Mary Island aims to have something for everyone, according to the announcement from lessee Urban Commons. It will include restaurants, live music, 700,000 square feet of retail space, and a new 200-room hotel. A 150,000-square-foot structure will house an attraction called Urban Adventure, featuring 20 activities for the thrill-seeker, such as surfing, zip lining, a trampoline park, and an indoor ice-climbing wall (the state’s first, the company said).” (Los Angeles Curbed)
  10. The Dead Heads of Commercial Real Estate (Including POTUS) “When you call the offices of Ripco Real Estate, the hold music you hear is not filled with the typical soft, inoffensive background sounds you might expect from a corporate phone system. Instead, you hear the Grateful Dead. And not just any Dead, but the band recorded live in concert. ‘Since our company’s inception in 1991, the only music you’ll find when you get put on hold is the Grateful Dead,’ said Andrew Mandell, a 47-year-old managing partner at Ripco who saw the band over 50 times and said he can play every song the Grateful Dead ever performed—which numbers well over 400—on guitar. ‘But it’s not just the Grateful Dead [on the hold music], but live Dead,’ he noted. ‘That distinction is very important.’ Throughout the New York real estate world, love for the Grateful Dead—a band that established a die-hard following due to relentless touring, a seemingly endless repertoire and improvisational shows that turned familiar songs into unique creations—is ever-present, a mellow vacation and flipside to the hard-charging world of the real estate business.” (Commercial Observer)
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