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12 Must Reads for the CRE Industry Today (July 17, 2020)

Insurance companies want to increase their investments in warehouse properties as office assets have become riskier, reports Reuters. CBL & Associates got an extension to reach a deal on repayment of some of its debt, according to Chattanooga Time Free Press. These are among today’s must reads from around the commercial real estate industry.

  1. Insurers Favor Warehouse Investments Over Offices as Pandemic Hastens Real Estate Shifts “Global insurers want to increase investments in commercial warehouses as their stakes in office space become riskier because of employees working remotely during the novel coronavirus pandemic, Goldman Sachs Asset Management (GSAM) executives said. The pandemic is hastening a shift among insurers to exchange “undesirable” real estate investments, which also include retail properties, such as store fronts, for investments in warehouses, said executives from GSAM’s arm that manages investments for insurers’ portfolios.” (Reuters)
  2. Chattanooga-Based Mall Operator CBL Extends Time for Debt Deal “CBL & Associates, the operator of Hamilton Place and Northgate malls in Chattanooga, has extended the time to secure an agreement related to the repayment of some of its debt. The new forbearance period ends on the earlier of July 22 and the occurrence of any of specified early termination events, the shopping center company said in a new filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday.” (Chattanooga Times Free Press)
  3. The Coronavirus Retail Shakeout: Who’s Closing or Opening Stores “U.S. retailers are on track to close as many as 25,000 stores this year as the coronavirus pandemic upends shopping habits. That is more than double the 9,832 stores that closed in 2019, according to Coresight Research. So far this year major U.S. chains have announced more than 5,000 permanent closures. More buying is shifting online, and consumers are spending less than they did a year ago as they shelter at home, get furloughed or lose their jobs.” (Wall Street Journal, subscription required)
  4. Restaurant Trade Group Says Pandemic Aid Wasn’t Enough to Sustain the Industry, as Closures Strike Again “As Covid-19 cases continue to climb in cities and states around the country, businesses are being faced with a second wave of closures and potential layoffs. The National Restaurant Association projects 100,000 restaurants have been closed down over the past two weeks under state and local government mandates, as the advocacy group calls on Congress for targeted relief for the hard-hit industry.” (CNBC)
  5. Retail Sales Increased 7.5% in June “On a monthly basis, retail sales increased 7.5 percent from May to June (seasonally adjusted), and sales were up 1.1 percent from June 2019. From the Census Bureau report: Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for June 2020, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $524.3 billion, an increase of 7.5 percent from the previous month, and 1.1 percent above June 2019.” (Calculated Risk)
  6. New York Day Care Centers Show How Hard It Is to Reopen “As many as 3,000 providers could begin operating, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said. The facilities were safe to reopen because Covid-19 cases have slowed in the city, officials said. Both New York state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued guidelines for providers. But many centers say they remain closed as they have been unable to meet the high costs of reopening safely or to draw back enough families to make reopening financially feasible.” (Wall Street Journal, subscription required)
  7. Flex Office Startup Knotel Bragged It Was a Nearly Profitable Anti-WeWork. Now Lawsuits Are Stacking Up. 12 Insiders Reveal What Happened “A dozen current and former Knotel employees told Business Insider that the company was so focused on beating WeWork, it set itself up for significant financial stress before the pandemic even hit. Knotel declined to comment for this story.” (Business Insider)
  8. In Wine Country, Coronavirus Cases Jump in Cramped Farmworker Housing “As Eppie Ordaz, a grape grower in Sonoma County, readies his vineyard for the late August harvest season, he is stocking masks and gloves for all employees, planning empty rows to allow workers to keep their distance and putting extra disinfectants and sanitation stations into place. The changes are new, but having to change isn’t, he says.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
  9. Outlet Mall Staple Is Closing All of its Stores “Heritage Brands, an anchor of outlet malls across the United States, announced that it will close all 162 of its stores beginning next year. PVH Corp., which owns Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, blamed the closures on the ‘evolving North American retail landscape, which has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic’ in a company statement released late Tuesday. (CNN Business)
  10. The Paper Store Files for Bankruptcy, Citing Financial Strain of the Pandemic “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to create significant challenges for retail, another company has filed for bankruptcy. On Tuesday, New England-based The Paper Store filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Massachusetts. The retailer — which sells apparel and footwear in addition to stationery, home goods and other gifts — said that the coronavirus crisis had precipitated its petition.” (Yahoo! News)
  11. Amazon Plans $250M Austin-Area Fulfillment Center “Amazon continues to expand its fulfillment center network with the development of a new location just outside Austin, Texas, in Pflugerville. The e-commerce giant plans to invest $250 million in a facility that will have a minimum footprint of 820,000 square feet. Sited roughly 15 miles from downtown Austin, the City of Pflugerville holds the distinction of being the only Central Texas community with both north-south and east-west highway access.” (Commercial Property Executive)
  12. Oakland Area Office Vacancies Rise, But Rents Stay Steady Amid Coronavirus Shutdowns: CBRE “Office rents in the Oakland area are holding steady, but vacancy levels have increased, an indication that coronavirus-linked business shutdowns are having an effect on the region’s commercial real estate market, a new report shows. The deadly bug has unleashed an array of uncertainties and economic woes. Still, the East Bay office market has been buoyed by word that PG&E intends to shift its corporate headquarters to an iconic office tower along the shores of Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland.” (Mercury News)
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