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14 Must Reads for the CRE Industry Today (May 20, 2020)

The New York Times looks at how one university prepares for the return of students. Most REITs outside the retail sector are still getting their rents, reports CNBC. These are among today’s must reads from around the commercial real estate industry.

  1. Fever Checks and Quarantine Dorms: The Fall College Experience? “Fever checkpoints at the entrances to academic buildings. One-way paths across the grassy quad. Face masks required in classrooms and dining halls. And a dormitory-turned-quarantine facility for any students exposed to the coronavirus. That was one vision for the fall semester at the University of Kentucky conjured up by a special committee last week — and not the most dystopian scenario.” (The New York Times)
  2. Walmart Sales Surge as Coronavirus Drives Americans to Stockpile “Walmart Inc. is reaping the rewards of being one of few retailers positioned to successfully navigate a global pandemic, reporting a surge in quarterly sales as consumers turned to its giant stores to stock up on food and household goods. The country’s largest retailer said U.S. comparable sales, those from stores and digital channels operating for at least 12 months, rose 10% in the quarter ended May 1. It was a period when the new coronavirus upended consumer buying habits, forced many competitors to temporarily close and led more than 30 million Americans to file for unemployment.” (Wall Street Journal, subscription required)
  3. WeWork Wants a Rent Break. Its Customers Do, Too. “WeWork, the office space giant that was struggling even before the coronavirus shut down much of the economy, is asking landlords for a break on its huge rent bill as it tries to survive the pandemic. Some of the company’s small-business customers are also seeking relief on the rent they owe. But they say WeWork has been unwilling to cut them much slack as they grapple with plunging revenues and stay-at-home orders that prevent them from using the company’s sleek spaces.” (The New York Times)
  4. Landlords Fume as Starbucks, Other Chains Seek Extended Rent Cuts “Many landlords took pity on their struggling restaurant tenants by offering to postpone rent payments in April. Now, even as these businesses start to reopen, some are asking for rent reductions. A growing number of national restaurant and cafe operators say that social-distancing guidelines restrict them to 25% to 50% capacity, forcing them to modify their operations and cut expenses to stay in business. With June rent approaching and with mounting concern that the U.S. economy might not recover for some time, even blue-chip names that made rent payments in April and May are now asking for relief.” (Wall Street Journal, subscription required)
  5. Most Real Estate Trusts Are Still Getting Their Rent, Except in the Retail Sector “The economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak continue to roil real estate markets, but properties owned by real estate investment trusts (REITs) are still getting most of their rent. The glaring exception is retail. The level of rent collection by U.S. REITs was about the same in May as it was in April, according to a survey just released by Nareit, an industry trade group. The survey covered six commercial real estate property sectors and compared the rents collected in May to those of a typical month prior to the pandemic.” (CNBC)
  6. California Leased 15,000 Hotel Rooms to Help Homeless People. Half Now Sit Empty “Only about half of the 15,000 hotel and motel rooms that California has leased for mostly homeless people to slow the spread of the coronavirus are now occupied, a review of state records by The Times shows. More than a month into Gov. Gavin Newsom’s program to get homeless people off the streets, the occupied rooms account for — at most — less than 5% of the 151,000 people who sleep on street corners, under bridges and in emergency shelters across California.” (Los Angeles Times)
  7. Housing Starts Slide 30% to Lowest Level Since 2015 “Housing starts occurred at an 891,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate in April, the Commerce Department said Tuesday, representing a 30% drop from March. It was the slowest pace of new home construction since February 2015. Permitting activity for newly-built homes fell 20.8% between March and April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.07 million.” (MarketWatch)
  8. As Coronavirus Crushes Small Restaurants, Big Chains See Room to Move In “Prime storefronts left empty by failed businesses. Cheaper or even flexible rents. Landlords willing to add drive-thru lanes. As the coronavirus permanently shutters some small businesses, big fast-food brands like Domino’s Pizza, Chipotle and Wendy’s that were doing well before the crisis want to grow – or continue pre-existing expansion plans – after the pandemic subsides.” (amNY)
  9. Owner of Pete’s Coffee Plans $2.2 Billion IPO “JDE Peet's, the owner of a number of coffe brands including Peet's Coffee, plans to move forward with a $2.2 billion initial public offering on the Euronext stock exchange. The company plans to use the proceeds to pay back part of its outstanding debt to improve its leverage ratio. JDE Peet's is the largest pure-play coffee and tea group by revenue, having served around 130 billion cups of coffee and tea in 2019, according to the company.” (Market Insider)
  10. Judge Rules New York Foreclosure Ban Doesn’t Apply to Mezzanine Loans “A New York judge is allowing a mezzanine lender to foreclosure on interest it owns on a city hotel project, illustrating how mezzanine loans will be dealt with under the state's foreclosure ban. Henry Silverman’s 54 Madison Partners has been trying to hold a foreclosure auction on the equity interest it has in the hotel development at 12 East 48th St., The Real Deal reported, but it had been stymied by developer Hidrock Properties.” (Bisnow)
  11. Retail Has a Ticking Debt Bomb Set to Explode “Perry Mandarino has been working in business restructuring and turnarounds since 1987, including in retail. He’s seen waves of changes in that industry, including the rise of big-box stores such as Home Depot and Best Buy and those same stores swallowing their smaller rivals.” (Commercial Observer)
  12. In Pictures: Business Resumes as Lockdowns Gradually Ease Around the World “Lockdown is loosening a little in some parts of the world. For many, it means a chance to get out and do things once considered mundane. And for struggling businesses, it’s a welcome respite. But measures to throttle the spread of the coronavirus have transformed many everyday activities. Here is a snapshot of how people and companies around the world are adjusting.” (World Economic Forum)
  13. The 10 Largest U.S. Cities Where Rent Is Dropping the Most—Due to COVID-19 “Traditionally, monthly rent prices start to trend up in the early spring for new leases, peak in the summer, and then cool off in the fall and winter. The coronavirus pandemic, which started to trigger shelter-in-place orders across the United States in mid-March, has affected that dynamic, according to a new analysis from Apartment List.” (CNBC)
  14. How the Restaurant Consumer Will Change in a Post-COVID-19 World “It’s a bustling Saturday night at your local neighborhood restaurant. The dining room is only half full, but you know it’s a busy night because in-house delivery drivers — formerly bussers and dishwashers — are whisking dozens of orders in and out of the store, delivering family meals and wine flights to regulars. While barstools are mostly empty, patrons wait for their tables dutifully six feet apart, most wearing face masks. Someone coughs and customers shift nervously — several even get up and leave.” (Nation’s Restaurant News)
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