Despite the pandemic, one national retailer is making plans to expand in St. Louis.
Dollar Tree (NASDAQ: DLTR), which has more than 60 locations throughout the region, has signed a long-term lease for roughly 11,000 square feet at Village Square in Hazelwood, the once-defunct shopping center that New York-based Somera Road Inc. bought in late 2018. Terms of the Dollar Tree lease were not disclosed, but the retailer is expected to open this summer.
“Dollar Tree is a recession proof business. Their low price point attracts a variety of shoppers, and they are positioned to excel in both good and challenging economic times,” said Michael Ervolina, senior associate at Somera Road.
In addition to Dollar Tree, Axes Physical Therapy and civil construction firm Millstone Weber, which is working on the Interstate 270 project, also signed new leases at Village Square. Concentra urgent care also signed a long-term extension of its lease at Village Square. The leases follow the more than $1 million Somera Road has invested in facade improvements to the property at Lindbergh Boulevard and Interstate 270.
Ian Silberman of Location CRE and Rob Goltermann of DCM Group represented Somera Road in the leases.
Although the pandemic hasn’t impacted the center’s leasing, it has led to Somera Road to pause its grant program that would have given free rent and startup capital for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Over 200 applicants applied but the final “Shark Tank” event that would have determined the winners has been postponed until it is safe to hold the event publicly, Ervolina said.
Retail space in north St. Louis County leases for $10.87 per square foot on average, the lowest across the St. Louis metro area, according to the latest available data from Newmark Grubb Zimmer.
Somera Road acquired the property from special servicer LNR Partners in late December 2018 for $2.3 million according to data from Reonomy. At the time, Village Square was appraised for $4.2 million but owed more than $18 million on its mortgage.
By Steph Kukuljan – Reporter, St. Louis Business Journal
Apr 27, 2020, 2:15pm CDT
We are excited to share that Somera Road was honored at last night’s Memphis Business Journal’s Best Real Estate Deals (BRED) 2020 Award Ceremony, for Best Deal of the Year – Office Category and Best Deal of the Year – Overall. The BRED awards acknowledge and celebrate the largest and most impactful commercial real estate transactions negotiated and closed by the Memphis area’s commercial real estate professionals, property owners, and lessees that occurred in 2019.
Somera Road’s winning deal was the signing of FedEx Logistics’ 15-year lease and Headquarters move to downtown Memphis’ former Gibson Guitar Factory.
When Gibson Brands, Inc. announced their intent to vacate the 140,000-square-foot building in 2017, Memphis was facing a large, unsightly vacancy in the heart of its Downtown. That is until early 2019, when Somera Road and FedEx Logistics announced plans to make the space the latter’s new headquarters. The move will fill the building, which is located across the street from the FedEx Forum and one block from Beale Street, with nearly 700 FedEx Logistics team members—a number that is expected to grow. More than 350 jobs were created within FedEx Logistics as a result of this business decision.
Per FedEx Logistics,
“This new FedEx Logistics HQ will be a landmark site within the FedEx family of notable company locations. By combining offices into a dynamic campus, the space became economically attractive to provide this fantastic environment for team members. It will be a great space for collaboration among the different aspects of our business and a true home as we attract new talent for the future of FedEx Logistics. Team members from around the world can take enormous pride in working in — and visiting — our global headquarters, which will combine elements of our company history and world-class office amenities. Immersing ourselves in the heart of Downtown Memphis will benefit the company and the city. With hundreds of team members commuting to work in Downtown Memphis, the benefit to area businesses, restaurants and the local economy will be astounding.”
Somera Road is proud of the outcome achieved to date on the FedEx Logistics’ Headquarters deal and is honored to be recognized so publicly for its positive impacts on the Memphis area.
Thank you always for your support.
Celebrating Mid-South dealmakers at 2020 BRED Awards
FedEx Logistics HQ won Deal of the Year at the 2020 BRED Awards.
While the finished product often garners the accolades, the road to completion is both vital and under-appreciated.
Because of that, the Memphis Business Journal created the Best Real Estate Deals (BRED). The awards recognize the developers, landlords, real estate brokers, attorneys, bankers, government entities — all the people who come together to execute a plan for a commercial real estate asset to become something more.
MBJ celebrated those dealmakers and their projects at its second-annual BRED event Tuesday, March 3, at The Cadre Downtown.
“Three of my counterparts in other markets called in the past two weeks to say, ‘I am coming to Memphis. Where are some cool places to stay? Where are some cool places to eat? What should we do while we are there?’ That didn’t happen a decade ago,” Joanna Crangle, market president and publisher for the MBJ, said during Tuesday’s event. “That is really, really exciting.”
Finalists were recognized across Hotel, Industrial, Mixed-Use, Office, Residential, and Restaurants/Retail categories, and a winner was named in each. An overall Deal of the Year was also awarded. Finalists and winners were selected by MBJ’s editorial staff. The complexity of the deal as well as its potential for positive impact on the community were weighed in the decision process.
Doug McGowen, COO for the City of Memphis, congratulated the finalists for their vision and for investing not only in the core of Downtown but in some of the area’s most disinvested neighborhoods. He called the work happening in Frayser, Raleigh, Binghampton, South Memphis, and South City “catalytic.”
“I’d like to congratulate all the dealmakers, all the closers, all the risk-takers, and all the true believers who know that not only do we have momentum, not only are we investable — but, truly — Memphis is a city where anything can be made to happen,” McGowen said.
MBJ lead reporter Jacob Steimer, who covers commercial real estate and economic development, also took to the stage.
Steimer told attendees it was his goal to help the city grow by learning the things known by the few and disseminating that information to the many.
“A basic tenant of economic theory is that more value is created when there is perfect information,” Steimer said. “When both sides of a deal know what the other side knows. When information becomes too concentrated that can lead to things like monopolies, which raise inequality and slow down growth.”
That growth will be on full display in a special BRED edition of the MBJ out Friday, March 6.
2020 BRED awards winners:
Hotel – City gets Loews hotel
Industrial – Hyosung makes electric buy
Mixed-Use – Intrator hits Pinch with $1.1B plan
Office – FedEx Logistics ships HQ Downtown
Residential – City and partners appreciate Binghampton project
Restaurants/Retail – Shelby Farms goes Coastal
Deal of the Year – FedEx Logistics
Meagan Nichols – Managing Editor, Memphis Business Journal
Mar 4, 2020
The US CMBS delinquency rate fell in November to its lowest point since February 2009, according to Fitch Ratings. The decline was driven by strong new issuance activity.CMBS DQs at nearly 10-year low — Fitch
It’s a strategy that involves far more than one-note purchases, you could say about the business plan of New York-based Somera Road Inc. and it’s making some sweet music for its investors.
It was an approach that began with Somera Road focusing on distressed commercial building loans and properties from the 2008 recession, then expanded as the company discovered additional opportunities in midsized U.S. cities. Now the company is taking advantage of the 2017 changes to federal tax laws that have created economic opportunity zones as a method of spurring new investments in underserved areas across the U.S.
“At the outset we didn’t look at markets as much as we looked at assets first,” explains Somera Road General Counsel Michael Fralin. “We looked at hundreds of loans and then chose to invest in particular assets based on how the surrounding market was performing in the location.”
Long distance information, give me Memphis, Tennessee
Since 2015, Somera Road has bought more than 50 properties worth over $1.1 billion across 32 U.S. markets.
“Typically, we’re not buying buildings that are physically dilapidated or stressed,” Fralin, 44, says. “A lot were constructed during the real estate boom of the early 2000s, and the problem is they were saddled with too much debt, so they are financially distressed.”
In Memphis, where the heart of rock ‘n roll started beating, this approach took Somera Road to the Gibson Guitar Co. factory built in 1998 and within picking distance of Beale Street and B.B. King Boulevard. Beale Street is renowned as the center of the city’s blues scene and B.B. King Boulevard is named for the legendary blues guitarist. The low slung brick expanse of the building covers an entire city block, but its future hit some sour notes a few years ago when Gibson announced it would consolidate its manufacturing to a plant in Nashville.
Somera Road bought the building in 2017, and Fralin says there were five different business plans for its reuse before delivery giant Federal Express (which started in Memphis in 1973) was lured as a tenant for 150,000 square feet.
By 2020, FedEx will be leasing 200,000 square feet of the space for its logistics center headquarters, and Fralin says Somera and FedEx are in advanced negotiations to lease space in the office building next door.
From Memphis, Somera Road took the show to Music City, as the firm bought two of Gibson’s adjoining buildings in Nashville in 2017-18, converting them into mixed-use commercial and retail projects. One is now home to Pins Mechanical Company, a hipster bowling center combining strikes, songs and suds. The second acquisition will be converted to a large-scale, mixed use development that could approach 600,000 square feet of commercial and retail space.
The communal workspaces Somera Road favors are built in neighborhoods where other new development is spurring activities day and night. Somera Road may add amenities like a gym or rooftop deck, but the bigger lure is landing in markets that are heating up through buying undervalued properties.
“The first thing is cost basis,” Fralin says. “We’re sometimes buying properties at 20 percent of their replacement value; we’re coming in at very good levels.”
A whole new tax tune
Tennessee has been fruitful for the Somera Road model, but so are cities such as Cleveland, Detroit, and Louisville, Kentucky, with the advent of the opportunity zone program offering investors a method to defer, discount or abate capital gains taxes over periods of seven or 10 years.
“This is the next business phase,” Fralin says plainly of the opportunities coming in cities where Somera Road has already invested.
In the larger picture, Fralin handles all aspects of the deals–purchase and sales, office leases, financing agreements, third-party and vendor contracts. On the ground locally, he works with the officials and outside counsel and consultants to square away zoning and other local regulations that make or break deals.
“Once in the market, we get to know the local government, the interest holders and the other stakeholders. Other opportunities organically presented themselves from there.” says Fralin.
In Strongsville, Ohio, a horn’s blow from Cleveland, Somera Road bought a 125,000-square-foot vacant office building sitting on 20 acres. Somera Road and Fralin worked with local politicians and local community groups to rezone half of the site for ground-up retail development.
Fralin says the zoning change allowed the company to nearly 80 percent of the 75,000- square-foot center to tenants such as Homegoods, Panera Bread, Outback Steakhouse and City BBQ. In addition to the retail, the vacant office building was successfully sold by Somera Road to a local user.
His own tune
Real estate is such a passion for Fralin he is also a managing partner for Couzens Hall Advisors LLC in New York, where he offers consulting and legal services. A native of the Boston area, he credits his brother, a broker in northern California, with drawing his interest into the field.
Politics was also an early love for Fralin, who earned a Bachelor of the Arts from the University of Michigan in political science and government, and even served as a staffer of the later Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, before entering law school at Boston College. He earned his Juris Doctor from BC in 2002 and began working in real estate law immediately thereafter.
Fifty properties later, the thrill of the chase has not waned for Fralin, and the change in strategies for acquisitions opens more avenues for Somera Road to grow. His first legal love has not changed, however.
“Complex real estate and structured financing is what I love most in my career, because it’s in this field that I cut my legal teeth,” Fralin says.
Originally shared on: https://www.vanguardlawmag.com/case-studies/michael-fralin-somera-road-inc/
Since Ian Ross founded Somera Road Inc. in 2014, the New York commercial real estate investment firm has done over 50 deals, totaling more than $1 billion and representing about 11 million square feet of space across nearly 40 U.S. cities.
The firm’s most recent acquisition: PPL Plaza in downtown Allentown, a property Somera officially added to its portfolio after submitting the top bid of $16 million at a sheriff’s sale last month.
The office building at 835 W. Hamilton St. and accompanying parking garage at 940 W. Linden St., essentially stuck in neutral for two years while foreclosure proceedings played out, fit into Somera’s focus on distressed, value-add properties in secondary markets that are in need of a fresh start. While the building only has a few tenants, Ross attributed the low occupancy rate to the prior ownership group being overburdened with debt after buying the property for more than $90 million in 2006.
But now, he told The Morning Call on Monday, the property is owned at the right price, giving Somera the ability to offer prospective tenants compelling rent pricing and capitalize on the nationwide trend of suburban office tenants returning to urban cores. With a brighter financial outlook, Ross believes PPL Plaza — due for a rebranding soon — has features that speak for themselves, namely an LEED Gold certification, a rooftop garden space, and architecture that leads Ross to say, “They just don’t build buildings this way anymore.”
“It’s hands down the nicest architectural construction product that we own in our portfolio,” said Ross, Somera’s managing principal. “Going back to the value proposition, we’ll be able to provide what’s hands down the best office space in the market at a fraction of the cost of new construction. One thing we love about our position here is we can provide better product at a lower price than our competitors, and we’re excited to see that next big company come to Allentown and excited to compete to be a space provider for them.”
Ross spoke to The Morning Call about the building’s condition, the property’s tenant prospects — the building was in the running for ADP before the payroll processor selected Five City Centerlast year — and a Kansas City project that Somera carried out that has some similarities to PPL Plaza. Here are excerpts from the conversation:
Q: In court documents, the property’s receiver mentioned the Plaza received interest from Blue Cross and Buckeye Partners as potential tenants. Are those deals still alive or are there companies interested in the building now that the foreclosure is over?
A: We’re actively engaged with a handful of prospective tenants that are compelled by the live-work-play environment that can be created in downtown Allentown, especially with the parking ratio that we’re able to provide at our building. There’s a great value proposition here, I think especially as compared to the suburbs. A lot of these suburban users are saying, “Not only is this not the environment that I want to be in out in the suburbs for my newer generation workforce, but if I move down there into the downtown, I can have the right environment at a cheaper price.”
With regard to potential tenants, there’s really no good reason that this building should be empty. I think it’s the worst-kept secret that ADP was strongly considering, and was actually at the finish line, of taking over this entire building. We weren’t really involved at that time, but I think the unfortunate truth there was tenants don’t like potential disruption. They were concerned that the prior ownership didn’t have the capital and the positioning, with regards to the capital structure, to be able to hold onto this asset long term. And I think there probably were concerns about an ongoing foreclosure battle, ongoing receivership, potential bankruptcy, and no tenant wanted to take that risk. But outside of those risks, which are clearly neutered at this point now that you have a sophisticated, low-capitalized owner that owns at the right basis, I think ADP absolutely loved the building.
Q: The Plaza was built in 2003. Are there certain parts you want to refresh?
A: When we look at our portfolio around the country, that’s a lot of times what we’re doing. We’re fixing distressed buildings. [Senior Associate] Basel [Bataineh] and I were in the market a couple days last week, and we were actively looking for ways to spend money improving the asset. The truth of the matter is: This building is in pristine, mint condition. The mechanical engineering, the plumbing, the building’s systems, everything is in perfect shape, even the rooftop garden still looks great. With regard to some of the aesthetic features in the lobby, we might do some upgrades there, but the design has stayed extremely well and the building shows great. For better or worse, there’s not a lot for us to do.
Q: How do you envision the property? Because when you look at development in downtown Allentown, a lot of the construction has been down the road closer to PPL Center. If the Plaza gets full, can it help that end of the district?
A: I think the PPL Tower is really the anchor of downtown, and I think our building is inside of that anchor. I think you’ll continue to see these four, five blocks infill inside of those anchors, and I think we’re on the right side of that building, if that makes sense.
Q: Do you think you’ll be hitting the market about the right time? Because City Center Investment Corp. has ADP taking 10 floors of the 13-story Five City Center being built at Eighth and Hamilton street, and then will need to build more office space.
A: Absolutely. With regards to our value proposition and our ability to provide space at highly compelling rates, I think we’re in a great position to attract the next large user to this building. There’s certainly no longer any noise around distressed ownership or anything of that sort. It’s an incredible asset, in great shape. I don’t want to knock any competition, but we can provide better space at a lower price. I think we’re certainly in the market at the right time, and we’re excited about seeing the next great company come to downtown Allentown.
Q: Is there a specific type of tenant you believe will be drawn to the building?
A: I think because of how well designed this building was, it offers itself up to a variety of tenants, whether that’s a single user that wants the entire building or whether that’s single-floor users. The building can be very easily multitenanted. Furthermore, because of the efficiencies of the floor plate, the floor also chops up really well, so if you wanted to look at two, three or four users per floor, we could certainly do that, as well. Again, we often have these problems in smaller floor-plate buildings or older vintage buildings — this is not that. This building was designed to perfectly fit a user, from 5,000 square feet to 250,000 square feet. I think it really leaves us very open to the kind of companies that can fit in here.
Q: When you look at your portfolio, is there a similar property that would serve as a good blueprint for what you plan to do to the Plaza?
A: There’s a building in Kansas City that we acquired in 2016 called the 3Y building, at 300 Wyandotte and the River Market. We bought that building, also architecturally significant, very similar in style, a lot smaller in scale. It’s about 100,000 square feet, all steel and glass, beautiful building that was only about 10 years old that was designed by HOK Architects, which actually occupied a majority of the building. In a similar situation, the building was overleveraged with too much debt and acquired by a tenant-in-common group at too high of a purchase price, where come renewal, HOK — the firm had renamed to Populous — Populous couldn’t get a compelling enough rate as compared to alternative options in the market.
We ended up acquiring that [mortgage] note, taking title of the property and, as of today, we are now 100% leased at the asset, fully occupied with multiple tenants and an average lease term of about eight years. It’s been a great success story taking that building from entirely vacant to entirely occupied.
ALLENTOWN, Pa. – The PPL Plaza in Allentown is headed in a new direction and preparing for a new name.
The new owners invited media inside for a tour Wednesday after purchasing the property in a sheriff’s sale last month.
The building, though 16 years old, was way ahead of its time and offers a lot of modern features.
The biggest change up is the plaza. The new owners want to make it more of a communal space. The water fountains go, but they’ll add more places for people to sit and beef up entertainment.
The PPL Plaza has a spectacular lobby skylight, rooftop gardens and countless eco-friendly features.
The PPL Plaza building was sold at a sheriff’s auction to Somera Road for 16 million, a fraction of what it cost to build it. It most recently was home to Talen Energy, a PPL spinoff.
The owners aim to make the building once again attractive to tenants, who recently have gone for newer, cheaper builds thanks to the Neighborhood Improvement Zone.
The old PPL Plaza Is in the NIZ, and the new owners could be eligible for NIZ benefits for new improvements like upgrading the lobby and revamping the plaza space.
Ian Ross says there’s a lot of vendor interest in the vacant restaurant space, especially with 2,000 ADP employees soon to move in just down the street.
“A lot of vendors want to play into that and be accessible from a street front perspective,” Ross said.
About a half a dozen companies have already expressed interest in moving into the building.
“Companies are saying I want to be downtown,” Ross said.
The new owners aren’t naming those companies, but they say they expect tenants will start moving in by the end of the summer.
A fairgrounds-area property has sold for about $9.3 million — three times the amount at which it last changed ownership hands a mere four years ago — and its warehouse is slated for a major overhaul from a New York City company.
The address is 1414 Fourth Ave. S., with the property located within an opportunity zone and near Wedgewood-Houston. The buyer was commercial real estate firm Somera Road, which plans to convert the building to creative office and retail uses. According to a release, the project will be called WeHo Crossing and will eventually offer 60,000 square feet of office space and 12,500 square feet of retail and restaurant space. An early-2020 completion is eyed.
The seller was 4th Avenue South Ventures GP. The partnership acquired the roughly 4-acre property in January 2015 for about $2.9 million, according to Metro records.
Lance Bloom, a vice president with Colliers International Nashville, brokered the deal.
Grooms Engine Warehouse previously occupied the now-empty building, which spans about 115,000 square feet and opened in 1950.
The sale is the equivalent of about $80.40 per foot (based on the building’s size).
“As Nashville grows and becomes a prominent global business hub for the knowledge economy, we are seeing substantial demand increase for offices that provides unique and creative workspaces for the millennial employee set. WeHo is no doubt on the verge of becoming the next big neighborhood of Nashville,” Ian Ross, principal of Somera Road, said in the release, adding the site is near the future SoHo House, restaurants, apartments, condos and makerspaces.
“It’s exciting to watch this neighborhood grow right before our eyes and it’s hard to find a more rapidly developing ‘cool’ neighborhood across the country,” he added.
According to the release, Somera Road has enlisted Manuel Zeitlin Architects for design. Charlie Gibson, Cushman & Wakefield, will represent Somera Road on office leases, with Elam Freeman, Baker Storey McDonald Properties Inc., representing the company on retail leases.
Of note, Somera Road plans to update a Gulch property home to a former Gibson Guitar facility. The company will undertake a 45,000-square-foot mixed-use development at the Church Street site, which was the subject of legal action after Gibson decided to sell the property to a different New York investor. The remaining structure at the site was once home to Gibson’s Valley Arts brand (read here).
Somera Road previously acquired a nearby property, also from Gibson, at which it currently is retrofitting what had been a piano showroom so as to accommodate a bowling and arcade facility. The firm also owns two Gibson properties in Memphis, the result of what were the Nashville-based guitar company’s 2018 restructuring efforts. Nashville-based ESa is overseeing architectural work at the future bowling building, the address for which 1121 Church St.
The Somera Road Fourth Avenue South transaction represents the latest in various real estate moves involving properties located near The Fairgrounds Nashville (read here, here and here), Wedgewood-Houston and Chestnut Hill.
Established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, opportunity zones are tools designed to stimulate low-income and transitioning communities with private capital. The law provides a federal tax incentive for investors to re-invest their capital gains into so-called opportunity funds.
Originally published by the Nashville Post: https://www.nashvillepost.com/business/development/commercial-real-estate/article/21065663/fairgrounds-site-sells-for-triple-2015-price
AUTHOR William Williams
New York-based Somera Road Inc. bought the 4-acre property at 1414 Fourth Ave. S. on April 23 – with plans to overhaul the building, as depicted in this rendering.
A real estate investor from New York City bought a property in the buzzy Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood on Tuesday — with plans to overhaul the industrial building on-site.
Somera Road Inc. now owns the 4-acre property at 1414 Fourth Ave. S., immediately south of downtown. The developer is rebranding the building as “WeHo Crossing,” with plans to create 60,000 square feet of office space and another 12,500 square feet of retail and restaurant space. The project is set to debut in early 2020.
“There is a dearth of high-quality, creative, immediately available, unique space — similar to what Austin went through three or four years ago,” said Ian Ross, managing partner of Somera Road. “We can create that here, rather than some generic steel-and-glass building.”
Somera Road’s development cranks up Wedgewood-Houston’s transformation another notch, coming right on the heels of Apple Music and London-based boutique hotelier SoHo House signing leases for the nearby May Hosiery mixed-use development. (Those developers just revealed plans for another such project in the neighborhood, featuring the iconic guitar-shaped scoreboard from the old Greer Stadium).
Somera Road’s purchase also calls fresh attention to the fact that this fast-changing neighborhood lies within an Opportunity Zone. Those zones, created in the federal government’s 2017 tax law overhaul, grant investors lucrative tax breaks in order to entice them to back developments or companies located in those traditionally low-income areas.
Somera Road’s project is the latest in a spurt of local Opportunity Zone dealmaking that has also included the potential relocation of an aerospace manufacturer to North Nashville, apartments in that same part of town and a development in East Nashville.
Ross said he had been evaluating the prospective purchase before the government finalized its list of Opportunity Zones. “It makes a good deal better. It doesn’t really help make a bad deal good,” Ross said of the tax benefits. “We’re not making deals make sense because it’s in an Opportunity Zone. But it is really additive to our investors, if the deal works.”
The purchase price was not immediately available in public records. A spokeswoman for Somera Road declined to disclose the project cost.
This is Somera Road’s first investment in Wedgewood-Houston, after making its local debut by purchasing two buildings in the Gulch from Nashville’s Gibson Guitar Corp. Ohio-based entertainment concept Pins Mechanical Co. is moving into one of those buildings.
- Manuel Zeitlin Architects: design
- Charlie Gibson, Cushman & Wakefield: broker representing Somera Road on office leases
- Elam Freeman, Baker Storey McDonald Properties Inc.: broker representing Somera Road on retail leases
- Lance Bloom, Colliers International: broker who arranged the land sale
The project would involve 60,000 square feet of office space and 12,500 square feet of retail and restaurant space.
“There is a dearth of high-quality, creative, immediately available, unique space – similar to what Austin went through three or four years ago,” said Ian Ross, managing partner of Somera Road. “We can create that here, rather than some generic steel-and-glass building.”
The existing industrial building on the property will be renovated into this office and commercial space.
This is Somera Road’s first investment in Wedgewood-Houston, after buying two buildings in the Gulch.
Somera Road’s project is named WeHo Crossing.
Originally Published By Adam Sichko – Senior Reporter, Nashville Business Journal