Makowsky Ringel Greenberg LLC is sharpening the focus of its commercial real estate division to stabilize its existing portfolio as well as build its third-party brokerage in the Memphis market.
Roger McLemore was hired last week as vice president of commercial property services to head up MRG’s commercial real estate division. He will oversee the management and leasing of the firm’s commercial portfolio, including office, industrial and raw land but largely consisting of retail and flex space.
Since the 1960s, MRG has been known predominantly for specializing in the multifamily sector. The firm manages nearly 7,000 apartment units and more than 1.3 million square feet of commercial properties.
McLemore said MRG has found a niche in the ownership of assets that are not quite at the institutional level.
“We’re not doing Krogers and Publix, we’re doing the strip center kind of next to it that holds anywhere from a 3,000- to a 5,000-(square-foot) bay tenant,” McLemore said. “My particular role is aggressive marketing to find new businesses to place in our buildings.”
McLemore’s role also entails recruiting capital to invest in new properties. MRG currently has 15 wholly owned properties within its commercial division, 80 percent of which are owned by Nick Ringel and Jerome Makowsky, in addition to 23 fee-based properties.
“Depending on the strategy of the investors, we would love to entertain new ideas or new partnerships in the market,” McLemore said.
Prior to joining MRG, McLemore spent nearly 10 years with LaSalle Investment Management Inc. in Atlanta, an investment advisory arm of Jones Lang La Salle to pension funds and financial institutions.
Before that, he was raised in Memphis working for his father’s convenience store business, McLemore Markets Inc., serving the Memphis and North Mississippi markets.
“There was a natural progression into real estate at a very young age,” McLemore said. “You oftentimes form relationships with the vendors and contractors as you’re stocking shelves with dad, so you get to know the milkman or the Anheuser-Busch man or the Colonial Bread man. But as I got a little bit older, I also learned about operational aspects of real estate.”
The fact that MRG’s wholly owned assets are owned through a family-oriented atmosphere appealed to McLemore. He said the company’s owners being staffed in MRG’s offices at 1010 June Road makes for easy streamlined business decisions.
“You don’t have to go too far up the ladder to find the person who’s going to make the decision for you,” McLemore said.
McLemore said 2012 was a critical year for commercial real estate in Memphis because some of its existing tenant base began to expand through organic growth. While there hasn’t been a vast amount of new tenants enter the market and start businesses, many existing businesses are continuing to do well.
“I think that’s an indicator for years to come,” McLemore said. “Whether it’s 2013 or 2014, if the existing businesses are finding ways to expand, then at some point in time, new businesses will come.”
Multifamily has been the darling child in commercial real estate over the past two years and is expected to continually perform favorably in the years ahead. McLemore said strengthening MRG’s commercial division allows for portfolio diversity amid market upswings and downswings.
“It’s important to grow both of those equally for the future so that when and if the commercial side comes back, we want to be in a position to take advantage of that,” McLemore said. “It’s more or less looking at the business as a whole and saying, ‘Let’s be prepared for any scenario.’”