VOL. 126 | NO. 231 | Monday, November 28, 2011
EMPHASIS Office & Industrial Real Estate
Mercer Ready to Steer MAAR Commercial Council
By MICHAEL WADDELL
John Mercer does not take over as 2012 president of the Memphis Area Association of Realtors Commercial Council until Jan. 1, but he is already working hard planning several big MAAR events for early next year.
“We are having meetings and getting geared up for next year,” said Mercer, director of leasing for Raleigh, N.C.-based Highwoods Properties Inc. “We are currently lining up local and national speakers for the MAAR Commercial Council Property Forecast Summit, which will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 8, as well as for our annual Pinnacle Awards that will happen in April.”
A “passing of the gavel” will take place at the MAAR Commercial Council’s board meeting on Friday, Dec. 2. Mercer joined the board in 2009 and served as its president-elect this year.
Friends and business associates might sometimes do a double-take when they spot Mercer around town. He is often confused with his identical twin brother, Jim, who also works in the local commercial real estate industry, specializing in industrial space at CB Richard Ellis.
“I wear contact lenses, and he wears wire-rimmed glasses,” Mercer said. “So I tell people that he is ‘wire-rim Jim.’”
Mercer, a native Memphian, has concentrated on the sale and leasing of office and commercial properties in Nashville and Memphis during his 19-year career, including stints at Coldwell Banker, Wilkinson & Snowden, Trammell Crow Co. and CB Richard Ellis.
He joined Highwoods in March 2001 and his focus has been in landlord project leasing for properties such as Nonconnah Corporate Center, Clark Tower, 5350 Poplar and Oak Court Office building, as well as Highwoods’ nearly 2.2-million-square-foot portfolio. Mercer has been honored by the Pinnacle Awards as one of the top 25 commercial brokers in Memphis for seven of the past eight years.
When asked about anticipated challenges for the local commercial real estate industry next year, Mercer pointed to banking as an area to watch.
“It’s going to be an interesting year,” he said. “I expect lending and liquidity to be key concerns. For property that’s been bought in the past, loans will be coming due and they will have to be refinanced. There’s also some new legislation in Congress that could impact banking negatively next year.”
He classifies the local industrial sector as strong, with a lot of players and great developers in town providing tenants with plenty of options.
“On the office side, we really don’t have that many new big users coming to Memphis compared to an Electrolux on the industrial side,” he said. “The number of large blocks of office space has dwindled more since Boyle Investment Properties just leased its last space at 999 Shady Grove Road to Education Realty Trust. We’re up to 60 percent occupancy at our Triad III building at Triad Centre on Poplar.”
Mercer sees the majority of the local inventory of office space available in smaller increments of 1,500 square feet to 4,500 square feet, but it’s unclear who will occupy those spaces next year.
“Uncertain economic and political conditions right now are keeping small-business owners from expanding and absorbing some of that space,” he said.
Ron Riley, MAAR Commercial Council’s 2011 president, started the MAAR Commercial Council Charity Golf Tournament this past May at Windyke Country Club, and Mercer plans to hold the successful event again in May. He is also excited about the council’s annual community project. In October the council worked with Urban Farms in Binghampton, and a 2012 site will be determined next year.
Away from work, Mercer is the chairman for Visible Music College, which provides Christian-based music degrees. The school just completed a ribbon-cutting ceremony last month at its new Downtown location, 200 Madison Ave.
Mercer’s passions include his wife of 27 years, Sally, and their two sons, as well as his 1978 burgundy Datsun 280Z. The model closely resembles a 1976 Datsun 280Z he had while in college at Vanderbilt, where he met his wife.
“One of my sons and I flew to Phoenix in August of ’08, bought the car and drove it back cross-country on what’s left of Route 66,” said Mercer. “We had a great time, and my son still talks about it today.”