Experts to Provide Commercial Real Estate Outlook at Seminar

By Amos Maki

Yes, Overton Square is booming, but that may not have been the case without Memphis-based Loeb Properties Inc.


Loeb Properties essentially saved the landmark Midtown entertainment district from an Oklahoma-based development firm that wanted to build a suburban, cookie-cutter retail center on the site.

After millions of dollars in investment and plenty of hard work, Overton Square today is a shining example of adaptive reuse that preserved what endeared “The Square” to previous generations while preparing for a long-term future.

But it’s not just Overton Square that is experiencing a renaissance. Midtown – from Sears Crosstown to the Cooper-Young Historic District and Broad Avenue – is undergoing a remarkable revitalization, said Robert Loeb, president of Loeb Properties.

“There’s a lot of momentum in Midtown,” said Loeb. “Almost everywhere you look investment is taking place.”

Midtown, Overton Square and other developments in commercial real estate will be the subject of discussion Thursday, Nov. 6, during the 2014 Commercial Real Estate Review & Forecast, part of The Daily News’ 2014 Seminar Series.

The seminar, which will be held at 3:30 p.m. at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, will feature an overview of local and national commercial real estate trends in the office, industrial, retail and multifamily sectors.

Loeb is the keynote speaker at the event. The panelists are Hank Martin, vice president of NAI Saig Co.; Steve Guinn, vice president of Highwoods Properties; Steve Woodyard, president of Woodyard Realty; and Shawn Massey, partner with The Shopping Center Group LLC.

The retail sector – led by restaurants and grocery stores – has had a very active year, according to Massey.

Sprouts Farmers Market, a grocery chain new to the Memphis area, is opening its first two stores in the Memphis area, one in Germantown and another in Lakeland. Earlier this year, Whole Foods expanded and remodeled its Poplar Avenue store in East Memphis and is building a new Germantown store, and The Fresh Market opened a new location in Midtown. In addition, Kroger is investing millions into its local stores.

“We used to have competition in Memphis, and then Kroger took the Schnucks stores,” Massey said. “The people at Sprouts saw an opportunity to come into the market, and Whole Foods thought they could expand in East Memphis and build their new store concept in Germantown and they are looking for more locations.”

The office market produced another lackluster year, primarily due to slow growth in white-collar jobs, Guinn said.

“I think it’s going to be a pretty anemic growth year all in all,” said Guinn.

One of the largest trends in the 2014 office was the retrenchment of FedEx, which has been moving employees out of leased space and into company-owned space.

FedEx Services did not renew a roughly 11,000-square-foot lease at the 189,644-square-foot Renaissance Center office building. In May, FedEx decided against extending a roughly 75,000-square-foot lease in Building B at the Lenox Park office complex.

“I don’t know that businesses are growing all that much, particularly when FedEx, one of the largest users in our market, is going in the opposite direction and moving people back to headquarters,” said Guinn.

On the industrial side, big box users and developers still prefer Mississippi over Memphis while several large properties have escaped special servicing limbo, said Martin.

“I would tell you going back to the last quarter of last year and continuing into this year investment sales have gone up in activity and purchase price, and most of those have been foreclosures that just finally washed themselves out of the system,” said Martin. “These properties, some of them significant in size, had been in the Bermuda Triangle of special servicing, and until that stuff got into the market we didn’t really know where prices would fall. Now that those investment sales have gone up in activity we’ve found out where the true prices are.”