June 2008

  • Jun
    30

Chapel Hill condos nearing liftoff after 3 years planning

June 30, 2008

Chapel Hill condos nearing liftoff after 3 years planning
June 30, 2008
By Amanda Jones Hoyle – Triangle Business Journal (Raleigh/Durham North Carolina)

CHAPEL HILL – A $75 million remake of a prime corner of Franklin Street appears to be a go after three years of back and forth between town planners and the developers.

Officials with Ram Development are so near to securing the requisite building permit that they’ve scheduled a June 27 celebration to kick off sales of 140 residential condominiums that will be part of the mixed-use project.

The development will rise on what’s now town-owned parking lot No. 5 between Franklin and Rosemary streets at Church Street.

The building, to be called 140 West Franklin Street, will stand eight stories and, besides the condos, will include 26,000 square feet of ground-level retail space and 337 parking spaces in a deck below the building. “We are fortunate to have gone through this long process and get to this point,” says John Florian, senior vice president of development for Ram Realty Services. “Everybody is really excited about what this means for downtown and for Franklin Street.”

Demolition of the parking lot is scheduled to begin in the late fall, followed by excavation of the site for the construction of the subterranean parking deck. Florian estimates that the complex will be complete in late 2010.

Liz Parham, executive director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, says the 140 West Franklin project not only will add modern retail space, but it also will link the west and east ends of the mile-long Franklin Street corridor. “The more we add in the middle, the more likely you’ll keep walking down the street,” she says. “We have a long, skinny downtown, … and this project will keep you walking.”

While many visitors to Franklin Street lament the loss of the 1.7-acre parking lot that made shopping in downtown easier, about half of the 140 West Franklin parking spaces will be sold back to the town of Chapel Hill for public parking, Florian says.

Eighteen of the condo units will be sold to the Orange Community Housing and Land Trust, which will in turn sell the units to qualified buyers of affordable housing. All other condo units will be priced from $200,000 to $300,000 for the one-bedroom units, $400,000 to $700,000 for the two-bedroom units, and $800,000 to $1.8 million for the 14 penthouse units.

Florian says that despite the housing slowdown nationally, the condos have generated strong interest due to their location. “There just aren’t many other places where you can duplicate this,” he says.

The project will feature a 27,000-square-foot public plaza decorated with commissioned art. Florian says the complex will be built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards using energy-efficient HVAC systems and lighting, as well as reclamation of stormwater on the site and recycling of building materials. But Ram has opted not to have the project certified by the U.S. Green Building Council because of costs associated with the certification process.

Bill Strom, a Chapel Hill councilman, says the town council’s goal in partnering with Ram on the project is to bring more people to the town’s core and create more energy in downtown Chapel Hill. “The plaza I envision as a crossroads for the community and a destination location,” Strom says. “It will serve as a living room for the community. Franklin Street needs a strong gathering place.”

  • Jun
    26

Betting On Condo Buyers

June 26, 2008

Betting On Condo Buyers
June 26, 2008
By Jack Hagel, Staff Writer, via The News & Observer
Developers bank on demand in Chapel Hill with mixed-use projects

CHAPEL HILL – Outside a former Franklin Street gas station, hundreds of developers, dignitaries and potential condo buyers will gather under a big tent Friday. They’ll glimpse flashy renderings, nibble smoked salmon crepes and sip adult beverages while a DJ spins adult contemporary tracks.

And they will eventually mosey down to a sales center a block away. At least that’s the hope of Ram Realty Services, which is creating the hubbub to introduce its 140-unit condominium project, 140 West Franklin.

“We’re going to be upbeat,” said John Florian, Ram’s senior vice president of development, “not sedate.”

The scene sounds so 2005.

Back then, when easy lending was fueling the housing boom, lavish parties introducing condominium projects cluttered the calendars of developers and potential buyers across the country.

Now, amid one of the biggest housing slumps in national history, it may seem difficult to take a pre-sales campaign seriously.

But Ram and two chief competitors — East West Partners and Greenbridge Developments — are betting that Chapel Hill is an oasis of pent-up demand.

Buoyed in part by UNC-Chapel Hill’s growth, developers think there will be enough buyers to snap up 368 condos by 2012.

“It has such a broad appeal to so many different segments of the market: retirees, people who are involved with the university, people that just want that as a place to raise children or a place to live,” said Casey Cummings, Ram’s president.

Ram will begin taking reservations at 140 West Franklin next month. Its goal is to finish the building, on a 1.7-acre parking lot at Franklin and Church streets, by the end of 2011. By then, Ram hopes to have sold out.

It’s a lofty goal. Because of the housing and credit crises, it is generally harder for potential buyers to sell their homes elsewhere.

Plus, the project will have to catch up to two competitors: Greenbridge and East 54.

Construction began last year on East 54, off N.C. 54 and U.S 15-501. It’s being developed by East West Partners of Chapel Hill. The project, which is to include shops, offices and a hotel, touts ample parking and proximity to Interstate 40 as the easy choice for Research Triangle Park workers.

Its 53-unit first phase is sold out, and one-quarter of its 40-unit second phase is pre-sold. “We’ve had unbelievable success,” said Roger Perry, East West’s president.

The project will include 175 condos. Perry expects to sell out by early 2009.
The green factor
East 54 also is seeking a designation from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, rating system, which would help it compete with Greenbridge, a 98-unit project at Franklin and Graham streets.

Greenbridge got financing through a Bank of America fund aimed at eco-friendly investments, said Tim Toben, a partner in Greenbridge Developments, the Chapel Hill group building the project. It has pre-sold about half its units, he said, adding that much of the project’s planned office and retail space have been leased to eco-conscious businesses attracted by its downtown location and ultra-green design.

Excavation for an underground parking deck is under way. Vertical construction is to finish in April 2010, Toben said.

The 140 West Franklin project has a more central location and more parking than Greenbridge. It will feature earth-friendly design features, but the developer won’t seek LEED certification.

Ram wants 25 percent of its condos to be pre-sold before it breaks ground on the building, which includes 26,000 square feet of shops.

In recent months, lenders have tightened standards for developers, requiring more equity and pre-sales from condo developers. Ram launched an equity fund that can finance $650 million in construction projects across the country, including 140 West Franklin.

The Chapel Hill projects, 368 units in all, range in price between $400,000 and $600,000. “There’s enough to go around out there for all three of us,” Toben said.

That optimism could defy history. It took three of the most robust real estate years — 2004 to 2006 — to sell that many new condos in all of Orange County, according to Market Opportunity Research Enterprises.
Is optimism warranted?
“Developers are very optimistic risk takers,” said Bernard Helm, president of the Rocky Mount company, which tracks North Carolina housing trends. “They have to be.

“While I think there is room for condominium development in exclusive neighborhoods in Chapel Hill, it’s going to require some patience on the part of the developers,” Helm said.

Developers say the town’s arduous, often contentious, planning-approval process limits risk. It took Greenbridge two years to be approved. In downtown Raleigh, a similar project probably would be approved in less than a year.

“If you’re willing to be patient and do things the way the town wants it done, [Chapel Hill is] … a great place to do business,” Perry said. “A lot of people don’t have the time or energy to do that.”

The benefit of patience: “When you build something in Chapel Hill, the market risk is pretty much mitigated, because there’s never enough supply,” Perry said.

Ram is familiar with supply. The company is based in South Florida, the epicenter of the nation’s condo bust. It built 800 condos in recent years, of which 600 have been sold, Cummings said.

Ram isn’t starting condos anywhere else in the U.S., but it’s so comfortable building in Chapel Hill that it is looking past 140 West Franklin to 345 additional condominiums and townhouses it wants to build. Construction of Ram’s Grove Park wouldn’t start until mid-2009, at the earliest.

“If you make the investment in time in a community,” Cummings said, “you’re rewarded for that.”

  • Jun
    26

Inside Metro Atlanta Commercial Real Estate

June 26, 2008

Inside Metro Atlanta Commercial Real Estate
June 26, 2008
The Atlanta Journal Constitution

TRANSACTIONS – Excerpt

Columbia Properties in Marietta paid $4 million for the former Home Depot Landscape Supply Center in Smyrna. The 39,000-square-foot property is located at 4600 South Cobb Drive. Florida-based real estate company Ram was the seller.

Ken Baye, Ram’s senior vice president of development, and Bader & Associates Realty handled the sale. Ram paid Home Depot $22 million this year for 11 sites in Atlanta and Dallas-Fort Worth that were part of Home Depot’s defunct Landscape Supply chain.

  • Jun
    26

Betting on condo buyers / Developers bank on demand in Chapel Hill with mixed-use projects

June 26, 2008

Betting on condo buyers / Developers bank on demand in Chapel Hill with mixed-use projects
June 26, 2008
By Jack Hagel, Staff Writer – The News & Observer

CHAPEL HILL – Outside a former Franklin Street gas station, hundreds of developers, dignitaries and potential condo buyers will gather under a big tent Friday. They’ll glimpse flashy renderings, nibble smoked salmon crepes and sip adult beverages while a DJ spins adult contemporary tracks.

And they will eventually mosey down to a sales center a block away. At least that’s the hope of Ram Realty Services, which is creating the hubbub to introduce its 140-unit condominium project, 140 West Franklin.

“We’re going to be upbeat,” said John Florian, Ram’s senior vice president of development, “not sedate.”

The scene sounds so 2005.

Back then, when easy lending was fueling the housing boom, lavish parties introducing condominium projects cluttered the calendars of developers and potential buyers across the country. Now, amid one of the biggest housing slumps in national history, it may seem difficult to take a pre-sales campaign seriously.

But Ram and two chief competitors — East West Partners and Greenbridge Developments — are betting that Chapel Hill is an oasis of pent-up demand.

Buoyed in part by UNC-Chapel Hill’s growth, developers think there will be enough buyers to snap up 368 condos by 2012.

“It has such a broad appeal to so many different segments of the market: retirees, people who are involved with the university, people that just want that as a place to raise children or a place to live,” said Casey Cummings, Ram’s president.

Ram will begin taking reservations at 140 West Franklin next month. Its goal is to finish the building, on a 1.7-acre parking lot at Franklin and Church streets, by the end of 2011. By then, Ram hopes to have sold out.

It’s a lofty goal. Because of the housing and credit crises, it is generally harder for potential buyers to sell their homes elsewhere.

Plus, the project will have to catch up to two competitors: Greenbridge and East 54.

Construction began last year on East 54, off N.C. 54 and U.S 15-501. It’s being developed by East West Partners of Chapel Hill. The project, which is to include shops, offices and a hotel, touts ample parking and proximity to Interstate 40 as the easy choice for Research Triangle Park workers. Its 53-unit first phase is sold out, and one-quarter of its 40-unit second phase is pre-sold. “We’ve had unbelievable success,” said Roger Perry, East West’s president. The project will include 175 condos. Perry expects to sell out by early 2009.
The green factor

East 54 also is seeking a designation from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, rating system, which would help it compete with Greenbridge, a 98-unit project at Franklin and Graham streets.

Greenbridge got financing through a Bank of America fund aimed at eco-friendly investments, said Tim Toben, a partner in Greenbridge Developments, the Chapel Hill group building the project. It has pre-sold about half its units, he said, adding that much of the project’s planned office and retail space have been leased to eco-conscious businesses attracted by its downtown location and ultra-green design.

Excavation for an underground parking deck is under way. Vertical construction is to finish in April 2010, Toben said.

The 140 West Franklin project has a more central location and more parking than Greenbridge. It will feature earth-friendly design features, but the developer won’t seek LEED certification. Ram wants 25 percent of its condos to be pre-sold before it breaks ground on the building, which includes 26,000 square feet of shops.

In recent months, lenders have tightened standards for developers, requiring more equity and pre-sales from condo developers. Ram launched an equity fund that can finance $650 million in construction projects across the country, including 140 West Franklin.

The Chapel Hill projects, 368 units in all, range in price between $400,000 and $600,000.

“There’s enough to go around out there for all three of us,” Toben said.

That optimism could defy history. It took three of the most robust real estate years — 2004 to 2006 — to sell that many new condos in all of Orange County, according to Market Opportunity Research Enterprises.
Is optimism warranted?

“Developers are very optimistic risk takers,” said Bernard Helm, president of the Rocky Mount company, which tracks North Carolina housing trends. “They have to be. “While I think there is room for condominium development in exclusive neighborhoods in Chapel Hill, it’s going to require some patience on the part of the developers,” Helm said. Developers say the town’s arduous, often contentious, planning-approval process limits risk.

It took Greenbridge two years to be approved. In downtown Raleigh, a similar project probably would be approved in less than a year.

“If you’re willing to be patient and do things the way the town wants it done, [Chapel Hill is] … a great place to do business,” Perry said. “A lot of people don’t have the time or energy to do that.” The benefit of patience: “When you build something in Chapel Hill, the market risk is pretty much mitigated, because there’s never enough supply,” Perry said.

Ram is familiar with supply. The company is based in South Florida, the epicenter of the nation’s condo bust. It built 800 condos in recent years, of which 600 have been sold, Cummings said. Ram isn’t starting condos anywhere else in the U.S., but it’s so comfortable building in Chapel Hill that it is looking past 140 West Franklin to 345 additional condominiums and townhouses it wants to build. Construction of Ram’s Grove Park wouldn’t start until mid-2009, at the earliest.

“If you make the investment in time in a community,” Cummings said, “you’re rewarded for that.”

  • Jun
    23

Ram Completes the Sale of Two Properties

June 23, 2008

Ram Completes the Sale of Two Properties
June 23, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT:
Marichelli Heredia or Heidi Armstrong
Thorp & Company
(305) 446-2700
mheredia@thorpco.com
harmstrong@thorpco.com

Ram Completes the Sale of Two Properties
Capital from sale to be used to pursue projects throughout the Southeast

Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., June 23, 2008 – Ram, a leader in real estate development and acquisitions, today announced that it has completed the sale of two properties in Georgia and Texas:
• The former 12,260-square-feet Home Depot Landscape Supply Center with an adjacent, outdoor landscape area of approximately 26,713 square feet, was sold to Columbia Properties in Marietta, Ga., for $4 million. The property is located at 4600 South Cobb Drive in Smyrna, Ga. Ken Baye, senior vice president of development with Ram, handled the transaction. Bader & Associates Realty handled the transaction for the buyer. The sale of this property was part of a portfolio of 11 similar sites acquired earlier this year.
• Villages at Old Farm, a 44,000-square-foot Walgreens-anchored strip center located at 8056 Westheimer in Houston, Texas, was sold to a local Houston buyer. The price of the transaction was not disclosed. Rudy Hubbard and Leah Gallagher with Transwestern handled the transaction for Ram. There was no broker for the buyer.

“We’ll use the capital from these sales to pursue projects throughout the Southeast as we continue with our strategy of using our expertise in redevelopment, ground-up development and urban infill to pursue projects throughout the region,” said Casey Cummings, president of Ram.

About Ram
Founded in 1978, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida-based Ram is an affiliated group of companies comprised of Ram Development Company, a leader in retail, residential and mixed-use development and acquisition, and Ram Realty Services, a provider of residential and retail management and leasing services. In addition to the Palm Beach Gardens office, Ram has offices in Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, Fla., Raleigh, N.C., and Atlanta, Ga. Currently, the company manages approximately 2.5 million square feet of retail property and 3,000 apartments and is active in Florida, North Carolina and Georgia. Ram is committed to making places that are socially responsible, economically vibrant and environmentally sustainable. For more information, visit www.ramrealestate.com.