June 2013

  • Jun

Ram Announces Multiple Promotions

June 26, 2013

Ram has announced multiple promotions in several key positions.

Jeff McCammon has been promoted to Regional Director of Investments.  Mr. McCammon will concentrate on expanding the company’s portfolio of investments in multifamily properties throughout the State of Florida.  Prior to joining Ram in 2011 as an Investment Analyst, Mr. McCammon had been an analyst and transaction manager for ARA.

Joyce Mariano has been promoted to Director of Human Resources.  Ms. Mariano is in her sixth year at Ram and recently obtained her Professional in Human Resources Certification.  Ms. Mariano oversees the management of human resources, including benefits and administration, employee relations and staffing for Ram’s five offices in the Southeast.  Previously, she was Ram’s Human Resources Manager.

Farah Abdulla has been promoted to Accounting Supervisor responsible for planning, directing and coordinating all accounting operational functions.  Ms Abdulla has been with Ram for six years, beginning her tenure at Ram as a Property Accountant.  She was promoted to Senior Property Account in 2012 and continues to grow her career with this recent promotion.

“Each of these individuals has been instrumental in our company’s rapid growth and success,” said Chief Investment Officer Jim Stine. “Ram’s success is a direct result of employing the best people in the industry and giving them opportunities to grow personally and professionally.  We’re proud to have these people on our team.”

  • Jun

Orlando Publix, McDonalds, 7-11 Sell

June 13, 2013

By Jennifer LeClaire, via www.globest.com

ORLANDO—CBRE is getting brand-name retail deals done. In two separate deals, CBRE closed on the sale of Lakeside Village Center, a Publix-anchored shopping center in Windermere, FL, and the sale of adjoining McDonald’s and 7-Eleven outparcels.

CBRE’s National Retail Investment Group and Net Leased Property Group represented the seller, a joint venture between Orlando-based Boyd Development Corporation and Ram Realty Partners II LP. An institutional investor acquired Lakeside Village Center. Private investors acquired the outparcels, all in separate transactions for undisclosed prices.

Lakeside Village Center, a 74,964-square-foot shopping center located at 7880 Winter Garden Vineland Road, was 100% leased at the time of the sale. The two outparcels, leased by McDonald’s and 7-Eleven, respectively, were marketed separately to maximize value for the owner.

“The buyer and other interested bidders were seeking a stabilized core quality asset in an excellent long-term strategic location and Lakeside Village Center fits this description,” says Casey Rosen, a senior vice president with CBRE in Miami. “This was the first new core quality retail asset marketed in Florida since the downturn and demand was very strong.”

  • Jun

Whole Foods Detroit Was 15 Years In The Making: Developer Peter Cummings Of Ram Looks Back

June 5, 2013

By Kate Abbey-Lambertz, via Huffington Post

He doesn’t own Whole Foods. He’s not stocking the shelves of the upscale grocery chain with boxes of muesli, he’s not a Detroiter excited to find a nearby place to buy said cereal and it wasn’t his hands that constructed the building over the last year.

But on the eve of the opening of Detroit’s first Whole Foods Wednesday, Peter Cummings, chairman of development company Ram, is as proud as the parent of an honor roll high school student. It’s fitting, because he’s been nurturing this development for the last 15 years.

Ram purchased the four acres of property at Mack and Woodward Avenue in the Midtown neighborhood in 1998 for approximately $3 million. At the time, it was vacant except for a shuttered Chase bank branch, but Cummings said he saw potential in Midtown.

“This was the area of the city where there were significant civic building blocks, the cultural institutions, the health care institutions, Wayne State University,” he said. “This is one of those neighborhoods where you could see the bones were there early on.”

First they built a parking structure, then the Ellington Lofts, a fully occupied residential building with ground-floor retail. And finally, Whole Foods Market signed a lease in July of 2011 after considering several spaces around the city. With a Bank of America, Starbucks, T-Mobile and FedEx on site, Cummings said Whole Foods had taken the last retail bay for its community program and demonstration kitchen. After years in the making, his property is, for all purposes, complete.

Ram was the developer in the large team that worked on the Whole Foods project, including the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., the Michigan Economic Growth Corp. and Midtown Detroit Inc.

“[Whole Foods said], if you can permit and finance it, we’ll build a store,” Cummings said. “It was on us to fill the gap.”

That gap was in part filled with $5.8 million of tax credits and local and state grants, according to the Wall Street Journal, as well as nearly two acres of land worth $1 million contributed by Ram.

Though some have questioned the choice to subsidize a national chain, Cummings said it was Ram that made the chance to pursue tax credits, not Whole Foods.

“We thought this was a worthy project for the subsidies that came to it, because there was such an overwhelming need in the community for an alternative place to find a huge range of nutritious food,” he said.

With the recent opening of stores like Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe several blocks south and Lafayette Foods, as well as one Meijer opening this summer and another of the large grocery stores possible in the future, not to mention Eastern Market and dozens of independent grocers, that may be less true than it was 10 years ago. But Detroiters still spend billions of dollars annually at grocery stores outside the city, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“When people think about moving into a neighborhood, it’s, ‘Where are my kids going to go to school?’ and, ‘Where am I going to shop for groceries?'” Cummings said.

Ram is a retail development and management company based in Florida that specializes in mixed-use urban development in the southeast. A Detroit project may seem like an odd addition, but Cummings’ wife, a native of the area, wanted their children to attend her alma mater, Cranbrook, so they lived here for several years.

“They’ve long since graduated from Cranbrook and college, and somehow I’m still [doing a project] here,” Cummings said. “It’s because of a real affection and affinity I have for the city of Detroit, which was cultivated in many ways by my late father-in-law, Max Fisher. I’m just continuing a tradition that he started.”

As board chair of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra from 1998 to 2003, Cummings also had a hand in a $225 million development of its extensive campus just across the street and a block north of Whole Foods. The site now contains the Max M. Fisher Music Center with performance and educational spaces, the Detroit School of the Arts, the Orchestra Place office building, parking structure and sculpture garden.

“What was very obvious to me when I started working in this area is unless you had a critical mass of development, the existing blight and kind of inertia would pull back any small flag you would try to plant,” Cummings said. “In Midtown, especially in the southern part, in the late ’90s, early 2000s, you had to plant a pretty big flag.”

Cummings is bullish when it comes to the city’s momentum, particularly the Woodward corridor, which will soon begin construction of the state’s first light rail line. He also thinks some of the city’s more blighted and empty neighborhoods will be greened, echoing the long-term planning strategy being considered by the city.

“Detroit’s reinvention will take a path and end up with a product that is unlike anything we’ve seen in any other city in the country,” he said.

“I remember people saying to me I was crazy, that I was wasting my time,” Cummings continued. “And if I had taken the time and the capital that I’ve invested in the last 15 years and put it somewhere else I probably could have done better. Maybe I am crazy. … But there are very few properties I’ve developed that have given me more pleasure then seeing this Whole Foods emerge.”

  • Jun

Whole Foods Bets Detroit

June 5, 2013

By Maura Webber Sadovi, via Wall Street Journal

The opening this week of Detroit’s first Whole Foods Market WFM -2.22% is a welcome bright moment for a city that is in dire financial straits. The opening of the upscale grocery-store chain also marks the end of a 15-year effort to develop the property, showing how difficult it remains to complete relatively small real-estate projects in Detroit, even in well-regarded neighborhoods.

The property, located on Mack Avenue near the main city thoroughfare of Woodward Avenue, is part of a larger mixed-use project developed by an affiliate of Ram Realty Services Inc. of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. The development also includes a 55-unit apartment and condominium complex and additional retail space. It is located in the Midtown area that is home to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Wayne State University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Despite the store’s prominent neighbors, it took a lot of heavy lifting to complete the deal. The $12.9 million Whole Foods store was financed with $6.1 million in equity from Ram and Whole Foods. Ram contributed 1.9 acres of land for the store valued at about $1 million, said Peter Cummings, chairman of Ram. The remaining $5.8 million came from state and local grants and the sale of tax credits tied to the project. The subsidies were needed because most traditional lenders remain leery of any commercial-real-estate development in the city, said Olga Stella, vice president of business development at Detroit Economic Growth Corp. which provided a $1.25 million grant. The DEGC is a private nonprofit group that supports economic development in Detroit.

Although Ram invests largely in Southeastern real estate, Mr. Cummings has Detroit roots and a belief in the city’s resurgence. “Repopulating the city with a younger population is real,” said Mr. Cummings, who believes Detroit will evolve into a city with fewer residents than at its peak but with pockets of strong neighborhoods and more green space. “It will be reinvented.”

The Detroit location, which Whole Foods Market Inc. is leasing, will be a bold test for the grocer’s expansion efforts. The Austin, Texas, grocer known for selling healthy food in some of the country’s toniest neighborhoods is opening in Detroit in the wake of Michigan’s governor’s move earlier this year to tap an emergency manager to turn around the finances of the cash-strapped city.

The company is one of a number of supermarket chains that are pushing into urban areas as traditional suburban markets are saturated, analysts say. Whole Foods decided to open the Detroit store in part because it saw a rising number of people in the city who are seeking out farmer’s markets and high-quality produce and bread, said Red Elk Banks, executive operations coordinator with Whole Foods in the Midwest. “The city has some major challenges, but that doesn’t stop the resilience of the people who live in the city,” said Mr. Banks, who declined to comment on the financial details of the real estate. “You see a growing community that has rediscovered what good food is about.”

Mr. Cummings is one of a handful of developers who believe that Detroit will eventually turn around. Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans Inc. and a Detroit native, is making one of the biggest bets on the city. Mr. Gilbert has bought more than a dozen properties in Detroit in recent years and has filled many of them with thousands of his employees relocated from the suburbs.

But so far, Detroit remains an uphill road for developers. The city’s financial condition is so weak that some believe it could be nearing bankruptcy. “In a market as economically challenged as Detroit demand is a risk,” said Suzanne Mulvee, director of retail research with the CoStar Group Inc., CSGP +0.23% a real-estate research firm. “Even with subsidies and tax incentives, if you don’t have tenants or customers…how are you going to make money?”

Others continue to flee. Last week, Pulte Group Inc., PHM -3.70% one of the nation’s largest home builders, with a long background in Detroit, announced that it is moving its headquarters from the Detroit area to Atlanta.

In 1998, a Ram affiliate that involved Mr. Cummings with his father-in-law, Max Fisher, a prominent Detroit businessman, bought a controlling stake in the 4-acre parcel that now includes the land where Whole Foods was built. Ram ultimately paid about $3 million for all the land. .

But Detroit’s economic woes extended Mr. Cummings waiting time for developing the property. His original plan was to build a midrise apartment tower on the property in about five years. With initial demand weak, he didn’t see any cash flow from the property until he built a parking garage in 2002. He then built a condominium complex on the site just as the housing bust hit and Detroit’s auto industry collapsed. In 2008, he ultimately sold some two-bedroom apartments for prices in the $140,000 range, about half of the price he had expected to fetch. Prices have since risen. “Nobody who decides they’re going to work in Detroit has an easy ride of it,” said Mr. Cummings.

More recently, the outlook for parts of central Detroit has started to improve even as the overall city’s finances remain battered. Unemployment in the city has fallen to 16% in April from 16.8% a year earlier. That is still more than twice the seasonally adjusted national average of 7.5% in the same month but well below the city’s 23.1% unemployment rate touched in April of 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meanwhile, the region’s retail vacancy rate also stabilized at about 10.4% in the fourth quarter, down from 10.6% in the year earlier period and below the 11.4% in 2009, according to CoStar. “The car business is back and there’s just a whole better set of circumstances,” said Mr. Cummings.