The Real Deal New York

National Cheat Sheet: Mortgage applications plunge, Amazon eyes splitting HQ2 … & more

By Maya Rajamani | November 09, 2018 08:00AM

Clockwise from top left: Amazon’s reported plan to split its HQ2 headquarters into two could transform LIC; Lowe’s Companies to close 51 stores across North America; WeWork launches investment fund as it prepares to buy a Texas development site; and U.S. mortgage applications are at the lowest level they’ve been at in four years.

Lowe’s Companies to close 51 stores across North America amid ‘strategic reassessment’
Another retailer is closing dozens of its stores. Lowe’s Companies, which has more than 2,300 stores across North America, plans to shutter 51 stores in the U.S. and Canada, the Wall Street Journal reported. The closures will include 20 stores in the U.S. — two of which are in Manhattan — and 31 in Canada, the outlet reported. Timelines for the closures will vary by store, but all 51 outposts will close by Feb. 1 of next year. “The store closure are a necessary step in our strategic reassessment as we focus on building a stronger business,” said Lowe’s new CEO Marvin Ellison. [TRD]

WeWork launches investment fund as it nears deal to buy Texas development site
WeWork is launching a real estate investment fund and getting ready to buying a development site in Texas, sources told The Real Deal. The coworking giant is sponsoring the private fund, which will be called ARK, and WeWork Property Advisors will manage it independently. Sources said the development site is a 4.4-acre property in Austin that’s currently owned by Frank McCourt’s McCourt Global. This would be the first time WeWork is buying a massive ground-up development site. The two-parcel site is valued at $150 million, according to a July Real Estate Alert report. [TRD]

U.S. mortgage applications are at the lowest level in four years
Mortgage applications in the U.S. have hit a four-year low, Bloomberg reported. The Mortgage Bankers Association’s market composite index was at its lowest point last week since December 2014, the outlet reported. The decline, which comes as interest rates have risen, has forced companies like JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo to lay off employees in their mortgage divisions. “The data signal higher mortgage costs are an ever-growing headwind for U.S. homebuyers, who already face a dearth of affordable listings,” according to Bloomberg, which noted that interest rates have gone up eight times since December 2015. [TRD]

RealtyShares plans mass layoffs, saying it was unable to secure enough funding
RealtyShares has been unable to find a buyer, and now plans to lay off most of its staff, multiple sources told The Real Deal. The real estate crowdfunding startup raised more than $63 million in venture capital, but it wasn’t able to raise the additional funding it needed. In an email to customers, RealtyShares said it would “not offer new investments or accept new investors” on its platform, despite the fact that it “aggressively pursued a number of financing options to continue growing the business.” A source said the startup will be able to pay back those who invested in projects through its platform. [TRD]

MAJOR MARKET HIGHLIGHTS

Amazon’s reported plan to split its HQ2 headquarters in two could transform LIC
The reported split of e-commerce giant Amazon’s HQ2 headquarters between Northern Virginia and Long Island City could transform the Queens neighborhood and draw more offices to the area if the plan goes through. “The fact that Amazon would consider Long Island City now makes it a truly viable option for a lot of tenants,” Savills Studley’s Jeff Peck told The Real Deal. If Amazon sets up shop in Long Island City, 25,000 new workers and residents could make it a company town of sorts, as the neighborhood’s employee population is currently 115,000, according to Long Island City Partnership data. [TRD]

Five finalists vying to design Chicago’s $8.7B O’Hare Airport expansion
Chicago is getting closer to choosing a designer for its $8.7 billion expansion of O’Hare International Airport. In an announcement Wednesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office said the search has been narrowed down to five applicants, including Santiago Calatrava — who designed the Oculus train station in Manhattan — and Chicago-based architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Two of the five finalists will be selected, with the first-place winner designing the airport’s new terminal, and the second-place team designing two new satellite concourses. Chicago plans to seek public input for several months before it makes a decision. [TRD]

David Beckham’s Miami soccer stadium to move forward with voter approval
The stadium that David Beckham hopes to build for his Major League Soccer expansion team Inter Miami CF has won the approval of residents. Voters approved the $1 billion project Tuesday, and Miami will now be able to negotiate a 99-year lease with an LLC that includes Beckham, brothers Jorge and Jose Mas and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure. The project includes a 25,000-seat stadium, hotel rooms and office, retail and commercial space. Rent will be at least $3.6 million a year and the plan will include a 58-acre public park. [TRD]

Developer plans to build ‘marijuana mansions’ with smoking rooms, pot cultivation areas
The next big thing in Los Angeles could be “marijuana mansions.” Developer Ramtin Ray Nosrati, who runs Huntington Estate Properties, plans to build several spec mansions that have their own smoking rooms and pot cultivation areas, TMZ first reported. Five of these so-called marijuana mansions will be in Bel Air and Westside, and they’ll go for anywhere from $30 to $40 million. Nosrati said he’s targeting athletes that are interesting in growing marijuana to use for health-related reasons. The homes will come with an employee who will help grow the marijuana, according to the outlet. [TRD]

Cryptocurrency millionaire planning blockchain-based city in Nevada
Blockchains LLC owner Jeffrey Berns hopes to build a blockchain-based community in Nevada, the New York Times reported. Berns, an attorney from Los Angeles, shelled out $170 million for 67,000 acres of desert land in northern Nevada earlier this year, the outlet reported. The city he envisions will include homes, schools, businesses, production studios, offices and an e-gaming arena — all of which will incorporate blockchain technology. “ [S]omething inside me tells me this is the answer, that if we can get enough people to trust the blockchain, we can begin to change all the systems we operate by,” Berns told the Times. [TRD]

Missouri hotel offering rooms painted and decorated to evoke certain moods
A hotel in St. Louis is letting guests choose the room they would like to check into based on the mood they’re in or the mood they want to be in, the Chicago Tribune reported. Each room at the Angad Art Hotel is painted and decorated in a color that’s meant to evoke a particular mental state, the outlet reported. “We thought, ‘Why not give guests the opportunity to tailor their experience by booking the room around the emotion of color,” Angad co-developer Steve Smith said. “It hadn’t been done before.” [TRD]