National market report

Commercial and residential real estate news briefs from around the U.S.

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The Sahara Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Las Vegas’ oldest casino is slated to shutter next month after a proposed redevelopment plan failed, according to Bloomberg News. The Moroccan-themed Sahara Hotel & Casino, built in 1952, rose to fame after appearing in the 1960 film “Ocean’s Eleven” (the version without George Clooney). Stockbridge Real Estate Funds bought the property in 2007 with plans to “reinvigorate” the casino. Stockbridge CEO Sam Nazarian said while he’s “confident that we ultimately will find a creative and comprehensive new solution” for the property, “the continued operation of the aging Sahara was no longer economically viable.”

New Orleans

Travis Jones, an assistant defensive line coach for the New Orleans Saints football team, was sentenced to three years’ probation and dozens of hours of community service last month after pleading guilty in June 2010 to a real estate scam, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Jones was one of 40 people charged in connection with the scheme. Led by John Barry, the scam involved using accomplices who were “solicited by [Barry] to invest in real estate by using their credit to qualify for and obtain mortgage loans in exchange for payments,” the indictment said. Barry allegedly defrauded lenders on 114 different properties in Texas throughout the course of the scam, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Texas Eastern District.

Nashville?The struggling 260-unit Velocity condominium project in downtown Nashville found a buyer last month, according to the Nashville Business Journal. The buyer, Atlanta-based Pollack Partners, is a major investor in apartments and mixed-use developments across the country. Last summer, Velocity saw its remaining 223 unsold units deeded back to Compass Bank, the lender, in a so-called friendly foreclosure. Velocity’s sale marks the second such transaction in Nashville’s downtown region in a month, according to the Journal. Another condominium, 5th & Main, was sold by its lenders in February to an Illinois-based investor for $11.2 million.

Boston

Local officials have approved a plan to transform a vacant building in the Allston section of Boston into a $20 million Harvard University learning laboratory, according to the Boston Globe. The 78,000-square-foot building, the former home of local news station WGBH-TV, will include meeting rooms, academic space and a community resource center when it reopens in September. Mayor Thomas Menino applauded the plan, citing its potential to spur the local economy. “Boston is experiencing an ongoing economic recovery … [but] we must not relent in our efforts to create jobs,” Menino said.

Chicago

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While the residential market may be stabilizing in some parts of the country, Chicago is still feeling the brunt of the recession. In December, Windy City home prices hit their lowest level since the market bust, according to the most recent data available from the Standard & Poor’s/Case Shiller Home Price Index. Home prices in the area were down 7.4 percent from the previous year and 27 percent from the market peak in September 2007, descending to levels unseen since March 2002, according to the Chicago Tribune. Karl Case, an economist who tracks housing prices through the Case-Shiller index, described the Chicago market as “surprisingly weak” compared to the rest of the country.

Phoenix

One of the hardest-hit real estate markets in the country, Phoenix is still reeling from an elevated rate of foreclosures, according to the Arizona Republic. Of 8,565 single-family home resales in February, 3,650 were foreclosure sales, according to data released last month by Arizona State University. And, of those non-foreclosure transactions, a full 40 percent were resales of homes that had recently been foreclosed on.

Fort Lauderdale

In Florida’s Broward County — which is home to Fort Lauderdale — 51 percent of homes with a mortgage last month were underwater, or worth less than the value of their loans, according to real estate data firm CoreLogic. That number actually represents a decrease from last year, when 54 percent of all homes with a mortgage in the county were underwater. The current rate in nearby Palm Beach County is 44 percent. “Negative equity holds millions of borrowers captive in their homes, unable to move or sell their properties,” Mark Fleming, chief economist with CoreLogic, said in a news release. “Until the high level of negative equity begins to recede, the housing and mortgage finance markets will remain very sluggish.”

Los Angeles

Los Angeles’ largest office landlord saw its losses narrow in fourth-quarter 2010 despite protracted instability in the commercial market there, according to the Los Angeles Times. MPG Office Trust reported a $138.3 million loss, roughly $2.82 per share, in the last quarter of the year, compared to $299.1 million during fourth-quarter 2009. But despite MPG’s shrinking losses, a 17 percent overall vacancy rate in downtown Los Angeles has some analysts wondering how long the company can ride out the storm. “This company is shrinking and it’s going to continue to shrink as they sell properties to stay afloat,” Craig Silvers, an analyst with Bricks & Mortar Capital, told the Times.

Miami?

The Miami Association of Realtors announced last month that it has joined the Fannie Mae Short Sale Assistance Desk, which will help Miami realtors solve problems that typically arise in short sale transactions. “Our partnership with Fannie Mae’s Short Sale Assistance Desk marks an important step forward to helping home-?owners and our members avoid the frustrations and complexities that are so common in short sale transactions,” said Miami Association of Realtors CEO Teresa King Kinney. “With access to the assistance desk, members will be able to resolve cases where the short sale approval channel has slowed down.” Meanwhile, Harley-Davidson Motor Company is moving its Latin American headquarters to Miami’s One Park Square at Doral, a Class A office property in the Airport West submarket. One Park Square has signed on a combined 24,100 square feet of new leases recently. “The addition of these new tenants reinforces that One Park Square continues to be viewed as the go-to building for corporate tenants eyeing a presence in the City of Doral,” said Tere Blanca, president and CEO of Blanca Commercial Real Estate, which has been marketing the building.

Compiled by Amy Tennery