Commercial brokers keep inking big leases in down market

Miami /
Oct.October 07, 2009 05:55 PM

Times aren’t quite tough all over. Some South Florida commercial real
estate brokers are still flying high despite the downturn. Indeed,
looking back over the last year, some brokers appear to be defying the

Keith O’Donnell, managing director of Flagler Real
Estate Miami, is a good example. O’Donnell led the way for all
commercial brokers in the state from August 2008 to July 2009 with 12
leases worth $276.2 million. The previous year, he brokered only one
sale — for $3.5 million. O’Donnell was key in the 635,000-square-foot
lease of the Office Depot headquarters in Boca Raton. The deal included
acquiring 54 acres at Arvida Park of Commerce. It became the nation’s
largest build-to-suit lease.

Barbara Liberatore Black and
Matthew Goodman, principals of CresaPartners Miami, are also among the
top brokers on the commercial side. The duo closed 24 leases worth $107
million, including negotiating a 10-year deal for Merrill Lynch
International at 701 Brickell Avenue. Black and Goodman then brokered a
6,000-square-foot expansion for a total lease deal of 346,455 square
feet, making it the largest Merrill Lynch lease in Florida. Most
recently, Black and Goodman represented Miami Law firm Bilzin Sumberg
in the largest new lease of the year in South Florida. Black’s boss,
David Preve, founding principal at CresaPartners Miami, did 42 deals of
his own, worth $66 million in the measured period.

“It was
very difficult to find the bottom of the market because there [were] so
many opportunities available to a large tenant like Bilzin,” Black
said. “It was a continual negotiation. The landlords did not want to
give up. They all wanted to compete. It was a good deal in the end for
both landlord and tenant. It’s definitely a tenant’s market.”

said her business is booming, in part, because she represents tenants
— tenants whose leases eventually expire. She sees very little growth,
plenty of shifting between buildings, and some workout deals where
companies are restructuring and downsizing. She doesn’t expect the
market to fully recover for several years.  

Norm Adams,
director of Leasing at Stiles Corp. in Fort Lauderdale, is another
standout. He did 27 deals valued at $67.5 million, including work on
the 105,000-square-foot lease by AutoNation at 200 Las Olas Circle.
Adams’ colleague Madelayne Garcia, another director of leasing at
Stiles, did 15 deals worth $37.8 million, including a
28,230-square-foot lease for New York Life at the Lake Shore Plaza II.

notable commercial leasing brokers include Juan Ruiz, a vice president
at Miami’s Flagler Real Estate Services. He inked 98 leases worth $34.1
million while his Flagler colleague George Pino, also a vice president,
brokered 62 leases worth $25 million and added another $1 million in
sales. Other brokers doing big deals are Jon Blunk, senior vice
president at Crocker Partners in West Palm Beach, who closed $30.6
million worth of leases, and William Reichel, president of Reichel
Realty & Investments in Palm Beach Gardens, who did 35 leases worth
$26 million.

Then there’s Alan Kleber, senior director of
Cushman & Wakefield Miami, who inked 36 leases worth $96 million,
including a 10-year lease for Brown Mackie College. Brown Mackie leased
50,785 square feet at One Herald Plaza in Miami. Kleber agrees with
Black that it’s a tenant’s market, but there are also some benefits to
the landlords to do deals.

“If landlords can get some more
term from these tenants it can help them,” Kleber said. “They might
give up a little bit on the front end to get these tenants in place,
but as they go to restructure their debt on the project they’ll have a
long-term tenant in place rather than exposure in the marketplace
that’s getting continually soft, at least for the next couple of

On the sales side of the commercial brokerage table,
South Florida has a much smaller roster of all-star brokers,
demonstrating the lack of available credit. But there are a few brokers
in the region that broke through the obstacles to close some
significant deals in the face of declining property values.

Kristol, senior vice president and Still Hunter III, first vice
president of Marcus & Millichap Fort Lauderdale, closed 20 sales
totaling $133 million. Kristol sold the Wilton Tower, an 11-story,
150-unit apartment building in Wilton Manors, for $15.1 million.  Their
colleague, Lori Schneider, a senior vice president at Marcus &
Millichap Fort Lauderdale, did 19 deals worth $90 million, including
the $20 million sale of Winter Haven Citi Center.  

Avery Klann, a principal at Apartment Realty Advisors in Boca Raton,
did three sales — including the Arbor Oaks at Boca Raton for $40
million — with a total value of $46.8 million. Arbor Oaks is the
largest multi-family transaction in South Florida over the past year.

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