Archive for April, 2010

A Living Legend

Monday, April 26th, 2010

You just never know.

ATL BisnowThat was my reaction to events last week, when I happened to be in Atlanta (also known as “the ATL”). At dinner, who did I run into? One of the world’s greatest architects (and I mean of all time) and one of Atlanta’s favorite sons, John Portman.

For those who may not know the name or that famous face, Portman is credited with developing much of Atlanta’s downtown office space, and his Peachtree Center and Embarcadero Center in San Francisco were hailed as unique reinterpretations of the modern office environment. And he’s still designing properties around the world.

All I can say is, “wow.” He’s a living legend. And now I’m more convinced than ever, it really goes to show, you just never know.

Why Fannie, Freddie are Political Hot Potatoes

Sunday, April 18th, 2010
 
As Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac go, so goes the U.S. apartment market. Together the two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) now provide 80% to 90% of the mortgages financing apartment sales.
 
The problem is that they are losing money — taxpayer dollars to be exact — hand over fist thanks to their portfolios of defaulting single-family housing loans. By the end of 2009, the U.S. government had already pumped more than $125 billion into the two entities to keep them solvent.
 
“Both sides of the aisle in Washington understand that the current situation is unsustainable in the long run, particularly with the losses that they are incurring,” says Sam Chandan, global chief economist and executive vice president at Real Capital Analytics, a real estate research firm based in New York.
 
Click here to read the rest of my cover story in the April issue of National Real Estate Investor.

Past Blast: Miglin-Beitler’s World’s Tallest

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

It might not be viewed as one of mankind’s greatest achievements (more like a random hobby), but I possess one of the world’s largest collections of 1980s/90s vintage office tower brochures.

Many of you might remember the go-go days from decades gone by when developers had sky’s-the-limit marketing budgets. Since this was long before the Internet, often those bucks were spent on glossy brochures designed to lure tenants to the tower du jour. It became quite a competitive business for developers trying to one-up their competitors. Ah, those were the days, eh?.

Combing through the stack I see a hard-bound orange brochure for the new Carnegie Hall Tower in New York. And here’s one for the new Norwest Center in Minneapolis, featuring one of the original conceptual drawings and panoramic skyline views.

Occasionally, though, I run across something in the old files that catches my eye because it might have some particular relevance in today’s dialogue, and buried deep in this treasure trove was a true gem.

Miglin Beitler TowerIn 1990, one of Chicago’s largest developers, Miglin-Beitler, proposed to build what at the time was the world’s tallest office tower in downtown Chicago.

The slender, 2,000-foot-tall tower was dubbed the “skyneedle” and designed by my favorite architect of all time, Cesar Pelli. At that height, it would have dwarfed the Sears (excuse me, Willis) Tower by 450 feet. It also would sit on a tiny 1-acre plot of land at the southwest corner of Wells and Madison streets.

What makes this find especially bitter sweet, though, is the memory it invokes. Just seven years after first proposing this incredible edifice, Lee Miglin was tragically murdered by a madman named Andrew Cunanan, who went on a nationwide killing spree in 1997. He also killed Gianni Versace outside his Miami Beach mansion before finally killing himself on a nearby houseboat. The real tragedy here was that like his other victims, Miglin’s death was such a cruel random act, and the crime shocked the entire commercial real estate industry to its core.

With the opening earlier this year of the new world’s tallest building, the 2,700-foot Burj Khalifa in Dubai, I was once again reminded of how far ahead of their time, 20 years ago to be exact, were Mssrs. Beitler and Miglin. Unfortunately, neither Miglin nor Beitler got to see their tower soar, as their plans were scuppered by the early-1990s recession, which made it nearly impossible to find a lead tenant for such an endeavor.

And so, while rummaging through my old brochures from two decades ago, I remember the significance of that ill-fated tower for a number of reasons. At the time of his death, as publisher of National Real Estate Investor magazine, I wrote this in my February 2008 Publisher’s Note:

I will remember 1997 not so much for the great news stories of mergers and acquisitions and the gyrations of a euphoric stock market. No, I will most remember 1997 for the senseless death of one of our own, Lee Miglin of Chicago.

Miglin’s death at the hands of a psychotic killer was the most shocking “news” story of 1997, and it touched many in our industry who had never even met this likeable man. It reminded us all of our own human frailty and the inescapable fact that our time on this planet may be too brief.

Though Miglin is gone, he touched many lives around him and his spirit continues to touch us as he lives in our memories. His partner, Paul Beitler, wrote one of the most heart-felt eulogies I have ever read.

So, I will most remember 1997 for the loss of a great man. And I dedicate this 1997 Year in Review issue to Lee Miglin.

Today I’m reminded to repeat myself all these years later. Rest in peace, Lee.

Two Texas Pros Rejoin for Fund

Friday, April 9th, 2010
In early March, two high-powered, Texas-based CRE pros – David Steinwedell and Jack Minter – re-joined forces after 10 years to form Stoneforge Advisors, LLC. Steinwedell, former Managing Partner at AIC Ventures and President of Wells Fund Management, and Minter, former Managing Director of the Americas for both Jones Lang LaSalle and Trammell Crow Company, launched the firm to target value added industrial, office and retail investments.
 
Together, the duo have over $30 billion of acquisition, disposition and capital market experience across all property types and geographic locations in their 25-year average tenure in the industry. In a nutshell, that means most folks listen to what they have to say.
 
We’re among those folks, and we caught up with Steinwedell (while he was waiting for a flight out of LaGuardia back to his base in Austin) to get his take on the new venture.

steinwedell@stoneforgeadvisors.com

OKC Gets DFW Bisnow Attention

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

The leading enewsletter for commercial real estate in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is focusing some much-needed attention on developments in the Oklahoma City market, thanks to a boatload of help from yours truly at OKCREview.com.

Bisnow, a firm based in Washington, D.C., started the DFW newsletter a few months ago and it’s gaining significant traction in the local market.

Check out the OKC lovin’ in the latest edition right here, and you can sign up for a free daily email as well.

Bye Bye Ol’ Texas Stadium

Monday, April 5th, 2010

This Sunday morning, April 11, at 7:00 a.m. to be precise, the old icon is coming down.

Yes, the venerable Texas Stadium, first introduced to most Americans in their living rooms in the late-1970s during the opening scenes from the hit TV series Dallas, is being imploded. Dynamited. Reduced to a dusty pile of rubble. You get the picture.

Texas StadiumBuilt at a cost of only $35 million back in 1971, the facility is now little more than a large concrete and steel dinosaur compared to the new $1 billion Cowboys Stadium now glistening on the horizon several miles west in Arlington.

I’ve got lots of fond memories of the old jewel, having lived in Dallas for most of the 1980s. I remember sitting with Rodger Meier and his daughter Stacy on the 50-year line in 1982 watching SMU’s Eric Dickerson run like the wind against Arkansas in a classic. And while I never saw Roger Staubach play a game there, his memory was literally steeped in the place.

I’m still torn over whether or not to pay my last respects to the stadium next weekend, but apparently others will get the chance to do so.

In the “just when you thought you’d seen it all” category, several journalists received this interesting invitation to an all-expenses-paid press junket to witness the event thanks to a Dallas-based PR firm:

Texas Stadium Press Trip Itinerary

Thursday, April 9:

Arrival

Friday, April 9:

11:30 – 1 p.m.

NFL Alumni Luncheon:  A Stadium Farewell hosted by Mrs. Tom Landry

(former players share their memories of Texas Stadium)

Four Seasons Resort and Club Tour

Dinner at Café on the Green, Four Seasons Resort and Club

Saturday, April 10

 Morning/Irving City Tour:

Spa service

Breakfast at Big State Drug in Historic Downtown Irving

National Scouting Museum

Mustangs at Las Colinas

Dallas Cowboys Headquarters and Training Facility (drive-by)

Afternoon/Four Seasons Choice:

Tennis or golf

Dinner and Live Entertainment at The Ranch at Las Colinas

Sunday, April 11

5:30 a.m.

Depart Hotel on Kraft Shuttle for Texas Stadium

6 – 8 a.m.

VIP/Celebrity Lot – 7 a.m. Implosion

Brunch at Four Seasons

Afternoon Departures

Now what really makes this junket interesting is the fact that the Four Seasons in Irving is basically in foreclosure mode, the result of too much debt piled on by new owners during the last go-go CRE cycle. Sound familiar? I guess using the stadium’s demise is as good a reason as any to visit Irving.

So I say so long Texas Stadium, most of us will miss you muchly. Hopefully there’s a place in stadium heaven for historic buildings with gaping holes in their roofs.