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Real estate managers learn tips from developers

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Few novel ideas are coming forth within the commercial real estate front, as retailers refine their existing concepts and offerings that are doing well to make them better.

“When we get new concepts, it’s so exciting, but it’s so rare,” said Joe Wojdowski, a retail and pre-development specialist at Epsteen & Associates.

He was among three panelists at an Institute of Real Estate Management luncheon Friday, focused on the range of activities involved in real estate development.

Wojdowski said a few years made a huge difference for one of his pre-2007 projects that was originally supposed to have 4,000- to 6,000-square-foot sit-down restaurants.

“Fast forward to after the recession, we can’t be more excited to get those off our site plan and just do quick service restaurants with more multi-tenant retail,” he said.

Each of the panelists explained his role in developing and managing a property, and how it relates to those in the business of real estate management.

George Yermanos, vice president and director of property management for Sudberry Properties Inc. -- the master developer of the mixed-use Civita in Mission Valley -- shared tips for construction and to ensure a good end result.

He said that users need storage, though it’s also left off original plans. Taking a good look at how landscaping may affect signage is also important to avoid later problems.

Yermanos also shared how difficult it can be to get power to a new project from San Diego Gas & Electric, as well as a new address from the U.S. Postal Service.

David Dunn, a project manager with R&R Construction Co., told the audience to be wary of having a fully cost-oriented focus, because a project can be gutted if a developer looks at nickels and dimes as time goes on. Phasing a project is one way to save money, he suggested.

Dunn also advised property managers receive a list of the warranties, the final as-built drawings and a list of the subcontractors, so that they’re aware of specific things in the building, like utility lines, and have a good idea of who to call for work later on.

Dunn said to avoid overdesigning a project, because tenants may want to customize their space.

“If you don’t know what’s going in there, sometimes we’ll run empty conduits rather than choose a panel that’s not the appropriate size,” Dunn said. “Sometimes it makes sense to scale back rather than do too much and you spend less up front.”

In response to a question about where the “hotspots” are in the region,” Wojdowski said: “I think development is dead, it’s all redevelopment.”

With city constrained on available land for building, “Most everything that we touch is a redevelopment of some sort,” he said.

Yermanos said the apartment market has been “very hot,” along with residential and single family building.

Large retail projects are also doing well, he said. “I think the good projects are getting better, because people are sticking money into them. The world is changing, and you kind of have to keep up.

"Everything kind of changes and evolves, and at the end of the day, it’s still changing and we’re all trying to figure it out," he added. "We can’t move as fast as the internet.”

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