Are You Ready for TSPLOST 2.0?
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As the metro area competes for perhaps the highest profile HQ relo in a decade (Mercedes-Benz), one Atlanta commercial real estate vet's warning that without transportation investment, these wins will become nonexistent. And this is coming from a man who already owns 1.5M SF of suburban office with designs to double that by 2016.
OA Development's Steve Berman, who's career spans more than 30 years and who today still commands a solid share of Atlanta's suburban office market, says the state needs to push a TSPLOST 2.0 to invest in infrastructure projects that “think boldly, that think big” or we risk further eroding our economic development edge against the likes of Charlotte or Dallas. “We're very concerned about the leadership in our state and our city,” Steve says. And in his mind that means swallowing some pain by increasing taxes to pay for transit and highway infrastructure programs instead of a legislature that “deals with an individual's right to pack heat in a church," he says. "That's not good leadership.”
Steve was obviously a supporter of 2012's failed TSPLOST effort, but says it was poorly promoted and came against an anti-tax headwind. In cities like Charlotte and Nashville, Steve says he's already seeing evidence that our infrastructure loss is their gain: The fundamentals on office buildings there are vastly better than here in Atlanta. But since then, he notes a sea change in people's attitudes toward transit, especially MARTA. Clayton County's push for MARTA alone is evidence of that. Steve says it will take leadership in government to push a successful TSPLOST through. He proposes a new transportation authority the likes of NY or LA. “I'd like to think we'd give it another shot,” he says. “But if you ask the question to the voters, do you want to pay more to the government, the answer is going to be no.”
On the investment front, Steve says OA is back in the buying game in 2015 with the help of Wall Street investment dollars. The firm is looking to double its portfolio size to 3M SF by 2016, and Steve says he's shopping for suburban office and light industrial properties here, in Ohio and North Carolina. “We feel particularly bullish on Atlanta because it slumped the way it did in 2008,” he says. The slower recovery means there's more upside here. Most recently, OA purchased One Point Royal (here), a 150k SF Alpharetta office building with such tenants as GE and Cabot Corp for $13.7M.