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These Leaders See Five Things For ATL CRE In 2017

For Bisnow's leaders in commercial real estate, CRE today is all about effect: from co-working and housing affordability to the Atlanta Braves and Donald Trump. Here are five things we learned at our event earlier this week.

1. For Women In CRE, It's Strength In Numbers


Outgoing CEO of the Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors Kristin Karlson Lamb spent her time thanking women who persevered in a male-dominated industry, noting that their experience at work 20 to 30 years ago was much different than today.

“There's a realization every single day you go to work: more than likely, you're the only female in the room,” Kristin said. “You've been questioned, you've been judged, fairly or unfairly...but you made a commitment to stay in the industry.”

2. Trump Could Be Good For CRE

Amanda Rhein, MARTA's senior director of transit-oriented developments and real estate

A few panelists said President-elect Donald Trump could actually prove to be healthy for real estate, especially with what has been believed to be a plan to infuse $1 trillion into infrastructure improvements over the course of the next decade.

“And he also seems to have an affinity for trains, which is a positive for MARTA,” MARTA's own Amanda Rhein quipped. 

3. It All Starts With MARTA Buses


Now that voters in Atlanta, Fulton and DeKalb counties approved a sales tax increase that will raise around $2.5B for MARTA improvement projects, Amanda says the next step is deciding what projects to prioritize. While $2.5B is a huge boost, it still falls short of the $6B in MARTA's wish-list items that some federal funding will be needed to cover.

Amanda (far right, along with Cumberland CID's Malaika Rivers, The Wilbert Group's Caroline Wilbert, Pursley Friese Torgrimson's Stephanie Friese Aron and Wells Fargo's Melissa Frawley) said MARTA will first tackle improvements that are not as capital intensive: adding and enhancing new bus service routes and using smaller vehicles to take passengers deeper into individual neighborhoods.


Malaika—whose boss recently proclaimed that mass transit will become a top priority for the self-funding organization in Cobb County—says the passage of the TSPLOST in those three jurisdictions “really puts the pressure on other counties, Cobb County in particular, and Gwinnett County, on how those counties will increase revenue” to fund their own transit improvements.

Panelists at our event said the conversation among corporate office tenants is all about employee access. As Colliers International's Jodi Selvey put it, access to MARTA “is the only thing people are talking about when they look at space.”

4. The Braves Effect, In Numbers


As The Battery at SunTrust Park and the new Atlanta Braves stadium fast approach delivery, Malaika says the project's influence can be felt all through the Cumberland submarket. Cumberland typically accounts for 30% of the building permits filed in Cobb County.

Today, projects in Cumberland account for half of the active building permits. “We are by far capturing the growth,” she said.

5. Office Rents Starting To Push Tenants To Cheaper Submarkets, Older Properties


With office rents continuing upward velocity (the Class-A average is above $27/SF), and Buckhead hitting all-time highs of nearly $34/SF, panelists say tenants are eyeing cheaper alternatives as they digest sticker shock, including submarkets like Downtown Atlanta and Peachtree Corners.

It's encouraged some office investors to pump money into capital improvements in older buildings to attract tenants, especially since the delta on new versus existing office rents is as wide as the Gulf of Mexico.

For instance, JLL's Kay Younglove (on left with Colliers International's Jodi Selvey, The Cheroff Group's Penelope Cheroff and Coro Realty Advisors' Patti Pearberg) says Banyan Street Capital is pumping $20M into Peachtree Center to field tenant demand.

CORRECTION, DEC. 14, 4:45 P.M. ET: A previous version of this story did not properly contextualize Lamb's comments as describing the commercial real estate industry when she first started in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The story has been updated.