MULTIFAMILY SUMMIT ROCKS IN CHARLOTTE
About 300 of you (standing-room only) packed into a ballroom at the Charlotte Westin uptown this week to learn what many already suspected: The Gen Y crowd (largely under 30) is driving the economy. They're prone to be relatively affluent, and they buy things, especially tech stuff. And they rent apartments. (And they won't stop skateboarding in the street. Now get off my lawn.)
They also don't mind if that apartment is under 400 SF and costs $1,000 a month as long as there's a community BBQ pit, free WiFi, and a salt-water pool.
Bisnow hosted two panel discussions, which included Drucker & Falk Real Estate whose Kellie Falk Tillett, Freddie Mac managing regional director Rich Martinez, Red Mortgage Capital director Lee McNeer, and Southeast Apartment Partners Charlotte chief Jordan McCarley. Kellie was our able moderator. Lee, whose company helps finance multifamily developments, says the new renter is an echo boomer; they're 23 to 35 and expect their living arrangements to be very high-end. Developers are listening. ?They expect a lot of amenities, and product is being built for them.? Instead of a tennis court, what draws the new renter is the dog park.
Here's event sponsor Balfour Beatty Construction's Carl Frinzi and Mike Flanigan, who had a few things to say about what constitutes a safe market right now. Carl tells us the condo side of the multifamily coin was on fire for about three years, specifically 2003 to 2006. Then it tanked. ?Apartments are safer, smarter, and more predictable,? Carl says.
Our second panel featured a group of high-level multifamily owners and developers: Grubb Properties CEO Clay Grubb, Guardian Management/First Landmark CEO Tim Hose, Charter Properties partner John Porter, and Ginkgo Residential COO Scott Wilkerson. (Clay plays a mean bass, but Scott?s drum work is what really drives the rhythm section.) CRE finance guru Marshall Phillips of national Bisnow sponsor Reznick Group served as moderator. Clay says not only are apartment projects being built, they're proving to be solid investments. He's about to flip an apartment complex he bought last year and confides he'll be making about double what he paid for it. Even so, he thinks the new buyer is getting a good value. That said, the current market is flat-out weird. Adds Clay: ?I'm lucky to be employed. Fundamentals right now are crazy.?
We also ran into an old friend, Warren & Associates? Frank Warren, and made a new friend, Land Design's Dale Stewart. While the conversation in the conference room gravitated to cap rates, (very spinachy stuff), we found ourselves engrossed in a discussion by the escalators. Frank shared the fact that apartments as commodities have been successful investments because private investors are more agile than large institutions, including REITs and banks. But the Big Guys are catching on. ?Private capital has been able to jump in and take advantage of the current market,? Frank says.
And, one of the joys of hosting an event like this is getting reacquainted with really old friends. Bill Caldwell II and son, Bill Caldwell III. A huge little league supporter, Bill II is a Charlotte GC icon. (Your Charlotte reporter's son played little league at a ball field that bears his name. ?You're never too old for baseball,? Bill tells us.) If Bill II had never lived in Charlotte, about half of the structures in this town would not exist. In March, after several years at Cox & Schepp Construction and the former FN Thompson, Bill II founded a new company with Bill III called State Building Group. On launching a start-up construction business in the current economy? ?We've had a great reception in the marketplace. We're looking at a lot of very large projects.? If we can get him off the subject of baseball, we'll be checking back.