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Real estate weekly – 2/21/14

Md. joint venture purchases N.J. shopping center

A joint venture between Black Oak Associates and MCB Real Estate, commercial real estate developers headquartered in Owings Mills and Baltimore, respectively, acquired a 54,000-square-foot grocery-anchored shopping center in Belleville, N.J., a community in northern New Jersey located about 10 miles west of New York City. The 10-acre property was purchased from Mount Kellett Capital Management LP, owner of A&P, for $10.5 million, and was structured as a sale-lease back transaction. The shopping center is anchored by Pathmark, a grocery store chain owned by A&P. The size of the property will enable the new owners to develop over 20,000 square feet of new retail space. The acquisition is the second in Black Oak’s latest investment funding vehicle, Black Oak IV LP, and marks the seventh grocery anchored shopping center acquired by Black Oak in three years. The company’s portfolio currently includes 15 properties containing about 2 million square feet of space.

Maryland Mortgage Program to double number of loans by ’15

The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development intends to double the number of Maryland Mortgage Program loans from 1,500 in 2013 to 3,000 by 2015, DHCD Secretary Raymond A. Skinner told financial institution executives and real estate brokerage representatives at the department’s annual Maryland Mortgage Program Top Lenders Award breakfast. Skinner said the department has redesigned its website to make it more accessible to the public and to make use of the responsive design elements of the state’s Maryland.gov website. The Maryland Mortgage Program website is scheduled to launch on March 3. The website and a new marketing campaign will emphasize the key benefits of the program: significant down payment assistance; 30-year fixed-rate mortgages; and homebuyer education. More than 11,400 familes have received Maryland Mortgage Program loans totaling nearly $2.2 billion since Gov. Martin O’Malley took office nearly eight years ago, Skinner said.

Md.’s foreclosure rate 3rd-highest in nation

Maryland had the third-highest foreclosure rate in the nation in January. For more than a year and a half, the state has posted increased month-over-month foreclosure activity, resulting in one in every 543 homes with a foreclosure filing, according to data released by real estate information firm RealtyTrac. Maryland’s ranking can be attributed in part to a foreclosure moratorium in the state that ended last summer. The state trails only Florida and Nevada in its foreclosure rate. Raymond A. Skinner, secretary of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, said in a statement: “The January data show a 10 percent drop in total foreclosure activity from December and a slowing in activity when compared to last year. We expect the annual growth rate of property foreclosures will continue to moderate over the coming months as lenders continue to deplete their inventory of seriously delinquent loans.”

Marriott introduces mobile check-out

Marriott International Inc., of Bethesda, one of the world’s largest hotel chains, announced the introduction of mobile check-out, a new feature of the popular Marriott Mobile App. The new service streamlines checkout for guests at Marriott Hotels, the company’s flagship brand. A departing guest receives a mobile-phone message early in the morning and inputs an email address at which to receive the bill; the guest can then depart and leave the keys in the room without calling or stopping by the front desk. The BWI Airport Marriott is being used as an incubator hotel to test the new procedure, and all 500 Marriott Hotels worldwide will offer it later in the year. Marriott has offered mobile check-in since July 2013.

Walker & Dunlop sees drop in profit

Walker & Dunlop LLC, of Bethesda, a commercial real estate finance company, reported a drop in net income for the fourth quarter of 2013 and for the year as a whole. For 2013, net income decreased 9 percent to $44.0 million, or $1.28 per diluted share, from $48.4 million, or $1.87 per diluted share, in 2012. In the quarter, net income dropped 38 percent to $11.4 million, or 33 cents per diluted share, from $18.4 million, or 54 cents per diluted share, in the prior-year period. The company experienced increased expenses related to the acquisition of CWCapital.

Mullan completes renovations for new dealership in Ellicott City

Mullan Contracting Co., of Lutherville, has completed renovation of a new auto dealership owned by Norris Automotive Group. The 22,00-square-foot building at 8525 Baltimore National Pike in Ellicott City was acquired by Norris, along with four acres of land, from The Miller Brothers family. The building formerly housed an auto dealership but had been closed since 2008. Renovations performed by Mullan included a comprehensive interior restoration containing an automotive showroom, sales offices, a receptionist area, multiple service bays, repair facilities, a parts room and storage space. Upgrades of the building’s HVAC, lighting and electrical packages, painting and the installation of new carpeting were also performed. Penney Design Group was the architect and Comprehensive Structural Solutions was the structural engineer for the project.

Ruppert Landscape presented with Community Builder Award

The Home Builders Care Foundation presented Laytonsville-based Ruppert Landscape with its 2014 Community Builder Award, which is awarded to a member whose charitable efforts help raise awareness of the home building industry’s spirit of giving. The award recognized Ruppert’s role in hosting the HBCF’s first annual Bull & Oyster Roast at its Laytonsville headquarters. The event in April 2013, which drew about 240 industry professionals, also launched a career clothing drive. The drive, co-sponsored by the Professional Women in Building, Maryland Chapter, collected over 500 pieces of clothing that were donated to a career development center in Silver Spring. Ruppert Landscape has 16 branch offices and provides commercial landscape construction and management in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina.

Rocky Gap resort gets 4 Diamond rating

Rocky Gap Casino Resort in far Western Maryland has been awarded the AAA 4 Diamond rating, a coup for Minnesota-based Lakes Entertainment Inc. A Lakes subsidiary acquired the financially troubled golf resort from the Maryland Economic Development Corp. in 2012. In a news release announcing the coveted award, resort officials noted that the property has had multiple upgrades since the casino opened in May 2013, including the addition of approximately 550 slot machines, 10 table games and a casino bar. Renovations were also made to the hotel rooms, lobby, restaurants and the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course. A new conference and event center opened recently, and a comedy club has set up shop at the location.

Marriott foundation endows scholarships

The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation is establishing a $100,000 scholarship endowment for the new Emerging Leaders program of Leadership Montgomery, the Rockville-based community leadership training organization announced. The endowment was created in honor of the late Stephen Garff Marriott, a grandson of the founders of the Marriott International hotel chain, who died in June 2013 at the age of 54. The scholarship fund will enable candidates to participate in the program who would otherwise not be able to afford it. According to its website, tuition for the 8-month program is $2,500.

Urban greenhouse to supply Giant Food

Landover-based Giant Food LLC and BrightFarms Inc., a New York-based company that finances, builds and operates hydroponic greenhouse vegetable farms, are partnering to deliver year-round local produce to Giant grocery stores throughout the Washington metropolitan area. Under the agreement, BrightFarms will design, build and open by this fall a 100,000-square-foot greenhouse on city-owned land in southeast Washington, which the company said will be the largest urban greenhouse of its kind in the world. Giant will stock its D.C.-area food stores with produce grown year-round in the greenhouse. The operation will create up to 20 full-time jobs and more than 100 construction jobs, and convert underutilized land into a sustainable farm, according to the companies.

Md., Va., D.C. highly ranked for LEED

Maryland and Virginia are ranked second and third, respectively, in the United States Green Building Council’s annual list of the Top 10 States for LEED Green Building. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the most widely used and recognized green building rating system in the world. LEED-certified spaces use less energy, save money for families, businesses and taxpayers, reduce carbon emissions and contribute to a healthier environment. The USGBC ranked Illinois as leading the nation in 2013 for LEED-certified commercial and institutional green building projects. If the District of Columbia was a state, it would have filled fourth place on the Top List.

Choice Hotels sees 4Q earnings rise

Rockville-based Choice Hotels International Inc. reported a 10 percent increase in fourth-quarter earnings but an 8 percent decrease for 2013 compared with 2012. Choice, which franchises more than 6,300 hotels in the U.S. and abroad that account for more than half a million rooms, saw diluted earnings per share for the quarter of 46 cents, compared with 42 cents in the corresponding quarter of 2012. For the year, earnings were $1.91, compared with $2.07 for 2012. The company said it expected continued growth in the company’s core franchising business in 2014 and said it planned to sell three company-owned Mainstay hotels.

New all-suite hotel opens in Aberdeen

Hilton Worldwide, a global hospitality company, announced the opening of Home2Suites by Hilton Baltimore/Aberdeen, its 29th hotel nationally and its third in the Greater Baltimore area and fourth in Maryland. The five-story, 107-suite hotel is only the second LEED Silver-certified hotel in the brand’s portfolio, with such features as low-flow showers and faucets, recycled flooring and carpet, saline pools and Energy Star appliances. The Aberdeen property is owned by Aberdeen Hotels Partners LLC and managed by Cherry Cove Hospitality. Other Home2Suites hotels are located in White Marsh, Baltimore and Lexington Park.

Host Hotels’ earnings improve in 4Q

Host Hotels & Resorts Inc., of Bethesda, a lodging real estate investment trust that owns upscale and luxury full-service hotel properties, announced strong financial results for the fourth-quarter of 2013 and the year as a whole. The company reported quarterly earnings of 16 cents per share, versus a loss of 4 cents for the year-ago period. For the 12-month period ended Dec. 31, 2013, earnings were 42 cents compared to 8 cents in the 2012 year. The company attributed its improved results to strong growth in revenue spurred by higher room rates and occupancy rates. Revenue at comparable hotels was up 6 percent for the quarter and 4.9 percent for the full year.

Census data show less Md. farmland lost

New data from the Census of Agriculture indicate a slowing rate of lost farmland in Maryland, according to the Maryland Department of Agriculture. Newly released data show a 1.0 percent (21,011 acre) loss in 2012 compared to a 1.3 percent (25,874 acre) loss in 2007, and a 5.5 percent (115,433 acre) loss in 2002. Other findings: Since the last Census was conducted in 2007, there were 4.5 percent (578) fewer farms, and average farm size increased to 166 acres from 160. Also, the value of agricultural products sold increased 24 percent to $2.27 billion, with an average per farm increase of 30 percent to $185,329. Full Census results will be released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in May.

Results improve for LaSalle hotel REIT

LaSalle Hotel Properties, a hotel real estate investment trust based in Bethesda, reported adjusted Funds From Operations of $55.8 million, or 55 cents per diluted share, on revenue of $252 million for the fourth quarter of 2013. That compared to adjusted FFO of $41.3 million, or 47 cents per diluted share, on revenue of $215.7 million for the prior-year quarter. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had forecast, on average, fourth-quarter earnings per share of 55 cents and revenue of $249.4 million. LaSalle Hotel Properties owns 45 upscale, full-service hotels with 11,400 rooms in 10 states and the District of Columbia.

Pebblebrook REIT sees improvement in 4Q

Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, of Bethesda, a real estate investment trust focused on luxury hotels in large U.S. cities, reported fourth-quarter adjusted Funds From Operations of $24.6 million, or 39 cents per diluted share, compared with FFO of $18.5 million, or 30 cents per diluted share, for the same period last year. Revenue for the 2013 quarter was $126.76 million, compared to $104.7 million for the year-ago period. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had forecast, on average, earnings per share of 36 cents on revenue of $128.82 million. Pebblebrook owns or has an ownership interest in 29 hotels located in 10 states and the District of Columbia.

UM team is finalist in ULI competition

A graduate-level student team from the University of Maryland is among four finalist teams competing in the Urban Land Institute’s 12th annual Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition. The teams, selected from 163 student teams from 72 universities in the U.S. and Canada, are from UM, Georgia Tech University, Harvard University and the University of Texas, Austin. The competition’s first round called for proposals to redevelop a historic neighborhood in Nashville, Tenn. The four finalists will make presentations on April 2-3 in Nashville before a panel of urban design experts, with the winning team awarded a $50,000 grand prize, and the other teams each receiving $10,000.

Annapolis building to be redeveloped

The Hampshire Cos., of Morristown, N.J., a full-service, private real estate investment firm, unveiled plans for the redevelopment of 2510 Riva Road in Annapolis. When completed, the 93,660-square-foot building, a former Verizon Wireless facility, would be transformed into a headquarters-quality, LEED Silver-certified, building equipped with state-of-the-art mechanical systems. The building’s architect is New York-based Kohn Pedersen Fox, an internationally renowned architectural firm known for innovative designs that address density patterns and collaborative interaction, while making use of natural light and the latest energy-saving technologies. Construction is slated to begin in the fourth quarter of 2014. J. Scott Wimbrow, Christopher Bennett, Patricia Farrell and Justin Mullen of Mackenzie Commercial Real Estate Services are the exclusive leasing agents for the property.

PERSONNEL

Jones Lang LaSalle, a national professional services and investment management firm offering specialized real estate services, said two longtime real estate professionals, Terri Harrington and Antony M. Gross, have joined the firm as senior vice presidents and will co-lead the agency leasing group in the Greater Baltimore region. Harrington, formerly a vice president at MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate Services, has been engaged in a commercial real estate practice since 1993, and has negotiated hundreds of leases in Baltimore’s central business district. She currently represents close to 2.5 million square feet of office space throughout the Baltimore area. Gross, also a former vice president at MacKenzie, has 15 years of experience in commercial real estate in Baltimore, and has negotiated more than 200 leases totaling over 5 million square feet of space. He currently represents close to 2.5 million square feet of office product throughout the region.