Westside Centre in Huntsville is Purchased

Westside Centre, the retail power center on University Drive, has been sold to Big V Property Group of Charlotte, N.C.

Holliday Fenoglio Fowler marketed the 477,408-square-foot center for Nuveen Real Estate and SITE Centers.

Westside Centre, anchored by a Super Target, is home to Ross Dress for Less, Shoe Carnival, Five Below, Big Lots, PetSmart, Men’s Wearhouse, Tuesday Morning, Stein Mart, Dollar Tree, Zoës Kitchen and Party City. 

Completed in 2001, the center is at 6275 University Drive and is visible to more than 58,000 vehicles per day.  It is adjacent to the 4,000-acre Cummings Research Park, the second largest research park in the country and the fourth largest in the world.  More than 38,500 residents earning an average annual income of $81,000 live within a three-mile radius of the center. 

BVPG owns and operates 44 grocery and discount anchored neighborhood and community shopping centers totaling 5.3 million square feet, primarily located in strong secondary markets throughout the Southeast.

Nuveen Real Estate is one of the largest investment managers in the world with $125 billion of assets under management. 

SITE Centers is an owner and manager of open-air shopping centers that provide a highly compelling shopping experience and merchandise mix for retail partners and consumers. 

Neither rain, nor more rain, nor even more rain can slow the progress at MidCity Huntsville

While constant rain, some heavy enough to cause flooding, has been a seemingly daily companion to the Tennessee Valley community, the wet conditions haven’t slowed progress at MidCity Huntsville.

“We only had three good days in December,’’ said Nadia Niakossary, project coordinator for developer RCP Companies. “But we figured that into the time frame. We’re still on schedule.’’

The multi-use MidCity campus occupies the former Madison Square Mall property and surrounding area. Ground was broken in 2017, the first business on site opened in August and completion date is 2022.

Dave & Buster’s is nearing completion and scheduled to open this summer

Niakossary said work was proceeding on current projects despite weather delays.

“We are diligently working on the construction of the University Drive-facing retail blocks,’’ she said. “When visiting MidCity today, you’ll see five vertical buildings. Top Golf and The Camp with Alchemy Coffee are open for business.

“The Camp just reopened (in March) for springtime, with the food trucks and bar open Thursday through Sunday and the coffee shop open seven days a week. We have a diverse lineup of live music and unique events happening there every weekend.’’

High Point Climbing and Fitness is nearing completion in the center of the frontage and anticipates an opening this spring, Niakossary said. In front of High Point, REI Co-op’s foundation has been set and steel frames are going up.

The opening for REI Co-op, an outdoors store, will be the first for the company in Alabama.

Also, the Dave & Buster’s building is also nearing completion on the west side of MidCity, near Old Monrovia Road. Dave & Buster’s is on schedule to open this Summer.

Construction continues on the REI Co-op store, the first in Alabama

Meanwhile, Niakossary said Pies & Pints is under construction and the building that houses Wahlburgers and other commercial uses has site work complete in preparation for the foundation.

“We are in the design process for the $30 million Aloft Hotel, The Point and Jake’s Mews,’’ she said. “We are also in preliminary stages of the $75 million, 300-unit multi-family residential (complex) over the retail block in the center of the project. We’re also working on a $20 million mixed-use, office-over-retail building.’’

According to the MidCity website, when completed, the campus will include a total of 350,000 square feet of specialty retail, 150,000 of high-tech office space, a wide range of dining options, the 100-plis room hotel, and 560 amenity-rich residential units.

Is Now a Good Time to Still be in Real Estate?

So, the big question is, is now a good time to still be in real estate?

Zack Childress

As president of the Madison County Real Estate Investors Association, I get this question all the time.

And it is a very vital question: Is the market going to stay strong or is it cooling off? If we had a crystal ball, we would all be in a better place; but we don’t have that crystal ball.

There are things that we have to look for but, I will say this, we are in a great real estate market. This market is producing massive amounts of success for new and seasoned real estate investors.

However, I will say it will not stay here. But, that does not mean that you shouldn’t be in real estate right now, whether you’re fixing and flipping properties or you’re buying and holding as long as you’re buying them at the right price.

After 16 years of being an active full-time real estate investor, I can tell you that the market will turn. It’s just when, but real estate will always be a good investment. You just have to know which strategies to use during which market cycle.

What do I mean by this? Which strategy to use during which market cycle is based on the market cycle at that time. For example, right now we’re in an extremely hot market, meaning buyers are buying and are paying retail; some are even paying more than listed price in some areas.

So, during a hot cycle, when properties are being sold quickly and for more than they list for, the best strategy to deploy is a fix and flip. Therefore, you’re doing what’s called a cash grab during the hot cycle. Whether that’s a $10,000 spread or a $50,000 spread on what we we’re able to sell it for. We are in a perfect market for this right now.

But when markets do turn, and prices do come down, it doesn’t mean you should stop investing. It just means that you should change your strategy. You should move more into long-term buy and holds because the prices are cheaper.

And, in most cases, the rents go up because when a market shifts, it’s usually because of some economic indicators and one of those indicators is foreclosures. When foreclosures happen, you have displaced homeowners, who then need to rent instead of own, which makes a higher demand for a rental property.

So, to the big question: Is now a good time to be in real estate?

Yes. Now is a perfect time to be in real estate. And even if the market turns, it’s still a perfect time to be in real estate. You just have to understand how to change your strategy or get the information or the specialized knowledge to be able to change those strategies. But let’s talk for a minute on what to look out for.

What should we be looking for if the market has gone a term? Well, one of the things that we want to look at is available inventory on the market. Is the inventory still limited? Is it short? Or is there an abundance of inventory?

The national average has always been consistent around four months of inventory. Right now, in our area there is around 1 1/2 to 2 months of inventory. So, we have a shortage of inventory and we have more buyers than there is inventory available which creates the hot market.

The other thing that you want to keep your eyes out on is the listed price that properties are going on the market for versus what they sell for.

When you see a downturn, in that where a property is listing for $100 a square foot but it’s selling for $95 a square foot, then that means it is no longer a seller’s market. In most cases, it is becoming more of a buyer’s market, which means there’s going to be a shift in the market cycle.

A third one that you should keep your eye on is “days on market”. When DOM is consistently at 30 days the market and, all of a sudden you’re seeing 60 and 90 days on market, that is another sign of a shift that is happening.

So, those are a few things that you can keep your eyes on to protect yourself as you become active in the real estate market.

But I want to leave you with this: Don’t be scared if the market turns; just be prepared if the market turns, then move into cashflow, move into buying rental units, income-producing properties.

At a cheaper price, you could buy now for the long-term hold. You will get a better cash on cash return on those deals. But it is always my outlook that you should learn how to do all of this, whether it’s fixing and flipping or buy and holds.

We provide a lot of great information at the Madison County REIA, and you can always go to our website and learn more about market conditions. We have a real estate talk show that is recorded for the website. We also have monthly meetings that you can come out to and be part of. And so I encourage you, check out  www.MadisonCountyREIA.com.

(Zack Childress has been a real estate investor for more than 15 years and is president of the Madison County Real Estate Investors Association)

AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown Open for Business

The AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown, the first AC Hotels by Marriott in Alabama, is officially open to guests.

Adjacent to the Von Braun Center and across the street from Big Spring Park, the hotel includes six levels and 120 guest rooms, as well as co-working spaces, event space for up to 200 and multiple beverage and food experiences.

Combining elements of Huntsville’s historic past and contemporary European design to create a modern but comfortable look and feel, the hotel allows guests to co-work by day, and relax and socialize by night.

“We are delighted to introduce the AC Hotels brand to the Rocket City,” said Srinath Yedla, president and CEO of Yedla Management Co., which will manage the property. “AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown remains true to the brand’s philosophy and centers on a frictionless experience for on-the-go guests.”

Developed by Doradus Partners in partnership with RCP Cos., the hotel was the 10th U.S. location for AC Hotels, a global joint venture with Spanish hotelier Antonio Catalan.

The hotel’s three flexible meeting rooms are named after the city’s historic mills — Lincoln, Lowe and Merrimack. Combined, they make up The Gallery at Big Spring Park — an event space for up to 200 guests that overlooks the downtown park and is perfect for wedding receptions.

Attached to the event space is The Veranda — the hotel’s second-story terrace bar overlooking Big Spring Park. The Veranda is set to open this summer.

Atlanta chef and restaurateur Marc Taft was tapped to develop the hotel’s signature cocktail — “The Starry Night,” which is a nod to Huntsville’s integral role Huntsville in America’s space program as well as its burgeoning arts scene.

The AC Kitchen serves a European-inspired continental breakfast selection of flaky croissants, savory egg tarts and Nespresso coffee. A signature piece in all AC Hotels is the Berkel slicer, offering visitors hand-cut meats including prosciutto.

AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown is the first tenant for CityCentre at Big Spring, a $100 million, mixed-use development. City Centre includes 30,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 277 upscale apartment units and an artisanal food hall.

Fleming Farms, Redstone Gateway Projects Underway

Construction is underway on a pair of BL Harbert projects in Huntsville.

Ground was broken this month on Fleming Farms, a senior housing community, and 8800 Redstone Gateway, an office development.

Fleming Farms, on Whitesburg Drive, will support the needs of a wide range of seniors from independent living and assisted living to memory care.

The facility offers 183 open-concept apartment homes with modern appliances, ample storage and high-end fixtures and finishes. Amenities include paved walking paths, a fitness center, therapy room, aerobic pool, clubroom, salon/barbershop, bistro and full-service dining.  It is developed by Dominion Partners.

8800 Redstone Gateway is a 76,000-square-feet office development located in Redstone Gateway, a mixed-use development being built by Corporate Office Properties Trust and Jim Wilson & Associates just north of Redstone Arsenal’s Gate 9. At the groundbreaking ceremony, the Georgia Teach Research Institute announced it would be one of the main tenants in the new building.

“This is an exciting time for BL Harbert and the city of Huntsville as we are both committing to Huntsville’s economic and community development,” Johnny Garlington, U.S. Group President of BL Harbert International said. “BL Harbert is honored to continue our work in Huntsville on two major projects, and we look forward to what is to come.”

Both projects are scheduled for completion in 2020.

Huntsville area home sales, average prices up; inventory down

The number of homes sold in Huntsville was up over a year ago, according to the latest report from the Alabama Center for Real Estate.  The median sales price and average sales price of homes last month also saw an increase over February a year ago.

The report also showed this was a “seller’s market” with a low inventory of homes available.

The residential sales totaled 520 units, representing an increase of 83 transactions from last February’s 437 units. The median sales price for February was $201,050, a 6.7 percent increase over the February 2018 price of $188,500.

Also, the report said sales increased from January but the average and median prices were down.

“Historical data indicates that February residential sales on average (2014-18) increased from January by 8.4 percent,” the report also said. “This month’s sales increased 8.8 percent from the prior month.

“Historical data indicates that February median sales prices on average (2014-18) increased 2.4 percent from January. The current month’s median price decreased 6.5 percent from the previous month.”

The average sales price in Huntsville for February was $235,147, a 7.4 percent increase from one year ago, but it was a drop from January.

“Historical data indicates that February average sales prices on average (2014-18) increase by 3.3 percent from January,” ACRE said. “The current month’s average price decreased 1.1 percent from the prior month.”

The Huntsville area currently has 2 1/2 months of supply, down from 4 months in February 2018.

“February’s 2.5 months of supply is well below the 5-year average of 6.8 months,” the report said. “Huntsville’s inventory-to-sales ratio is 3.5 months below equilibrium, indicating a continued transition where sellers typically have elevated bargaining power.”

A Brand New Time in South Huntsville or, Rather, a New Brand

In the next couple of months, south Huntsville will enter a new era. In fact, a “brand’ new era.

South Huntsville business owners, community members and government officials are coming together to create a vibrant and thriving district.

Extending from, essentially, Martin Road south to the Tennessee River, South Huntsville Main Street will be a corridor reflecting a diverse lifestyle of work and play.

Just imagine, driving south on the parkway through the Martin Road “tunnel.” On the “ceiling” and the sides are row upon row of colored lights.

Talk about a grand entrance!

And as you exit the “tunnel,” laid out in front of you are banners on the light poles welcoming visitors.

There are local businesses along the road, each touting their wares and inviting customers inside.

The South Huntsville Business Association, with Executive Director Bekah Schmidt and President Jerry Cargile, has been the impetus to improving this part of the city.

A major step was being accepted into Main Street Alabama, a nonprofit organization that uses a national model with a 40-year track record of revitalizing downtowns and neighborhoods.

The process concentrates in four areas: organization, design, promotion and economic vitality. Each one is guided by Main Street’s transformation strategy to remain focused on a specific market-based outcome.

With a solid and active SHBA, the organization stage is answered. The design aspect concerns itself with aesthetics and function, such as the tunnel lights, improved landscaping and redesigned parking areas.

Promotion will incorporate some of the design aspects as well as sharing information and marketing the district. Economic vitality is key in that there must be room and desire for businesses to grow and prosper.

To help in the process, SHBA has launched a South Huntsville Community Survey. It is anonymous and the feedback will help provide direction for businesses to grow in South Huntsville. The findings will be shared with the public at a community meeting June 6. You can find the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/sohunt. For information, visit http://shba.biz/

Also at the meeting, the Main Street Alabama officials will revisit south Huntsville to launch a branding presentation, which includes a logo for the district and several variations of it; a marketing strategy; and other information to help south Huntsville soar to new heights.

(Bud McLaughlin is editor of the Huntsville Business Journal. He can be heard every Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. with Fred Holland on WTKI-FM 105.3 and 1450 AM.)

3 Things You Must Know Before Buying Real Estate Investments

Have you ever wanted to become a real estate investor?

That’s a question I am sure lots of people are asking themselves right, especially when we look around and see that some of the wealthiest people have large portfolios of real estate investments, whether that is single-family residences or apartments or even commercial space.

Real estate has always been an avenue for creating extra income as well as, really, building a financial future for your family through income-producing properties.

I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to be in real estate right now because the market is hot. And this makes a lot of people want to jump into real estate and it couldn’t be a better time to get into real estate.

But you also may be saying to yourself that you don’t know a lot about real estate.

And there are a few things you need to know before you even start going out and looking at properties, making offers or even evaluating real estate deals. Those few things boil down to what we refer to as the three things that you must do before buying real estate.

Let’s talk about them.

  1. Know your market. This is crucial to your success when it comes to doing the right deals in the right area. You need to know where the markets are for rental properties; or which areas are going to be best for fix-and-flip type properties. You can do this through gathering data from a real estate agent. By knowing the market it helps you understand when you’re looking at deals how to figure the right strategy for that area. For example, you don’t want to try to fix and flip a property to sell that’s in a heavy rental market.
  2. Build a power team. In real estate, you’re only as successful as your power team. Your power team will have professionals – real estate agents, contractors, handymen, property managers, mortgage brokers, bankers and closing attorneys.
  3. A financial source. This is something that a lot of people don’t do right away, but you want to be prepared, so you want to go out and build relationships with local banks, community banks and credit unions. The local relationship is vital because they’re going to be easier to work with. They’re going to have better programs and they’re going to really want to help you build your real estate business in the local community.

From here, you can start getting the specialized knowledge for what you want to do in real estate investing. But the ultimate key is if you want to become a real estate investor, identify these three things and then move into specialized knowledge.

Now, you may ask, “Where can I find some of this specialized knowledge?”

Right?

Well, you can find it in investment books and videos on YouTube.

You can also get this information from a mentor to help you grow or, if you want to be a part of a like-minded group, you can come out to a local real estate investors association meeting.

Locally, the Madison County Real Estate Investors Association has been helping area investors for more than 15 years. The group holds monthly meetings on different topics and it might be something that you’re interested in. For a schedule visit www.joinournextmeeting.com.

I encourage you to look into that and I’m looking forward to seeing you out at one of those meetings.

(Zack Childress is president of the Madison County Real Estate Investors Association).

Good Economy Attracts Bad Daddy

Huntsville’s growth continues to draw companies from out-of-state, hoping to latch onto the good fortune here.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar is opening its first Alabama eatery in the Rocket City. The restaurant will be in Times Plaza, the work-retail-dining development on South Memorial Parkway.

“We chose Times Plaza as our first Alabama location because of the growth the city is experiencing and the location’s visibility from the adjacent (Memorial Parkway),” said Bad Daddy’s CEO Boyd Hoback. “The area includes major upscale retailers and offers synergy among businesses.

“Its heavy traffic will allow us to cater to lunchtime business crowds, family dinners, and be a great place to grab a drink after work.”

Bad Daddy’s is a scratch kitchen serving premium angus burgers and quintessential American fare. The 4,107-square-foot restaurant is slated to open in the fall.

“Simply put, Bad Daddy’s elevates the standard beer and burger to a whole new level,” said Amy Nedwell, director of marketing for Bad Daddy’s. “We are a high-intensity scratch kitchen serving chef-driven menu options made to customer specifications. Best of all, we have something for everyone because we go beyond beef.

“Our appetizers, salads and veggie burgers have won us much praise, and we make sure Bad Daddy’s has something to satisfy everyone’s taste buds.”

In an effort to be an inclusive destination, the eatery serves an expansive menu that includes much more than its award-winning, premium burgers and fries. Guests can also enjoy bison, tuna, turkey, chicken, and a vegetarian black bean burger.

“By far, our most popular menu item is the Create-Your-Own burger or salad option,” said Nedwell. “We have more than 60 options that patrons can pick and choose to create the perfect burger or salad, in addition to our signature selections on the menu. Actually, the team has calculated well over a million options with the different ingredients we have.”

Local beers will be available on tap at the Times Plaza location, as well as a signature cocktail menu. There’s even a selection of adult milkshakes and a Happy Hour menu that’s available daily. Kids are also welcome to treat themselves thanks to a children’s menu featuring sliders, hot dogs, grilled cheese, tenders and more.

“Bad Daddy’s is an iconic brand that already has a dedicated following in several states,” said Anusha Davis, Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate leasing agent. “They have been searching for a way to enter the Alabama market, and we are thrilled they chose Huntsville as their introduction.

“We have a community that readily embraces new concepts and our city’s growth is attracting more well-known brands to join developments like Times Plaza.”

Visit baddaddysburgerbar.com

New Tower is Hospital’s Largest Project in Nearly 40 Years

Huntsville Hospital has broken ground on the biggest medical construction project in the downtown area in almost four decades.

The new Orthopedic & Spine Tower will feature 375,000 square feet of surgical, patient care and specialized physical rehabilitation space in the heart of the hospital campus. The tower will house the hospital’s orthopedic and spine surgery programs.

Scheduled to open in 2021, the seven-story building is across Gallatin Street from the main entrance of Huntsville Hospital; a walking bridge will connect the buildings.

“As our community and region continue to grow, our hospital is keeping pace with the need for advanced health care services and facilities,” said David Spillers, CEO of Huntsville Hospital Health System.

Jeff Samz, the system’s COO, said the Orthopedic & Spine Tower will have 72 private patient rooms, as well as 24 state-of-the-art operating rooms. It will also have a restaurant on the ground floor.

“With the new tower, we will also eliminate most of the semi-private accommodations in our main hospital,” Samz said.

Designed by Chapman Sisson Architects, the Orthopedic & Spine Tower will fill a city block at the corner of Gallatin Street and St. Clair Avenue. It is the largest medical construction project in downtown Huntsville since the hospital opened its north tower in 1980. Robins & Morton is the general contractor.