Thursday, December 01, 2011
|Seattle Times||Daily Journal of Commerce Headline|
|Mastro bankruptcy trustee warns penny on the dollar payout could be delayed||Real Estate Buzz: A major remodel for officespace.com?|
|Boeing, union seal deal for jets, jobs, peace||Officespace.com was sold in an under-the-radar deal, and there are indications that some big changes are ahead for the venerable source of commercial real estate data.
The Seattle-based company was sold a year ago, yet only a handful of people knew about the deal. That’s ironic for a company whose success is based on transparency. Brokers and tenants — and reporters who cover commercial real estate — regularly turn to officespace.com, yet for 12 months most have been unaware of the ownership change.
Details of the sale and what will happen to the company are unclear though more information is scheduled to be released soon.
Susie Algard is the new owner. She is married to Alex Algard, founder and CEO of W3 Data Inc., formerly Whitepages.com, a top 50 website with more than 30 million unique monthly visitors.
Susie Algard confirmed the sale in an email, saying the plan is to “launch a new site and product” in early January, but she would not elaborate.
Kip Spencer, who co-founded the company with John Suryan and has been its public face, deferred questions to the new owner.
Old press clips tell how Spencer and Suryan were brokers at The Norman Co. in 1995 when they hit on the idea of using something called the Internet to market office space. Back then words like “cyberspace” and “information super highway” were hot and sexy.
The company started as Office Space Online. The plan was to track almost all the office space in the Seattle market and provide detailed information on each building, including how much space is available for lease, and the name and number of the leasing agents.
The company expanded to include industrial and retail data for Seattle, and also spread to other markets: Denver, Portland, Spokane, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio. Later, the company expanded to Brazil.
Initially, the website got about 3,000 hits a month. By 2000, traffic surged to about 17,500 hits a day.
At the time the company was preparing for a national rollout, Suryan told the DJC that the potential market was $500 million. “If we can capture 10 to 15 percent of that we’ll be a $50 million to $75 million company.”
Money like that fueled the dotcom boom, and the commercial real estate industry lured many e-entrepreneurs. They created a dizzying array of information providers. It was all too much, and the boom went bust. When that happened about 80 percent of officespace.com’s rivals evaporated.
Officespace.com’s early arrival on the scene helped it weather the storm. Another plus is its accuracy. You can attribute that to the company’s locally sourced data and staff continuity. While other companies had high turnover among researchers and data collectors, officespace.com’s Seattle regional director John Heimbigner has been with the company for almost 14 years.
What happens next remains to be seen, but here’s an early indication: officespace.com’s new home page lists 21 new markets.
Harbor looking at options
There’s some speculation that Harbor Properties is going though a recapitalization and could be sold to Urban Partners.
That seems like major news given the rich history of the Seattle company and its status as a leader in the white-hot multi-family market. But Harbor President and CEO Doug Daley says what’s going on with Harbor is not unique.
He confirms the company has been looking at several recapitalization options over the last couple of years.
“We’re talking to a variety of groups and one of those is Urban Partners,” he said. “The intent would be for Harbor to continue to operate.”
The late Stimson Bullitt founded Harbor, which has built some landmark projects, including the nationally acclaimed Harbor Steps. The company has two large mixed-use projects under construction in Belltown and Columbia City, and is “looking to grow our platform,” Daley said. To do that, it needs more capital.
Two weeks ago, Harbor sold the Stevens Pass ski area for $20.5 million to generate capital for its primary business: transit-oriented development in Seattle. Daley said the Harbor board had talked about such a sale off and on for five years, and started talking with the buyer, CNL Lifestyle Properties, about two years ago.
“These things take a long time,” Daley said. “[Recapitalization] could too. What shape it comes in can take different forms.”
Curtain rises on The Martin
Vulcan Real Estate announced this fall it was reviving plans for a 24-story multi-family development in Belltown, on a site due east of the Cinerama theater. Construction of the apartment project is to start early next year.
We wondered about the project’s name: The Martin. Old-timers may remember the Cinerama, which Vulcan’s Paul Allen owns, was called Martin Cinerama when it opened in 1963. The Martin family of Georgia opened Cinerama theaters across the country.
“With their name having been dropped from the Cinerama theater at some point in the past, it seemed appropriate to recognize their neighborhood influence by resurrecting their name for the new residential structure next door,” a Vulcan spokesperson said.
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