Commercial Real Estate Forecast Predicts Houston Retail Market Returning to Pre-Pandemic Levels

A report released by the Dallas-based real estate group Weitzman predicted Houston’s commercial real estate market would return to pre-pandemic levels of occupancy in 2022.

Weitzman reached its conclusion after reviewing Houston’s inventory of 163.1 million square feet in multi-tenant retail projects with 25,000 square feet or more.

Retailers leasing in existing space was one of the factors leading to the market’s resurgence, according to the report.

The report cited the high demand for space from restaurants as another factor, using examples such as Willie’s Ice House and The Halal Guys in Pearland.

According to data from the Greater Houston Partnership, restaurants in Texas saw operating capacity returning close to 100% throughout 2021 and into 2022, despite COVID-19 surges from the delta and omicron variants. Click to read more at www.communityimpact.com.

Bowman Expands Texas Operations Through Acquisition of Houston and San Antonio Based Terra Associates, Inc.

Bowman Consulting Group Ltd. (the “Company” or “Bowman”) (NASDAQ: BWMN), today announced it had entered into a definitive purchase agreement for the acquisition of Terra Associates, Inc. (“Terra”). Closing is scheduled to occur on December 31, 2021, subject to customary closing conditions. Headquartered in Houston, Texas, Terra delivers civil design and engineering solutions to clients focused on traffic and transportation planning, water-wastewater solutions, landscape and irrigation systems, office and industrial facilities, and multi-family development. Under the continuing leadership of Vickie Henkel, Terra’s staff of 30+ professionals work from offices in Houston and San Antonio for both public and private sector clients. In connection with their water-wastewater practice, Terra serves in the role of District Engineer for several Texas-based Municipal Utility Districts (MUDs).

“Terra is a company with a forty-year heritage of serving eastern Texas,” said Gary Bowman, CEO of Bowman. “The leadership of Terra has surrounded themselves with a team of committed and energetic professionals who will all be great additions to Bowman. We have been intent on growing our Texas operations and this acquisition, following closely on the heels of our acquisition of 1519 Surveying, fortifies Bowman’s presence in the Lone Star state. Terra’s experience in commercial site work, transportation design and utility district services are highly complementary to our portfolio of services and align with our growth plans and evolving market demand. I am pleased to welcome everyone at Terra to Bowman and I am excited about the potential for our future together.”

“Choosing to join Bowman was an easy decision,” said Vickie Henkel, CEO of Terra. “Bowman’s approach to growth is very exciting to all of us at Terra. We’ve gotten to know the leadership at Bowman over the course of the acquisition process and we all feel very comfortable with the decision. Their commitment to helping our leadership and staff grow without changing the core of who we are is a big part of what makes us excited about this opportunity. The opportunity to be a part of an entrepreneurial public company is both exciting and energizing. We are all looking forward to the future as a Bowman company.” Click to read more at www.valdostadailytimes.com.

Houston-Based Asset Living Acquires JMG Realty

Asset Living, a Houston-based leader in the property management sector, announced today that it has acquired JMG Realty, a real estate company specializing in the development and management of multi-family communities, headquartered in Atlanta. With the addition of JMG, Asset Living expands its footprint into the Southeast by adding more than 20,000 multi-family units and a new corporate office in Atlanta. This is the second acquisition for Asset Living in 2021.

“We began our conversations with Ryan McGrath many months ago and are delighted to be joining the Asset Living brand that shares similar principles as well as a history of establishing a loyal client base throughout the years,” said Karlton Jackson, CEO of JMG Realty. “After working with Ryan’s team to make this acquisition possible, I am confident that we’ll accomplish many amazing things together in 2022 and beyond.”

With over two decades of experience and approximately 575 employees, JMG Realty brings expertise in management, redevelopment, financial, and investment services for multi-family, affordable, and build-to-rent real estate properties servicing both private and institutional owners. The company has both regional and divisional offices located throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and Southwest.

“I’m excited to welcome JMG to the Asset Living family—it was an honor to collaborate with both Karlton and Tim to make this venture a reality,” said Ryan McGrath, CEO and President of Asset Living. “Don’t be mistaken, just because the acquisition is official doesn’t mean that we’ll be slowing down anytime soon. Now, the real work begins. Our plan is to continue this momentum of growth into the new year.”

This acquisition is an investment in Asset Living’s multi-family, affordable and build-to-rent portfolios from both a growth and geographical expansion perspective. The change will also bring new opportunities and resources to JMG employees, who will also have access to new tools and technologies to best serve clients.

“This is an exciting time to be joining the Asset Living brand,” said Tim Brock, President of JMG Realty. “We’ve been so impressed by Asset Living’s ability to grow while maintaining best-in-class client service, and we’re excited to bring that same drive to the Southeast.”

In November, Asset Living announced the company had acquired Dallas-based City Gate Property Group. Last year, Asset Living strategically acquired three organizations, growing by more than 60 percent in one year. McGrath plans to continue expanding the company’s footprint to bring Asset Living’s partners industry-leading talent and an enhanced suite of services.

Houston Office | Monthly Market Snapshot | December 2021

Houston Office market vacancy at 25.4%.

HOUSTON OFFICE VACANCY STILL PUSHING UPWARDS
The vacancy rate increased 180 basis points to 25.4% as of November 30, compared to this time last year at 23.6%. Almost 2.6 million sq. ft. has been delivered to the market in 2021, with half of that space available for lease. At a time when leasing activity hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels, overall office net absorption registered at negative 2.4 million sq. ft.

CONSTRUCTION JUST UNDER 2.5 MILLION SQ. FT.
As of year-to-date November 30, 2021, there is 2.4 million sq. ft. under construction, representing non-owner-occupied buildings 20,000 sq. ft. and over. The submarket with the most square footage under construction is the Texas Medical Center, underscoring continued momentum toward life sciences office product. Texas A&M and partner Medistar are underway on construction of the 510,000-sq.-ft. Horizon Tower—a state-of-the-art life sciences building—at 6929 Main Street, which is expected to deliver in Q1 2023.

FUTURE JOB GROWTH EXPECTED FROM SECTORS OTHER THAN ENERGY
Houston shed 361,400 jobs at the start of the pandemic, but the metropolitan area has since recovered about 74.4% of those positions, according to the Greater Houston Partnership’s annual employment forecast. About 8,700 jobs are expected to be added in the professional, scientific, and technical services sector, which includes office-using industries such as accounting, engineering, architecture, and law to name a few. However, it’s not clear how many of the office-using jobs will translate to the need for more office space. Click to read more at www.naipartners.com.

Elandis Acquires 569-unit Multifamily Communities in Houston

HOUSTON, Nov 2021 –Elandis, a real estate ownership and property management company, today announced that it has acquired Hudson & Crosby at Westchase, two multifamily communities with a combined 569 residential units in Houston.

Located at 2909 Hayes Rd., Houston, Texas, the two-story properties ideally match Elandis’s stated goal of acquiring workforce housing communities throughout the Sun Belt states. The acquisition price was not disclosed.
The centrally located communities, which were built in 1980, have three shopping centers within a half mile for ease of shopping and for meeting residents’ everyday needs. It is also within easy access of major thoroughfares.

Hudson & Crosby at Westchase feature one-, two- and three-bedroom residences, along with shared amenities which include a swimming pool and clubhouse, covered parking, business center, and a fitness center. The communities will benefit from a comprehensive in-unit upgrade program, along with upgrades to its common areas and amenities. Click to read more at www.elandis.com.

Major Texas Retail Markets are Back to Pre-pandemic Vacancy Levels

The pandemic hasn’t exactly been kind to retailers as residents across the nation were asked to stay home for months on end last spring and summer. However, despite the ongoing nature of the COVID pandemic, there are not only signs of life for Texas retail, but an indicator that the health of the retail market is strong. Recent reports from NAI Partners specifically look at the markets in Austin, San Antonio and Houston, and offer compelling evidence of a return to normalcy.

Perhaps the biggest story in Texas retail at the moment is the success of the San Antonio market. According to the NAI Partners report, San Antonio retail rents have actually reached a new all-time high. Inflation concerns aside, the average triple net lease asking rent has risen by nearly a dollar from $16.08 in October 2020 to $17.06 this October. Vacancy and availability is also down in San Antonio. The current vacancy is just 5.2% while the availability rate is just under 7%.

The report also notes that this October was the first time in three years that the amount of net absorption was higher than the volume of deliveries between January and October, suggesting that demand is beginning to outpace supply.

There were a number of big deals that helped push the leasing activity well over 2 million square feet. Floor and Decor took 91,000 square feet at 13905 North I-35 while gyms LA Fitness and Crunch Fitness leased 50,000 square feet and 30,000 square feet respectively.

The story is similar in Austin as the city continues to witness tremendous population growth and investment. The vacancy rate currently hovers just under 4%, which is the lowest rate in three years, according to the report. This means that this is not only back to a pre-pandemic vacancy level, but this level of low vacancy predates the pandemic by at least a year. A year prior, the vacancy rate was slightly higher at 4.6%.

Also similar to San Antonio, overall availability is down and net lease prices are up. The overall availability this October was 5.7% — down from 6.3% a year prior — while triple net lease rents were up a few cents to $21.38.

There is less than 700,000 square feet of new retail space under construction in Austin, which could see vacancies and rents continue to head in the same direction as demand increases. Leasing activity was more or less unchanged between October 2020 and October 2021 at 1.78 million square feet.

Notable leases include H-E-B’s 102,000-square-foot lease in Liberty Hill and a 62,000-square-foot lease in Taylor, the report highlights. Ashley HomeStore claimed a 40,000-square-foot space in Cedar Park, also making it one of the biggest lease deals of the year for Austin.

And finally, we take a look at the Houston retail market, which is also quickly gaining ground. Unlike the office market, which has struggled in this last year, the retail market in Houston is back to pre-pandemic vacancy levels, the report reveals.

Overall retail vacancy was down to 5.8% this past October, which is a slight improvement from 6.1% during the same period in 2020. Availability is mostly unchanged at 3.925 million square feet versus the 4.046 million square feet from October 2020.

However, the big story here is leasing activity and net absorption. Year-to-date, Houston has witnessed 6.39 million square feet of lease deals and had 4.87 million square feet of space absorbed. The net absorption is almost double the number from the same period of January-October 2020. In fact, it’s the first time since 2016 that the city has seen a similar absorption rate, the report indicates.

The leases highlighted in the report include a 136,000-square-foot deal by Target in Montgomery County, the 77,697-square-foot lease by AXXA Auto on Gulf Freeway and Hobby Lobby’s 56,000-square-foot lease renewal in Willowbrook.