Monday, September 27, 2010

MoneyGram chooses downtown Dallas for new headquarters

Company is the first to move downtown from outside the area since AT&T

By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News
MoneyGram International – a Minneapolis company that bills itself as one of the world's largest cash transfer firms – is moving its headquarters to Dallas' Uptown district.
The head office move is the latest in a series of relocations to central Dallas in the last few years. It was widely believed that MoneyGram was shopping for office space in the suburbs.
Instead, the company will move its headquarters into part of CentexCorp.'s former office space at 2828 N. Harwood St.


 (Dallas Morning News) – So far in 2010, 94 North Texas hotel foreclosure filings have been recorded compared with 30 filings for the same period in 2009, according to Foreclosure Listing Service.
“Among DFW hotels, the threat of foreclosure has skyrocketed over the past two years,” said George Roddy, president of the Addison-based foreclosure-tracking firm. “For the upcoming foreclosure actions on Oct. 5, eight postings have been filed, threatening hotel projects within the area.”
Hotels with more than $120 million in debt are up for auction next month by the lenders, Foreclosure Listing Service reports. The foreclosure of the 431-room Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas with $175 million in debt was the largest such mortgage default in North Texas in about two decades.
“[Hotel owners] have done everything they can to keep the property going. They’ve used reserves and deferred maintenance,” said John Keeling with the Valencia Group. “The ones most in trouble are the properties that were refinanced in 2007 or 2008 with high debt or people who purchased a property just as we were going into recession.”
In addition to these hotels, 231 North Texas commercial properties with almost $840 million in debt are scheduled for sale next month.


Newly released data from Texas Multiple Listing Services (MLS) show existing home sales are down from last year while average and median prices are up.
“Texas home sales peaked this year in May rather than the normal June-July period because of the expired tax credit stimulus,” said Real Estate Center Research Economist Dr. Jim Gaines.
“August 2010 sales were down 14 percent from August last year but were up 3.6 percent from dismal July figures, which were down 27 percent from the previous year.”
Gaines said average and median prices showed “remarkable strength” given the generally weaker market, increasing by 5.3 percent and 1.9 percent from last August, respectively.
“The higher average price reflects some improvement in the upper-end market, which has been significantly depressed the past couple of years,” he said. “The number of properties offered for sale declined in August, leaving month’s inventory effectively unchanged from July. However, the total number of properties on the market this year is 14 percent greater than in August 2009.”
While total listings were down from the previous month, the average months inventory of unsold homes at the current sales rate remained virtually unchanged at 7.9 months.
Here is how select Texas cities fared in August (data current as of Sept. 23, 2010):

Change from
Last Year

Change from
Last Year
no change
up 4%
down 15%
up 5%
Corpus Christi
no change
up 8%
down 19%
up 5%
El Paso
down 10%
up 6%
Fort Worth
down 14%
up 1%
down 25%
up 3%
down 16%
down 1%
Killeen-Fort Hood
down 28%
up 1%
down 13%
down 3%
up 34%
up 32%
San Antonio
down 9%
up 7%
down 15%
up 10% 
Wichita Falls
down 5%
down 12% 
down 14%
up 1.9%

Annette Strauss Square to Open Thursday in the Arts District

The last of the three AT&T Performing Arts Center venues — after the Winspear Opera House and the Wyly Theatre — officially opens Thursday at noon with a dedicaton ceremony, attended by Mayor Tom Leppert, SMU president Gerald Turner and members of the Strauss family. The new outdoor amphitheatre, designed by Foster + Partners, the architects of the Winspear, replaces a temporary festival stage on the site — and is named after the former Dallas mayor, a longtime supporter of the arts. Tucked under the solar canopy of the Winspear, Strauss Square has seating for 2,400 (give or take).
The full release follows:
AT&T Performing Arts Center Annette Strauss Square Dedication to Take Place on September 30, 2010
Mayor Leppert, Civic Leaders to Honor Venue’s Namesake, Mayor Annette Strauss

WHAT: The AT&T Performing Arts Center will dedicate and cut the ribbon of the Annette Strauss Square, along with city officials, members of the Strauss family and other guests.
Annette Strauss Square is the Center’s outdoor venue named in honor of Annette Strauss, the late former Mayor of Dallas and champion of the Dallas Arts District.
WHEN: Thursday, September 30, 2010, 12 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.
WHERE: Annette Strauss Square at the AT&T Performing Arts Center
2403 Flora Street, Dallas TX
Valet parking available on Flora Street
WHO:Speakers include
Mayor Tom Leppert
Dr. R. Gerald Turner, president, Southern Methodist University
Ted Strauss
Performance by
Division of Dance Class of 2014, Meadows School of the Arts
Vocalists John Campione and Laura Smolik
Pianist Lewis J. Warren (13-year-old prodigy)
DETAILS: Strauss Square replaces a temporary structure, called Annette Strauss Artist Square, that opened in the early 1990s on the site where the AT&T Performing Arts Center now stands. The old Strauss Square, named in honor of the late Annette Strauss (1924 – 1998), a revered former Mayor of Dallas, passionate supporter of the performing arts and an ardent proponent of the Dallas Arts District, was a simple stage and awning, surrounded by level lawn areas, used for community festivals and events.
With lawn seating for up to 2,400, the new Strauss Square provides a serene setting for outdoor performances, festivals and events in the heart of the downtown Dallas Arts District. The venue was designed by Foster + Partners, under the direction of Pritzker Prize-winning architect Norman Foster, to complement the adjacent Winspear Opera House, also designed by Foster + Partners. The primary feature of Strauss Square is the Shannon and Ted Skokos Pavilion, which contains rigging for lighting and sound equipment.
Jerome Weeks 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


The “real economy” — economic activity that is not stimulated by tax credits — appears to be "turning the corner toward recovery," Dr. Mark Dotzour said yesterday while speaking at the Texas Society of CPAs Financial Institutions conference in Dallas.
Dotzour, the Real Estate Center's chief economist, said corporate profits and new orders for manufacturing have clearly rebounded.
He also said commercial real estate markets will not clear until two issues involving the U.S. banking system are resolved. First, when will the banks recognize the losses on the real estate loans in their portfolios and begin to sell the troubled assets to new buyers? And, will the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency tone down its strict limits on commercial real estate lending for commercial banks?
“As of today, there doesn’t appear to be an encouraging answer to either question,” Dotzour said.
When asked about this week's headlines proclaiming that the recession ended in 2009, he said he thinks such headlines are premature.
"The health of the residential and commercial real estate industries depends not on gross domestic product (GDP), but on job growth," he said. "When the economy (i.e. GDP) grows by, say, 3 percent, but productivity also grows by 3 percent, it just means that currently employed workers produced 3 percent more things. Job growth is the essential engine of growth in this country. Until we start producing jobs, it's premature to say we are out of the recession."
Dotzour will speak later this week at the IMN Distressed Commercial Real Estate Forum in New York City. The audience will include 300 investors from all over the world who have raised funds to purchase real estate in the United States.  - Real Estate Center

Monday, September 13, 2010

Davis Building Downtown Up for Sale

(Source: The Dallas Morning News)By Steve Brown, The Dallas Morning News

Downtown Dallas' historic Davis Building is up for sale.
Lenders who financed the loft apartment building have decided to seek new owners for the high-rise.
The Davis Building at 1309 Main St. was financed with $32.6 million in commercial mortgage-backed securities debt that has been turned over to a special servicer.

While the building is still owned by a partnership set up by developer Hamilton Properties, a receiver has been appointed to sell the property.

"It's the kind of quality asset that only comes to market once every decade or so," said Tom Huth of Omnium Management Co., who's been hired to oversee the Davis Building disposition. "The building is close to 90 percent leased and is doing very well."
The owners have been unable to restructure or replace the financing on the property, which was due earlier this year.
Hamilton Properties officials say they are optimistic about the pending sale.
"We think that there is a great deal of capital that has been sitting on the sidelines, and there is currently pent-up demand to purchase quality real estate assets," said partner Ted Hamilton.
"We feel that the Davis Building is a quality asset and hope and expect to receive multiple offers on the property."
Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services has been hired to market the Davis Building for sale.
"We plan to widely market this property," said Will Balthrope, vice president of investments in the brokerage firm's Dallas office.
"It's a great property in a good location."

The Davis Building opened its doors to apartment residents in 2003.
Built in 1926 as the Republic National Bank building, the 20-story landmark had been vacant for almost 20 years.
Hamilton Properties spent about $35 million converting the former office building into 158 loft apartments and retail space. It's served by the Metropolitan Parking Garage on Elm Street, which is also up for sale.
The Davis Building is the second large downtown loft apartment project to hit the market recently.
Last month, lender Prudential Insurance sold the 440-unit Mosaic project at Akard and Bryan streets after the property was foreclosed.
Mosaic was bought by a partnership headed by Chicago's Levin Realty Advisors.
The Davis Building is one of more than 160 Dallas-Fort Worth area commercial properties listed as being in loan default, in foreclosure or facing mortgage failure, according to the latest estimate from Trepp LLC.
The New York-based commercial real estate research group estimates that these properties have debt totaling more than $1.6 billion.
That's up from about $1.3 billion in bad debt deals here early in 2010.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Think City Hall Should Get A Tax Hike? You Might Think Again After Seeing How Crappy It Treats Its Taxpayers. By Jim Schutze

In the last few weeks everyone has been talking about taking on a tax increase so we can give City Hall more money. I promise you this much: This story will make you wonder why on earth we would even consider giving the people at City Hall more money.
Josh Terry, a young guy who works for a major financial institution, decided last year that rehabbing a property in an old neighborhood might make an interesting personal project and hopefully a decent investment.
Terry did everything right in terms of checking with the city. He asked the city if the city zoning requirements on his property would allow him to do the project he had in mind—remodeling an 87-year-old five-unit apartment building in the King's Highway Conservation District in North Oak Cliff.
The city didn't just say yes. They provided him with the specific ordinance for that district with a map showing his specific property with the specific kind of zoning he needed. Then a city official told him, yes, your property is "grandfathered" under the law as multifamily (apartment) property. Then the city granted him building permits for his work.
Tons of work got done quickly after that. He showed me his books. In his spreadsheet you can see the money flooding into the place—$12,495 for heating and cooling units, $14,285 for new wiring, $2,350 for plumbing, $550 to scrape and paint ceilings, $1,540 for new windows—on and on until he's got $100,000 in it.
Then the staff gets a call from somebody in the city council office (ominous drum roll here).
The property happens to be in Council District 3, the realm of one David Neumann. Councilman Neumann wouldn't respond to my calls or e-mails about this, as he never does, so I can't say with certainty he's the one who called. I do know he is following this case closely.
But it almost doesn't make any difference who called. Somebody associated with the city council calls city staff—someone with a problem or objection to the project. The city staff immediately and completely reverses field and tells Terry he can't do the project. Stop now. It's all illegal.
What? They can't do that, right? They already said it was legal. They're the ones who said it was legal. They gave him the go-ahead. He spent the money. They can't decide later to pull the rug out from under him.
Flat out impossible, right? Schutze just makes this crap up. It comes to him in dreams. Somebody grab a net. Nobody would do that, especially City Hall.
Sorry, kemosabe. It's exactly what they did. I called Betty Antebi-Taylor, the city's Building Official, as she is called, the top staff person on these issues. She e-mailed me back, conceding that City Hall had given Terry building permits and other permissions. But, sadly, she said, they shouldn't have.
"Mr. Terry's CO (certificate of occupancy) request was processed in error," she said in her e-mail, "as a multifamily use is not permitted in that zoning district."
I also heard from David Cossum, who is assistant director of the planning department. Cossum told me in an e-mail: "It does appear that certain assumptions were made by all involved as to the presumed zoning status of the property based on the applications submitted."
Well, I don't know if that really captures it, Mr. Cossum. It's not really a matter of "certain assumptions," is it? Your people gave the guy active permission.
Over a course of months, Terry through his own research, attempted to resolve city staff's issues, and thought he had done so, until the staff changed its arguments against him. First they told him his property had lost its multifamily zoning because, while vacant, it had lost its "intended use," triggering an obscure provision of the zoning law. In order to prove them wrong, Terry would have to produce affidavits from neighbors and former owners.
He did so. He brought them all the necessary affidavits. The staff immediately changed its mind. They said the affidavits were no longer good enough.
Terry filed an appeal to the Board of Adjustment. He learned that the board, made up of citizens and people with real estate experience, usually grants a restoration of the multifamily zoning in a case like this, especially where the investor has spent money based on permission from the city.
But staff—and whoever is churning this from the council office—saw that one coming. Last week the staff e-mailed him and said they had changed their minds again. Now they said his multifamily zoning had not lapsed. They said the property had never been zoned multifamily. Ever.
They told him he could no longer appeal the lapsed zoning designation because he had never had the designation in the first place. The only way he could prove them wrong would be to bring them documentation showing them that the city had recognized the property as multifamily in the past.
Terry did more research. Somehow he found building permits for the property from 1978 showing that the city considered the property to be zoned multifamily. He took the old permits to the staff.
They told Terry they had changed their minds again. They could no longer recognize their own building permits as proof of anything.
You...OK, stop, you reader...I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Schutze, sober up. Turn yourself in to rehab, man. This is so sad for your family. None of this can remotely be true."
I asked Antebi-Taylor, the Building Official, if it was true Terry had brought her city of Dallas building permits from 1978 showing the property designated by the city as multifamily and if it was true she told him she would not "recognize" those documents as valid.
She said yes.
When Terry scheduled his Board of Adjustment hearing, he was required to post a city of Dallas sign in front of his rental property with a phone number that people could call in order to find out what the hearing was about. Terry then started calling Steve Long, the Board of Adjustment administrator, to ask him how the calls from the neighborhood were going.
"I call him and ask him if there has been any opposition," Terry told me. "He says, 'No, there's just been inquisitive calls,' because the neighbors see the sign and they want to call and see what's going on, like I would. But he does say things like, 'Well, yeah, city council's calling on this.'"
City council. There you have it. One call from city council, and the City Hall staffers race for their rat holes.
I called Long to confirm all this. He said, "I think you ought to get the best information from my supervisor, because I think he is privy to things about this site that I am not fully aware of."
I called his boss, Donnie Moore. He never called back.
I toured the rental property in Oak Cliff one hot Sunday afternoon with Terry and his wife, Jenn. They're both 29 years old.
Sitting on the stoop, Terry shook his head and gazed off into the middle distance for a moment. He said he had doubled the value of the property. But the city's actions had clouded the zoning enough to render the property virtually worthless.
The experience with City Hall has changed his feelings about the world. "It goes to lack of faith in government," he said. "You can't trust the government to do the right thing."
He's summa cum laude from Baylor. He didn't want me to include that fact, but it's significant here.
"If I can make this mistake," he said, "I would assume a lot of people do."
In the week after I talked to Terry and his wife, I called a trusted legal source who works with these issues all the time for big developers. He or she speaks to me on the condition that I not name him or her.
The source said Terry is right about one thing. The city treats people this way all the time. But most of the people in the development business are afraid to complain, because then they'll really get screwed by City Hall.
This person told me that the staff can always take five days and plunge into the jumbled junk-pile of past and current regulations and ordinances in Dallas to find a way to stop a deal. If they want to.
Or they can decide to be reasonable and helpful, not to mention honorable. In this case, when the city council person called and said he or she wanted staff to put the kibosh to this project, they could have said: "Oh, too late. We already gave this young man the green light to go ahead. He has committed a great deal of money. It would ruin him to stop it now. We'll just have to make the best of it, won't we?"
But my source told me that isn't how it works at City Hall. All it takes is one phone call from some douche on the city council, and the staff will go out there like the mafia and slam whoever it is into the trunk of a car.
Don't tell me Terry can sue. He cannot sue. The city claims sovereign immunity on all this stuff. And even if you can get around that issue, they've got a floor full of lawyers and bottomless pockets.
And here is where I started. Guess whose pockets they've got to screw us with. Our pockets. Josh Terry is a taxpayer and a decent guy, willing to risk his own money on an old neighborhood in the city. And they're going to use his pockets—our pockets—to ruin him.
Now tell me one more time: Why are we going to give these people a tax hike?

Downtown Dallas' historic Davis Building up for sale

Lenders who financed the loft apartment building have decided to seek new owners for the high-rise.

The Davis Building at 1309 Main St. was financed with $32.6 million in commercial mortgage-backed securities debt that has been turned over to a special servicer.
While the building is still owned by a partnership set up by developer Hamilton Properties, a receiver has been appointed to sell the property.

By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

DFW Home Price Move Higher

Dallas-Fort Worth home prices edge higher 
By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News D-FW was one of 100 US metropolitan areas that saw improved home prices compared to a year earlier, the National ...

Two Addison Circle Buildings Sold for $16 Million

Dallas Morning News
By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News Toronto-based investor Brookfield Asset Management Inc. has completed its purchase of a Dallas-area office building ...