Never one to shy away from a challenge, Brooke Gibson, CCIM, sales/leasing associate with American Asset Corp. in Charlotte, N.C., saw a career-building transaction opportunity in an e-mail. A local broker was looking for an industrial facility for a national corporation. Gibson immediately knew she had the right listing: “I had a class A, 102,400-square-foot industrial/flex space under construction that was perfect for a large corporation,” she says.
Gibson soon learned that the national company was Shutterfly.com, an Internet-based publishing service that requires sizeable space for its data production centers. Her first priority was to convince the company that Charlotte was the ideal market for its facility. With Louisville, Ky., and Philadelphia as competing markets, “I educated [Shutterfly] on the large availability of the workforce in Charlotte,” Gibson says. Shutterfly ultimately chose the market because of the “industrial park’s flexibility, the area’s employment base, and the incentives offered.”
The transaction “was 10 times more complicated than a typical lease deal,” Gibson says. Some of the challenges she faced included the long-term lending issues for a single-tenant, single-credit building; trying to give Shutterfly the best financial deal while working on thin economic parameters with quickly rising construction costs; working with the city of Charlotte to get an inner-park road named after Shutterfly; organizing the necessary contractors to build out the space on a tight timeline; and securing 100 additional parking spaces that were not originally planned. “Not having the right amount of parking was basically a deal breaker for Shutterfly,” she says. Gibson and her team worked with the site’s engineer to rearrange future buildings on the property, essentially “pulling the extra parking out of thin air.”
Gibson also helped Shutterfly budget for the build out and establish a rental rate and a tenant improvement allowance. “This was the most involved I have ever been with a company. I basically became a partner in the business,” she jokes. After detailed negotiations, Shutterfly signed a seven-year lease that will invest $106.5 million into the local economy and bring up to 800 new jobs to the market.
After the lease was secured, Gibson continued to work on the project, facilitating a new public transportation line to the property for Shutterfly employees. Working with Charlotte’s transit system, Gibson supplied information such as employment figures and travel times that helped the transit system to create a new bus route to the facility.
While Shutterfly occupied the space at the end of June, Gibson continues to assist the company with its future expansion plans. The site currently includes eight buildings: Shutterfly occupies one property and has the option to expand into two neighboring buildings. “Since expansion is in their lease agreement, with a minimum of 50,000 square feet, we were able to rearrange the site plan to accommodate them,” she says. Gibson had the construction area re-permitted so the three buildings were close together. “We then moved the driveway and pre-approved a pedestrian walkway so it would be easy for employees to get from building to building,” she explains. Shutterfly plans to invest an additional $75 million in the location by 2009.