Sites Unseen

Discover creative ways to market unbuilt projects.

“It’s hard to get people to sign up for a dream,” says Jan Friedlander, CCIM, owner of Friedlander Commercial Real Estate LLC in Castle Rock, Colo., about the psychology of marketing unbuilt commercial real estate properties. In many markets, potential investors and tenants can walk through, touch, and see bricks-and-mortar properties they are considering. But how can brokers and developers sell projects that have not even broken ground yet? By using the right marketing strategies and tools, commercial real estate pros can turn their ideas into attractive options for potential clients, Friedlander says.

While some commercial real estate developers hire public relations companies to create momentum for new projects, these three CCIMs are using their own creativity and taking on the marketing role themselves. By doing so, they have learned that innovative promotional techniques are key to creating interest in unbuilt properties.

Retail Rises Up

John M. Crossman, CCIM,
president, Crossman & Co., Orlando, Fla.
Project: Buffalo Ridge
Location: The Villages, Fla.

Photo caption: John Crossman, CCIM, uses both photographs and a site plan to show potential tenants property characteristics.

Finding the right tenant mix is one of the biggest obstacles for Buffalo Ridge, a 1.3 million-square-foot open-air shopping center located in The Villages residential development, says John Crossman, CCIM. His main challenge is making sure retailers understand that The Villages is an active adult community — not a seniors housing development. “Retailers need to realize that the people in the community have money to spend.”

The Strategies
To spark interest among prospective retailers, Crossman has decided to educate them about the 63,000-person community’s consumer needs. “The Villages is an active adult community for people 55 years and older. It is also a golf cart community, with 90 percent of its residents as cart owners, which is important to finding the right tenants,” he says.

After securing Wal-Mart, Starbucks, and McDonald’s as three well-known tenants, Crossman has set out to build support among the residents to help draw their preferred retail tenants. The strategies have required residents to reach out to big-box and high-end retailers. “We also have created surveys to provide prospects with specific updates of the project’s development and demographics of the area,” he says. Since the residents use golf carts instead of cars for traveling The Villages, they spend less money on gas, and therefore have more money to spend on retail, Crossman reasons.

To get the residents involved, Crossman spoke at one of The Villages homeowners’ association meetings. “There were about 500 people at the event, and a lot of them wanted to know how they could help,” he explains. As a result, several people wrote letters and flooded retailers’ Web sites. One resident even started a petition to encourage a favored retailer to lease space.

While some residents have worked individually to recruit preferred tenants, a few have teamed up to show their support. Residents used their golf carts to spell out the names of stores, which were then photographed via helicopter. The aerial photos were sent to select retailers to let them know how serious the residents are about securing their business.

Aside from enlisting residents’ help, Crossman also reaches out to the brokerage community through direct mass mailings, conferences and trade shows, feature articles in national real estate and trade publications, and TV and radio interviews. He has sent press releases to several media outlets announcing the leasing opportunities to retailers and to brokers in his own professional network. “The unique thing we are doing is reaching out to [the retailers and brokers] multiple ways,” he says. The marketing package, which has been sent to approximately 50 brokers and retailers, includes T-shirts and hats promoting the property.

Crossman took part in a local business radio show that discusses retail trends and appeared on the local Villages television channel. He promoted the property at two Florida universities and attended the International Council of Shopping Centers trade show to invite prospects to tour the property. He also advertises in mall and open-air center directories to ensure that the Buffalo Ridge marketing materials are visible to brokers. His Web site also includes comprehensive property listings and up-to-date news about the project. Crossman is confident that with a variety of marketing strategies, he will find the right mix by the project’s 2009 completion date.

Medical Office Makes Way
Jan Friedlander, CCIM, owner,
Friedlander Commercial Real Estate LLC, Castle Rock, Colo.
Project: Lone Tree Medical Plaza
Location: Lone Tree, Colo.
Web site:

Rendering caption: Jan Friedlander, CCIM, uses marketing materials that convey the property is new construction.

After considering several different development ideas, Jan Friedlander, CCIM, finally decided that medical office was the best use for four acres of the 6.28-acre parcel of raw land she owns in metropolitan Denver. “Not only is the land near a hospital, but it is also off major roads and near a large mall,” Friedlander says.

The 71,000-sf, three-floor Lone Tree Medical Plaza will include specialized amenities such as a covered patient drop-off, covered parking, signage, gurney-sized elevators, an on-site deli, and on-site property management. Along with these amenities, Friedlander is working with a company that will provide future tenants and buyers with free electronic medical record management, billing and scheduling services, and technology installation. While these features are main selling points for prospective tenants and buyers, Friedlander also has been able to build support among medical professionals by securing a large national diagnostic testing provider as a major tenant.

Even with all these amenities, lead time and decision making for medical professionals can be lengthy. This, combined with spreading the word and finding medical professionals who are willing to relocate, is Friedlander’s challenge.

The Strategies
Friedlander and her developer partner formed an LLC and hired an architect to draft a rendering for the marketing packet. Other materials such as postcards, floor plans, and maps have been sent to brokers and members of the healthcare community to create momentum for the project and recruit possible tenants and buyers.

Friedlander utilized STDBonline resources, such as, to design her postcards. She made sure that the words “under construction” were present so that potential tenants and buyers would know the project’s status. After the national diagnostic testing laboratory signed on, the material was altered to note that the company was a secured tenant. The marketing package will continue to be updated throughout the construction process.

Along with the marketing package, Friedlander sends broadcast e-mails about the property to the Denver Metropolitan Commercial Association of Realtors and her own personal business and medical contacts. As the building progresses, she plans to send additional messages with updated pictures as well as announcements of construction-related events. Friedlander also is planning a “tilt-up” party, which will allow local professionals to watch the walls being tilted up in real time, turning the plaza into a visible structure.

Friedlander also uses STDBonline’s ProMotor Flash Presentations, CCIM Partners, and the CCIM Web site to promote the property. “While medical [tenants and buyers] often end up being local, it’s still a good idea to network within the institute,” she says. She also includes her CCIM contacts in the promotional broadcast e-mails.

Friedlander is attracting medical tenants and buyers by stressing that the building is designed specifically for medical professionals. “Synergy in a true medical office building is important,” she says. The like-minded occupants ensure that everyone in the building has something in common. Friedlander also is touting the space’s flexibility to potential buyers and tenants who will be able to design and build out the space according to their specific needs.

Friedlander currently has commitments on 35 percent of the building, and the shell should be completed this summer.

Brand New Mixed-Use
Eugen Klein, CCIM, associate broker, Royal LePage City Centre, Vancouver,
British Columbia
Projects: Northern Rockies Village, Frontier Business Park, Discovery Business Park
Locations: Fort Nelson, B.C., and Dawson Creek, B.C.

Caption: Eugen Klein, CCIM, hopes to capitalize on growing interest in both real estate and natural resources in nirthern British Columbia.

The growing interest in natural resources in northern British Columbia has led Eugen Klein, CCIM, to pursue the marketing of three commercial real estate projects in small cities there. “Since there is increasing oil and gas exploration, infrastructure is needed both for the people and the businesses,” he says. While Klein is marketing the projects, he also is working with Boreal Developments, which has been developing commercial real estate properties for more than 25 years.

Although both towns are four- to five-hour flights from Vancouver, Klein’s team stayed in each area for extended time periods to promote the developments and ensure that local residents were made aware of the projects’ expected outcomes.

“Northern Rockies Village will be the first condo development in [Fort Nelson, B.C.],” Klein says. The project will include a complete 150-unit community with office, retail, and executive residential. The other Fort Nelson development, Frontier Business Park, will be primarily industrial, and Discovery Business Park in Dawson Creek, B.C., will include retail, hospitality, and build-to-suit industrial. The projects include concepts new to their markets and because of this marketing unfamiliarity, “educating the public is the first step to the projects’ success,” Klein says.

The Strategies
Klein has decided to forgo paid advertising and instead uses phased press releases coupled with direct marketing materials to raise community awareness of the projects. “It’s a combination of our internally developed databases, directed calls, and business-to-business awareness,” Klein says. He also continuously posts and updates information on the development Web site, sends press releases, and notifies local industrial, retail, and office clients before the press releases are made public.

All three of the projects have for-sale space, but there also is rentable space in Northern Rockies Village. To entice tenants, Klein has created a marketing packet that includes an informative overview of the projects. He lets prospective tenants know that Internet access, carpeting, and paint selection are part of the lease terms, which also allow tenants to specify the finishes within their space.

Klein’s team held presentations to introduce these new commercial real estate concepts to the local business communities and potential investors. The team interviewed local businesses and principals to see if they had any interest in moving to a new space or opening a satellite office. “I put together their information based on the answers and gave it to the developer in order to help determine the next phase plan for the project,” he says.

To capture community and broker attention, Klein has placed marketing signage on all three sites. Two of the signs are 16 feet by 40 feet; the third sign is half that size. These signs were added as part of his strategy to increase drive-by visibility on the Alaska Highway. Completion for all three projects is estimated in 2010.

Tackling the marketing of unbuilt projects has required each of these CCIMs to take on a new role. While they may not have training as public relations professionals, they all have managed to create awareness and garner tenant and investor interest in their developments through creative strategies and innovative techniques. With determination and hard work, these three CCIMs are confident their unbuilt projects will become successful developments in their markets.

Stephanie Bell

“I went through the [recession in the] 1980s and purposely set out a market plan that would not have the boom-and-bust [nature] that comes with real estate cycles.” — Joe W. Milkes, CCIM, Milkes Realty Valuation, Dallas“We were anticipating a slowdown in the market and wanted to develop an avenue of business that would create a steady stream of income.” — Yvonne Jones, CCIM, CPM, Zifkin Realty Management LLC, Chicago“I help struggling companies rethink their business models, which includes determining the most profitable use of their real estate.” — Audie Cashion, CCIM, Alpha World Properties LLC, High Point, N.C.Stephanie Bell is associate editor of Commercial Investment Real Estate.


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