Sunday, February 22, 2009

Grand Ribbon-Cutting Opening for New Businesses to Gainesville

I think I do what I do because:
  1. I find it challenging,
  2. I'm good at it, i.e., have met the challenge,
  3. I enjoy helping people, and
  4. I get to see the tangible results of my hard work.
Many of the people I work with are opening up new businesses and often are leasing or purchasing commercial space for the first time. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction to see them realize their vision and open their doors to the public. So I was particularly thrilled to attend the Prince William County/Greater Manassas Chamber of Commerce grand-opening ribbon-cutting event last Tuesday, co-hosted by the Haymarket Gainesville Business Association, for the business owners I worked with who are now located at the Piedmont Commercial Center in Gainesville.


Kid Drop Zone AKA as The Nut House is a large indoor playground where parents can drop off their kids for a few hours. Parents have the options to drop and go, stay and play, or just hang out in our parents-only room. Here kids can do all the things they can't do at home such as jump on the beds and swing from the chandeliers all within a supervised environment. Their build-out, including all the things to climb up, jump on, slide down, or swing from, as well as the party and parent rooms, was done by John Parsons of Commonwealth Construction.

Run under the capable hands of husband and wife, Mike & Shelby, and their business partner, Jen, they have seven girls, ages 1 to 8, between them. They saw a need for the service they now provide: a fun but safe place to leave your children for a few hours while you run errands or enjoy a 'date night'.


Brain Zoom is an extended learning center for children ages 3 to 11. They offer workshops that explore science and technology, foreign language, and healthful cooking (fun foods combined with nutritional awareness) as well as the more traditional math, reading and writing. Conceived by husband and wife, Patrick and Carolette, their business concept grew from their passion to create a stimulating, fun, creative environment to enhance a child's love of learning.

There are a number of rooms dedicated to these various themed activities, all organized, inviting and brightly colored. They also offer themed birthday parties in the party room, summer and holiday camps and a retail store full of creative play things. Their doors are now officially open!


Zed's brother, Tam, who is also the chef, did the official honors at the ribbon cutting ceremony for Zed's Bistro and Wine Bar, for which a full review can be read here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Working Together to Complete an Office Build-out

Some agents specialize as leasing reps, others as tenant reps. I work with clients on both sides of the transaction. It gives me a good perspective on landlords and tenants, and how each is willing to work with the other to make for a signed lease and a long-term landlord/tenant relationship. The experience served me well in the leasing of an office in The Ponds.

The Ponds is a commercial condominium development off Route 50 in Chantilly, Virginia. Gill and his family purchased their 1,900 square foot unit as an investment, but like many purchasers of small office condos, had little or no experience leasing out commercial space. When I saw Gill's For Lease by Owner sign in the window, the space had been empty for close to two years. I gave him a call and proposed working for him. I know the area and had successfully leased two other units in The Ponds.

Gill's unit was in cold dark shell condition. When I listed it the third week of July, I suggested Gill proceed with a standard office build-out. This can take three to four months to complete, and most tenants for smaller offices do not have the time to wait. They generally want to occupy the space within a month or two. Gill proceeded to contact a contractor to complete the build-out, which would include installing the HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioner) system, electrical panel, plumbing, drop ceiling and lighting, and interior walls to create offices and a kitchenette, as well as finish work (paint, flooring, etc.)

In the meanwhile, I met Bill. Bill's company had a small office in Washington DC, and they were looking to move to Virginia. The Tyson's area made the most sense, and he called on one of our office listings in Vienna. That office did not meet his space needs and we started to talk about what he was looking for. It has been my experience that company offices are usually geographically close to the company principal's home. Bill lived in Virginia Run and The Ponds is a few miles down the road. When we began to talk about Chantilly, Bill was open to the location.

Not only did Bill find the location ideal, his business model was such that he had time to wait for a build-out. He was also excited to custom design his new office. By mid-August, tenant and landlord had agreed to all terms and by early September the lease was reviewed and signed. Bill contacted several contractors for estimates, but ultimately decided to work with Gill's contractor. Casey Cao of NorthEast Construction Corporation in Springfield did an excellent job. He was knowledgeable of Fairfax County building requirements and brought the project in pretty much on-time and as budgeted.

The office had some build-out challenges. It is an irregularly shaped, interior unit with the only natural light coming from the front windows. Bill's design ideas included lots of interior glass to capture and maximize the available light. Some of his requirements were standard, such as a nice reception area, but he also had some special requirements, including a large computer room with additional A/C needs that could be 'showcased' and on display to his customers.

By early January, the final inspection from Fairfax County was issued, and Bill and his company, Francis & Goodwin, could move into their new office. Landlord and tenant had a good start to a long-term relationship as they worked together to get the office completed, and I know I had a hand in facilitating both that relationship and a successful build-out.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Lease-Back Deals on a National Scale

A few weeks ago I wrote about a sale/leaseback transaction we handled in Manassas, Virginia.

New York Times has a recent article, "Cash Hungry Companies Turn to Lease-Back Deals" worth a read. Small to medium sized business owners are not the only commercial property owners exploring this option. The article reports that large corporations looking to divest themselves of their real estate holdings are turning to sale-leaseback deals to free up cash and pay down debt by becoming tenants of the real estate they formerly owned. AT&T and Deutsche Bank are two major companies who have successfully negotiated sale-leasebacks. General Motors was not.