Will Experiential Retail Save The Holiday Season For Malls

While many malls have been struggling throughout the country, some malls in the Philadelphia suburbs are doing quite well. Iconic mall properties like the King of Prussia and Cherry Hill Malls, have both seen a strong resurgence, mostly due to a better mix of high-end retail and dining options.

One area where the difference in mall health is visible is the traffic during the holiday season. Mall owners need to continually look for ways to improve their foot traffic, and many times this is especially evident during the holiday season.

Additionally, some older suburban malls like the Granite Run Mall are seeing almost a complete change into more of a town center concept. Another mall in the suburbs that is seeing a number of changes, towards increased experiential retail, is Plymouth Meeting Mall.

Though the change to experiential retail has been happening at the Plymouth Meeting Mall, a recent trip to the mall showed there is still a long way to go, to drive people in large numbers back into the interior of mall properties.

PREIT the owner of the Plymouth Meeting Mall is planning to add a number of new retail and dining options in 2019 including a Dick’s Sporting Goods, Edge Fitness, and Miller’s Ale House, which are opening at the former Macy’s location, according to signs on the construction fencing.

These options will join a number a tenant mix that has lately included many experiental focused retailers including Dave & Buster’s, Orvis, CycleBar, LEGOLAND Discovery Center, 5 Wits, and Busy Bees Pottery & Arts Studio.

It will be interesting to see how if this change in retailer mix eventually leads to more traffic within the mall. While walking through the mall, it struck me that an important part of the experiential mix that is still missing is getting those who normally wouldn’t stop in, to stop by.

One idea mall owners could benefit from would be to open their properties up as the venue for local races. With the boom in fun runs and 5Ks, it would seem this could be an excellent opportunity for mall owners to get a demographic while shops heavily online, back into their property.

Partnering with local non-profits to host the runs, is an excellent way for mall owners to continually stay front-of-mind during the winter months, especially after the holiday season.

Value-Add Student Housing Investment Opportunity – Bloomsburg, PA

Great multi-family value-add investment opportunity near Bloomsburg University. Investment opportunity consists of 7 properties which are all located in close proximity to Bloomsburg and are currently being rented as student housing. 50% of the properties are already rented for 2019.

Learn more about this great opportunity to purchase a turn-key investment portfolio.

Investment Insights

  • Average annual maintenance fees average out to about $6,000 per year.
  • Tenants pay $303 per year, to cover trash, water, and sewer
  • Included in sales price are a business plan and property manager.
  • Currently, the owner contracts out all maintenance work. (Owner has used the same contractor for as long as they’ve owned the property. The contractor is open to continuing on. and he would be willing to continue on as well.
  • Potential value-add to increase summer rents and increase parking fees.
  • More than 50% of properties are rented through 2019 – 20, which is ahead of last years pace to fill them.

Student Housing Investment Portfolio

Property Address Property Type Listed Price Square Feet Bedrooms Bathrooms
305-307 IRON Street
Bloomsburg, PA 17815
MultiFamily $298,000.00 2,156 6 2.5
398 EAST Street
Bloomsburg, PA 17815 Active
MultiFamily $299,000.00 2,950 6 2
115 E FOURTH Street
Bloomsburg, PA 17815
MultiFamily $299,900.00 1,968 7 3
540 – 542 EAST Street
Bloomsburg, PA 17815
MultiFamily $409,000.00 2,144 10 3.5
140 – 152 IRON Street
Bloomsburg, PA 17815
MultiFamily $459,000.00 2,850 10 4
341 FAIR Street
Bloomsburg, PA 17815
MultiFamily $669,000.00 3,504 13 5
522 – 524 EAST Street
Bloomsburg, PA 17815
MultiFamily $718,300.00 2,464 16 6

Is Manayunk Philly’s Next Hot Real Estate Investment

Though it pains me to see an ex-cowboy buying property in Philadelphia. At least it’s a Hall of Famer. Really though, if the Emmitt Smith backed company is looking to invest this much into Manuyunk and with the current amount of development going on, it should give all investors a reason to take a look.

It may also make a case for investigating investment opportunities the properties right outside the city in Bala Cynwyd.

Interestingly, the 19004 zipcode may eventually see some investment from e-commerce or logistics companies looking for the last-mile advantage.

Former Dallas Cowboy Emmitt Smith asking Pa. for $14M to build techie office park in Manayunk

Dallas-based ESmith Properties LLC wants to use the grant and loan money to ready PaperWorks Industries Inc.’s former plant property on the island’s northern tip for what’s slated to eventually encompass three million square feet of commercial space, about three times as much development as now exists in the South Philadelphia Navy Yard’s central office park, according to an application submitted for the support last month.

Potential tenants that have been identified include two out-of-town tech firms seeking locations in Philadelphia and a community college satellite science campus, according to the application.

“The Venice Innovation Island project aims to attract innovative businesses across a variety of industries and entertainment/leisure opportunities to the site, with the goal to further bolster Manayunk as a regional destination,” ESmith wrote in a project prospectus included with the application, which was provided to the Inquirer.

Globest has an article on another Manyunk project to keep an eye on, Resmark Leading JV to Develop Manayunk Multifamily Project.

Construction is currently underway at The Locks, a collection of 63 waterfront residences, each with views of the Manayunk Canal, the Schuylkill River or both…

Located between the canal and river, The Locks’ 63 waterfront residences will have open floor plans, incomparable views and generous rooftop terraces. The homes will range in size from 2,100 square feet to 3,500 square feet and are sited in a landscaped setting with a new riverfront trail along the Schuylkill River. The community’s industrial architectural design by the Philadelphia firm of Varenhorst Architects pays tribute to Manayunk’s rich heritage.

Not a surprise but someone who is heavily invested in the success of Manayunk, likened the eventual change to what happened to the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

If Manayunk was to achieve even half the success Williamsburg has seen, then early investors could see gains greater than those that bought Northern Liberties 15 years ago.

One big plus we see for Manyunk is it has a strong business association. This is one area, we think is never worth overlooking is how involved and the participation rate of local business associations.

Having access to a strong local business association can definitely make the difference when investing in an area. Businesses in Manayunk are served by both the Manayunk Development Corporation and the Manayunk Special Services District which are non-profit organizations that according to their website, operate under the same umbrella, and are marketed through Manayunk.com.

Businesses and thus the commercial property owners benefit from the synergy of having the organizations and the marketing of the local website. In fact, it’s probably one of the items most small business associations struggle with.

This is one area, I think the businesses along Lancaster Ave. from Philadelphia to Berwyn lack is a strong comprehensive business association.

On Main St. you’ll see the Special Services District team out sweeping the sidewalks, watering the plants, and ensuring everything are ready for business every morning.

Due to the combined efforts of the organizations, Main St. is lit with winter lights which helps businesses during the cold months, especially when the colleges are out.

Manayunk is also small enough that you still see signs like this with mixed-use commercial and residential properties being offered for sale by owner.

Manayunk Property for Sale by Owner

Will Camden See Next Phase Of Investment Due to Opportunity Zones

As readers of this blog know, we very interested in the potential of the new Opportunity Zones. Siilar to how Amazon is going to leverage OZs, we think we will see a large number of savvy business owners and real estate investors utilize the tax benefits aroud and in Philly.

It looks like just across the river, we could continue to see increased investment in Camden. For those unfamiliar Camden has seen a number of high profile improvements and is currently seeing a number of large investments.

An article in BisNow look at, What’s Next For Camden After Its High-Profile Wins?, and one part of the article that stood out was how Opportunity Zones could potentially impact real estate investing in Camden.

AthenianRazak CEO Jackie Buhn said. If the new incentives don’t have quite the pull, it may be offset by the new federal Opportunity Zone program.

The entirety of Camden has been designated as a Qualified Opportunity Zone. “Opportunity zones are something Conifer has looked at across the Northeast,” Leone said. “At first, it seemed too good to be true, but they just rolled out the first half of the rules and it seems like a great program without a lot of red tape.

There seems to be a lot of investor interest in these opportunity zones, and now you can invest in communities you really believe in and get the capital gains benefits.”

Although questions remain about how effective such an open-ended policy can be in revitalizing a neighborhood, all panelists agreed that Camden, in part because of its desperate recent past, has been more friendly than most communities in the area to change and growth.

According to one developer mentioned in the article:

Projects $5M and below, the true infill of the fabric with 20-30 unit buildings and a little mixed-use, that’s the challenge that has to be met in the next phase.

From Philadelphia to Camden, it looks like Opportunity Zones could play a major role in where a major amount of real estate capital ends up invested.

Improve Your Real Estate Investing With ARV

Improve Your Real Estate Investing With Better ARV Estimates

As a real estate investor, it is important to know the numbers behind every deal. One area of real estate investing where not understanding your numbers can lead to pretty quick failure is for those looking to fix and flip or fix and hold. Perhaps, the most important number when looking at a potential fix and flip is understanding what the property will sell for after your renovations.

This number is known as After Rehab Value (ARV). Fortunately, for us looking to invest in Philadelphia there is a great free real estate investing tool called the ARVCalculator.com which covers Philadelphia real estate transactions and does exactly what its name implies, provides an ARV Value for a particular property.

The site offers analytics for your real estate investing.

  • Calculate ARV for Any Address
  • Generate Maps of Investments In An Area
  • Look At Overview Statistics of Areas

You can also find data for particular properties on their Twitter (@PhillyRealEstateData)

Here’s an example of the ARVCalculator returning data on a potential investment.

1715 N Bailey St in Brewerytown – Looks Like An Investment Listing:

From the photos and the property description, it’s pretty clear this is a full rehab.

Total shell, fixer upper in need of total rebuild. Brick row in an up and coming neighborhood. Comparable properties close by selling for 150K-300K. Motivated owner – priced to sell – sold in as-in condition – bring your offers! Owner has additional listings in this area.

In the case of a full rehab, knowing how much money you are spending on the entire project is what makes or breaks the investment. Interestingly, the ARVCalculator shows this property as having a potentially 4X ARV value.


Even with the potential upside, it is important to always keep your budget and construction costs in ming for any investment. As the old real estate saying goes,

You make money when you buy not when you sell.

So if you are looking to improve your Philadelphia real estate investing, The ARVCalculator.com website is something to keep in mind when you are running the numbers on your next real estate deal.

Amazon May Bring More Investors to Opportunity Zones

As we’ve previously written, we think Opportunity Zones hold tremendous opportunity for both businesses and real estate investors from both the commercial and residential side. As we’ve already seen developers in Philadelphia are changing their investments as a response to the creation of Opportunity Zones

Now we see a major investment in an Opportunity Zone coming from Amazon. The Intercept has an article from David Dayen and Rachel M. Cohen, Amazon HQ Will Cost Taxpayers At Least 4.6 Billion, More Than Twice What The Company Claimed New Study Shows, in which they mention how Amazon’s selection of Long Island City in Queens is within one of the newly created Federal Opportunity Zones.

The Amazon location in Long Island City, in the New York City borough of Queens, is situated in a federal opportunity zone…the northern Virginia site, in the Arlington neighborhood of Crystal City (which developers and local officials have rebranded as “National Landing”), is not directly in an opportunity zone but is virtually surrounded by other geographic areas that are.

Savvy real estate investors and business owners may see an additional boost from Opportunity Zones, as mentioned in the article.

Investment managers have been salivating at the chance to take advantage of opportunity zones. Special funds have been built to cater to people holding unrealized capital gains — such as Amazon employees with large holdings of company stock.

Not only could Amazon benefit from the opportunity zone directly in Long Island City, but Virginia employees with unrealized capital gains will have an escape valve next door to an Amazon campus.

As gentrification likely pushes out residents in the opportunity zones surrounding the northern Virginia site, Amazon employees who buy real estate could not only find a place to live, but also avoid unrealized capital gains taxes.

As the article mentions, we may see the 2nd wave of people look to take advantage of Opportunity Zones, and those could be the employees of businesses that succeed in areas adjacent to Opportunity Zones.

Those investors that are able to find strategic real estate investments in Opportunity Zones early, may see a faster appreciation once more people look to save money on their capital gains taxes.

Finding New Uses For Old Parking Lots

One area not to overlook when looking to make a value-add commercial real estate investment, especially in the suburbs or rural areas, is to look at repurposing the parking lot. As we wrote before, if you’re looking to convert an office building into residential or another use such as a hotel, the amount of parking you need may drastically change.

One major corporation, I’ve always thought has invested almost too much money on parking lots in Wal-Mart. It seems Wal-Mart is coming to the same conclusion and is now looking to better use their massive parking lots. Dees Stribling has an article in BisNow, Walmart Plans To Redevelop Supercenter Land Into ‘Town Center’ Gathering Places, which highlights this change.

Walmart is planning to develop the land surrounding a number of store sites nationwide into town centers, or what it calls “reimagined centers.” The town centers will be located on land around Walmart supercenters that the retail giant considers underutilized.

Interestingly, it seems Wal-Mart is going to use the space to bring an almost experiential retail feel to the redeveloped space. Dees goes on to write.

The concept is flexible and will include the addition of restaurants, health clinics, day care establishments, gas stations, bowling alleys, food trucks, bike rental stations and driving ranges.

For example, the plan for a reimagined center in Loveland, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, calls for a two-phase development plan that will introduce new food, wellness and entertainment options to the site.

Walmart hasn’t released a lot of details about the specific tenants at the Loveland site, though it does say that Torchy’s Tacos, Wahlburgers and Wake & Bake will be among the food tenants. One of the entertainment features of the reimagined center will be a skatepark.

This is definitely a smart move by Wal-Mart as they look to continually redevelop themselves for today’s consumers’ preferences. Many real estate investors, can keep this strategy in mind as they look to redevelop older office buildings or retail complexes.

Will High-Growth Businesses Benefit from Opportunity Zones?

Noah Buhayar (@NBuhayar) writes an interesting article in Bloomberg, A Google in Newark? VCs Hit Snag in New Tax Break for Poor Areas, that shows Opportunity Zones may be great for local investors and real estate developers, but there is a potential snag for those looking to invest in potential high-growth businesses like tech startups or high-tech manufacturing.

One of the rules requires that businesses generate at least half their gross income within the distressed community or “opportunity zone” in which they operate. That’s fine for, say, an apartment building or a grocery store, but a disaster for a business hoping to manufacture a product to be sold widely, or provide services online.

The clause seems to be at odds with the intent of the legislation, which is to attract private capital to roughly 8,700 disadvantaged economic areas and create jobs. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has suggested that $100 billion could flow to opportunity zones. The Economic Innovation Group, a Washington think tank that helped push the idea, has called the incentive the most ambitious effort to spur investment in low-income areas in a generation.

The tax breaks are especially attractive for people looking for ways to minimize levies on capital gains. Investors can plow proceeds from the sale of a business, stock or other asset into opportunity funds, deferring those taxes until 2026 — and potentially reducing their liabilities by as much as 15 percent. If the funds buy and hold qualifying businesses or property in opportunity zones for at least a decade, investors can avoid paying capital gains on any of the fund’s appreciation altogether.

As great the potential Opportunity Zones offer, there are going to be a number of nuances to investing in Opportunity Zones.

For those accredited investors looking into investing in Opportunity Zones funds, I recommend keeping an eye on Steve Glickman. He is a highly connected investor and specifically runs an Opportunity Zones advisory firm, Develop LLC.

Even for those looking to make non-institutional investments in Opportunity Zones, keeping an eye on someone like Steve makes sense. Below is a snippet of why:

Steve is the Co-Founder & former CEO of the Economic Innovation Group (EIG), a bipartisan research and policy organization in Washington, D.C., which was the architect of the OZ program, the largest community investment incentive in U.S. history.

Steve is also an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University, where he teaches on economic diplomacy & international trade in the School of Foreign Service. He serves on Georgetown’s Board of Governors & the Board of The NewDEAL.

Steve previously served in the Obama Administration — as senior economic advisor at the White House, where he managed trade and investment, manufacturing, and small business policy for the National Security Council & National Economic Council. Steve also served as Deputy Associate Counsel at the White House & Chief of Staff for the U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service at the Commerce Department.

From his mention in the Bloomberg article above to his instrumental part in helping Opportunity Zones become law, he is someone whose insight on OZ’s is sure to matter. As an individual investor looking to take advantage of large investments in institutional areas, it could be a good idea to follow what Opportunity Zone advisors like Steve are recommending.

As we’ve mentioned numerous times, every real estate investor would be smart to keep an eye on what happens with Opportunity Zones. As the article above mentions it is definitely important to keep an eye on the nuances of the law, to see what segments of the real estate market are likely to benefit most.

Investing In Philadelphia Real Estate Just Got Better

For those investors looking to buy in Philadelphia, the city just made things easier with the launch of there new Real Estate Transfers website (https://data.phila.gov/visualizations/real-estate-transfers) which includes data visualizations.

Philly.com has some great insights into what the tool is going to offer.

The Real Estate Transfers site, which debuted Friday, makes records searchable by address, giving prospective home buyers a look at the life of the property over the last 20 years. The site currently dates back to 1999 and offers 3.7 million records.

Types of records include documents, document grantors and grantees, monetary values of the property, and transaction dates.

This is the first time getting such data on a Philadelphia property didn’t require the use of Atlas, which was unveiled almost a year ago, or a visit to City Hall. While just one transaction could be checked at a time through those methods, the new tool gives a fuller span.

In addition to finding out about a single property, the new tool also reflects greater property trends in the city. A chart on the homepage showcases the number of monthly document transactions month by month since 1999, as well as bar charts that break down documents by type.

One of the greatest challenges as a real estate investor is getting access to data to drive your decisions. From those looking to fix and flip to buy and hold, as many a savvy real estate investor has pointed out.

“You make money when you buy…not when you sell.”

Which seems counter-intuitive as you get paid when you sell, but the underlying principle is that the price you pay for the house or property is eventually going to determine how much profit you will potentially gain or lose.

Accessing this new dataset from the City is going to be a great way to better drive one’s real estate investments.

Below are a few screenshots from the new site. You’ll see it offers some excellent insights into investing in Philadelphia houses.


Is Redevelopment Coming to a Lehigh Valley Mall?

One segment of the real estate investing market we are constantly monitoring is the redevelopment of older malls into the new consumer paradigm including experiential retail. It was just announced that an older Lehigh Valley mall is being purchased, potentially for redevelopment.

The Westgate Mall in Bethlehem which was originally built by Harold S. Campbell in 1973, and sits on just over 22 acres, was just purchased by Onyx Equities for a reported $30,000,000. The previous owner Mark Pepitone reportedly invested $5,000,000 into the property in 2015 as part of a redevelopment which included adding SkyZone as a tenant.

From the HFF Press Release:

Holliday Fenoglio Fowler, L.P. (HFF) announces the sale and financing of Westgate Mall, a 270,000-square-foot enclosed mall in the Lehigh Valley community of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

The HFF team marketed the property on behalf of the seller.  Additionally, HFF worked on behalf of the buyer to secure financing.  New ownership is the joint venture between Onyx Equities, LLC and PCCP, LLC.

Situated on 22.6 acres on Schoenersville Road, Westgate Mall is adjacent to the intersection of Route 22 and Route 378, providing quick regional access to Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia and New York.  More than 93,900 residents earning an average annual household income of $71,641 live within a three-mile radius. Westgate Mall is anchored by Weis Markets, Rite Aid and Sky Zone; was formerly anchored by The Bon Ton; and is adjacent to Lehigh Valley Hospital.

Jon Harris (@ByJonHarris) of The Morning-Call has some excellent insights into how the redevelopment of the mall could potentially happen, New owner of Westgate Mall in Bethlehem: We plan on ‘revitalizing this well-located retail center’.

Jeff Green, a partner at Hoffman Strategy Group, a retail consultancy, said Onyx has pumped money into its acquired retail properties before, specifically pointing to an ongoing redevelopment at Hazlet Town Center in New Jersey. Green also pointed out that Onyx has non-retail properties, including office buildings in New York and New Jersey.

“They own a lot of non-retail properties, so I wonder if their play here is to redevelop with a mix of retail and non-retail uses,” Green said.

As it is now, the mall is anchored by Weis Markets, Rite Aid and SkyZone, after the shopping center lost its largest tenant, Bon-Ton, earlier this year. The 10-acre parcel that includes the former Bon-Ton is adjacent to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg, which has long fueled speculation that the site could eventually serve a medical purpose, among other redevelopment options.

For those interested in how Onyx Equities redevelopment of the Hazlet Town Center has progressed can check their website which lists current availabilities and property information.