It’s hard to believe we are already halfway through 2022 but adapting to the challenges posed by the post-pandemic world surely causes time to fly! At Mohr Capital, we started off the year in a big way, by expanding our investment strategy with the acquisition of the 350-room DoubleTree by Hilton Austin, our first entry into the hospitality sector.
We’ve had an interest in this vertical for quite a while and feel this is the perfect time to execute that strategy. Hospitality provides an excellent hedge against rising inflation, thanks to the ability to increase rents daily and grow revenue on par with expenses. We will still need to diligently manage operating expenses as inflation will also put upward pressure on many product and service costs. We are in a challenging labor market for hospitality, but this is a highly successful hotel, so we are optimistic we can achieve substantial returns.
In addition to this new vertical, we continue to ramp up our industrial development. We have 7 million square feet of industrial construction underway and plan to build more than $1.1 billion worth of speculative industrial properties across the country. Our goal is to have all of our current industrial development out of the ground in the next two years.
We have a deep understanding of the industrial market and NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association (the leading organization for developers and owners) recently recognized our development work with the publication of an article by our Chief Development Officer Gary Horn.
NAIOP (with more than 20,000 members) advocates for responsible commercial real estate development and effective public policy. They outlined how Mohr Capital worked with the town of Whiteland, Indiana, by partnering with clients and city leaders to find innovative ways to overcome challenges and create an outcome that benefitted everyone. Our client, Cooper Tire and Rubber Co., needed a larger facility but wanted to stay in the area and keep its employee base. That’s where our team used outside-the-box strategies to find a great location that exceeded their needs while also creating an employment hub that will boost the local economy. We made a positive contribution to the community while building out our top-notch Mohr Logistics Park, the largest industrial park built in Indianapolis over the last 10 years, which will contain more than 6.7 million square feet at build-out.
With the macro conditions we’re seeing in the market now, I anticipate property operating expenses will continue to go up, especially on industrial properties. Tenant rent escalations in some of the top industrial markets have already reached 4% annually and in New Jersey they are talking about increasing another half-point to 4.5%. For tenants seeing their annual bumps go from 3% to 4%, that extra 1% annually on a 300,000-square-foot building at $5 NNN over 10-years adds another $813,000 of rental expense. Now imagine that on a portfolio of 15 buildings! Obviously, it compounds quickly. In advising users, we remind them to keep a close eye on real estate-related operating expenses and pass-throughs.
The industrial market got so competitive at one point that tenants and prospective buyers were approaching us to purchase our buildings before construction was even completed and before we had a tenant. We sold one property before the roof went on. Transactions like these, known as “forwards,” won’t be seen again for a while. However, it is more important than ever for tenants to evaluate their total industrial network or U.S. footprint as industrial vacancy rates remain at all-time low levels. This can make expansion or future property acquisitions more difficult.
In California, New York and New Jersey, industrial rents are running up to $14 NNN and higher. It wasn’t long ago that rents in these same markets were averaging $8 per square foot.
Industrial and multifamily have obviously been the hottest real estate sectors so far in 2022. As we look at where to invest, Mohr Capital is focusing a good deal of energy out west because of the high barriers to entry.
Our firm has gone through substantial growth and Mohr Capital’s latest move into the hospitality industry is very exciting for us. We anticipate more hospitality opportunities in high-growth markets like our acquisition in Austin while exploring the possibility of bifurcating some of these assets.
Rising prices and mounting interest rates may dominate the headlines, but investment opportunities are still out there. In today’s environment, you just have to work harder to find them.
Founder & Chairman
A new year has begun, and if you’re like most people, you’re happy to close the books on 2021. However, while the pandemic persists and new variants trigger new waves of uncertainty every few months, it would be a mistake to think there isn’t – and won’t continue to be – plenty of opportunity in the commercial real estate markets.
For our part, Mohr Capital capitalized on this opportunity, marking one of the most productive years in our firm’s history. In 2021, we completed 18 transactions for a total deal volume of $250 million – an increase of 35% over the previous year. Our work in industrial development is an obvious standout, but despite a sluggish 2021 for the office and retail markets, we were still able to create and realize value on our investments.
How did we do it? By nurturing and growing a formidable team comprised of the smartest and most innovative commercial real estate professionals in the industry. With over a century of combined experience, we leverage our expertise to deploy capital in strategic ways that center around the occupancy costs of our tenants – regardless of the market sector.
Below is a rundown of our 2021 investment activity with some commentary that will give you insight into our investment strategy and the expertise of our people. I hope that your 2021 was equally successful, and I look forward to seeing what 2022 has in store.
Founder & Chairman
The industrial real estate market continued to see record demand and asking rents throughout 2021. Much of the demand was due to a steadily improving economy, growing e-commerce sales, and the trend toward building safety stock. Mohr Capital took advantage of this white-hot market through ongoing and new developments, as well as dispositions of well-placed facilities.
On the investment side, we took advantage of low cap rates, selling a combined 474k-SF of industrial space in Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Michigan City, Indiana, to realize gains that we redeployed into new industrial deals throughout the year.
On the development side we completed, delivered and leased over 1.8 MSF of industrial space in our master-planned industrial park, Mohr Logistics Park, in Whiteland, Indiana, with an additional 3 MSF of speculative development under construction now. We also entered the Southwest markets, closing on land in the Reno-Sparks metro area and starting construction on a 596k-SF speculative development. Just before the end of the year, we also closed on an additional 50-acre site in Surprise, Arizona, for another speculative property.
We expect to deliver an additional 7 MSF of industrial space in the next two years in the Indiana, Nevada, and Phoenix markets. Through our development starts and strategic land acquisitions in 2021, we created a future industrial portfolio value to be realized in the next three years in excess of $700M.
Our industrial transactions and development activities last year included:
We completed construction of a 996k-SF build-to-suit warehouse for Cooper Tire in February 2021, and began speculative development on a 1 MSF warehouse, two 800k-SF warehouses, and two 125k-SF warehouses. Once complete, the Park will boast an estimated 6.5 million square feet of industrial space.
We completed build-to-suit development on GAF Materials’ 200k-SF facility with 23 acres of storage capacity in December of 2020. We sold the property in an off-market deal to Four Springs Capital Trust in March 2021.
We sold a 160k-SF last-mile facility and an adjacent 20-acre parking lot occupied by Amazon in Austin’s MetCenter Business Park in May 2021. Four Springs Capital Trust bought the property in an off-market deal, which CoStar called the “priciest of its kind in Texas.”
We closed on a 40-acre site in Reno-Sparks’ high-profile Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center and began speculative development on a 596k-SF facility in June 2021.
We sold a 113k-SF industrial flex building occupied by Frontier Communications and Transcendia to Cabot Properties in October 2021. We originally acquired the property in 2010 and replaced the roof of the entire building, among other capital expenditures.
We closed on a 50-acre site within Summit Business Park in Surprise, Arizona, and plan to break ground on a 700k-SF speculative development in June 2022.
Throughout 2021, the office market continued to struggle as COVID-19 caused corporate tenants to either stall or reconsider their plans for returning to the office. The recently-emerged Omicron variant appears to be the most contagious yet, and poses an ongoing threat to the office market. However, while we expect COVID-19 to continue to cause hesitation among tenants, the continued economic recovery should offset some of this in 2022.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, Mohr Capital’s office investments team performed well above expectations, acquiring and divesting a profitable 112k-SF building which served as the headquarters for one of the largest healthcare providers in Wisconsin.
Our strategy of acquiring single-tenant, mission-critical facilities that began in 2020 continued in 2021. Toward the end of the year, we took advantage of a spike in medical office building investment activity, selling a much sought-after facility in Orlando and acquiring another in San Antonio.
In the new year, we’ll hone our focus on office properties that we believe will continue to outperform the broader office market.
Our office transactions in 2021 included:
We acquired a Class A, 112k-SF office building and executed a 10-year lease with ProHealth Care, a leading healthcare provider in Wisconsin. The lease enabled us to create occupancy cost reductions for ProHealth and sell the property prior to the close of the year.
We acquired a 38k-SF multi-tenant medical office building directly adjacent to the city’s iconic Alamo Quarry Market and west of Alamo Heights, one of the most prosperous neighborhoods in San Antonio. Building occupants include Methodist Health System, Methodist Physicians Practice and Eating Recovery Center, among other medical tenants.
We acquired a mission-critical 78k-SF medical office building fully occupied by Accredo Health in December 2020, after working with its parent company, Cigna, and CBRE to negotiate the company’s long-term occupancy requirements. We sold the property in December 2021.
While retail was arguably the hardest hit asset class in 2020, the market did see some resurgence in 2021. Indeed, as more people opted to avoid the crowds and eat take-out, restaurants that could satisfy this demand saw their best numbers ever. In Q1 and Q2, single and multi-tenant cap rates continued to compress as 1031 buyers engaged in a flight to quality, while large shopping centers failed to move as quickly due to ongoing struggles with credit among mom-and-pop retailers.
In 2020, the focus for Mohr Capital was acquiring existing assets, providing rent relief and extending leases. In 2021, we shifted gears, selling well-positioned properties in core major markets in Ohio and Texas, and focusing our efforts on building programmatic relationships with credit retailers and starting build-to-suit projects in Oklahoma City and the Denver metro area.
This year, we’ll continue to seek build-to-suit opportunities with retailers that have continued to fare well throughout the pandemic like quick-serve restaurants and financial institutions, as well as look for opportunities in grocery-anchored retail centers.
Our retail transactions in 2021 included:
In 2019, we acquired the ground lease on a one-acre outparcel in a highly visible, high-performing location across the street from Fort Steuben Mall, 40 miles west of Pittsburgh. After providing Texas Roadhouse initial rent relief and securing an extended lease term, we sold the ground lease in March 2021 as the operator experienced a rise in sales due to vaccinations and the easing of social restrictions.
We acquired an existing Taco Bueno restaurant in Oklahoma City – blocks away from Oklahoma City University – for redevelopment as a Dutch Bros Coffee, marking our first retail investment in Oklahoma. The build-to-suit development is currently under construction and scheduled for completion this year.
In 2020, we acquired an existing 7 Leguas Mexican Restaurant building just northwest of The Woodlands. After razing the site and splitting it into two pads, we secured a 20-year ground lease with Regions Bank and a 20-year lease on a build-to-suit with Chipotle. We sold the Regions’ ground lease in May 2021 and completed and sold the Chipotle redevelopment in September 2021.
We closed on the build-to-suit development of a 4k-SF BOK Financial branch in the Denver metro area. We secured a 15-year lease, and the building is slated to open later this year.
Returning as a repeat honoree, DCEO included Mohr in its seventh annual Dallas 500 publication, a rigorously curated list of the city’s most powerful business leaders. And it’s no wonder why; in 2021 Bob drove Mohr Capital to new heights, transacting on $250 million of office, retail and industrial business – a 35% increase year over year. Mohr Capital has over 6 million square feet of speculative development under construction now.
The 2022 edition of Dallas 500 included Q&As with honorees which showcased their business prowess, as well as their personalities. Since the print magazine features only a snippet of Bob’s interview with D CEO, we’ve included the Q&A in its entirety below.
What have been some company or organization highlights in the past year or so?
In the 12 months between July 2020 and June 2021, Mohr Capital closed on a total of 17 transactions.
In the second half of 2020 alone, when the economy was still reeling from COVID-19, our team transacted on 8 deals located in Dallas and across the country. Five new acquisitions consisted of well-located, premier industrial land sites to fuel our industrial development activities in 2021 and beyond.
We continued the momentum we built in 2020 throughout 2021, completing 18 transactions totaling $250 million in deal volume. I’ll be sharing a full deal breakdown of our annual performance in my newsletter, “From the Desk of Bob Mohr.”
How would you rate investor appetite in DFW assets and do particular product types stand out?
Dallas is one of the top investor markets in the country for industrial and multi-family. Industrial is especially hot here, with 38 million square feet currently under construction.
What piece of advice has had the greatest impact on your career?
“Your reputation is everything.”
What are some of your favorite destinations/places to visit?
Portofino, Italy; Telluride, Colorado; and Punta Mita, Mexico.
If you could drive any car for a day, what would it be and why?
My restored 1949 Ford truck. It reminds me of Indiana and my family back home there.
Do you have a second home? If so, where is it and why did you choose that location?
Telluride, Colorado, is my “happy place.” Great for golfing, hiking, and escaping the Texas heat during the summer and snowboarding all winter.
What has you most excited about the future?
The tremendous business upside for our industrial and late-stage technology investments.
As you enter your office, what would you choose to be your walk-up/theme song, and why?
“Stayin’ Alive,” by The Bee Gees.
What do you do for fun? Any passions or hobbies?
I have been snowboarding and wakesurfing for the past 25 years. I also enjoy high-marking on my snowmobile in the mountains of Colorado.
What is your favorite DFW-area restaurant, and what do you order?
Bob’s Steak & Chophouse. Great service thanks to Ashley & Karen, and the best steak in town. It’s nice to have Bob Sambol back as well.
Interested in seeing who else made the Dallas 500 list? The 2022 edition is available now from D Magazine.