Bonita Springs investment firm is reaping profits from value-add strategy
by: Kevin McQuaid | Observer Staff | Original Source
TerraCap Management has for several years been sowing the seeds for a big return, buying often distressed properties throughout Florida at discounts to replacement costs.
Now, it’s reaping.
In the past seven months, the Bonita Springs-based investment firm has sold a handful of office properties for more than $150 million.
While that figure in and of itself is striking, even more remarkable is that TerraCap paid just over $55.6 million for the properties, beginning in 2013.
Though in each case Tampa International Business Center, Capital Commerce Center in Tallahassee, Kane Plaza in Sarasota, 215 Celebration Place outside Orlando and Lakeview Center in Tampa required millions of dollars in renovations, improvements, broker commissioners and other expenses, TerraCap’s return on investment remains impressive, analysts say.
“The common theme with all of our properties is we go in, add value, stabilize them, get them to full occupancy or as close to that as we can, and then we consider our job done,” says W. Stephen Hagenbuckle, a TerraCap managing partner. “From there, we sell them and return investments to our partners.”
Hagenbuckle says the company, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary next month, is a “thematic and event-centered investor.”
It certainly has had a lot of events to commemorate since last November.
That was when TerraCap sold its six-building Tampa International Business Center, containing 324,654 square feet in the city’s Westshore Business District, to Real Estate Value Advisors LLC for $45.05 million.
TerraCap purchased the asset for $8.4 million, then boosted occupancy by replacing roofs and heating and air conditioning equipment, installing a covered walkway into the buildings and adding new asphalt and spaces to parking lots.
“The exterior work made the property much more attractive to institutional buyers,” Hagenbuckle says.
Two months later, TerraCap sold the Capital Commerce Center for $45 million to a Nashville, Tenn.-based real estate investment trust.
TerraCap had purchased the series of three interconnected office buildings in late 2013 for $3.3 million, at auction.
At the time, the 261,000-square-foot Capital Commerce was vacant, but Hagenbuckle and the TerraCap team saw value in the property’s abundant structured parking.
The timing turned out to be serendipitous. Shortly after the purchase, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation indicated it needed to move more than 1,000 employees to a new location. It chose Capital Commerce Center.
“We were comfortable that there were not a lot of big blocks of space in Tallahassee available with any kind of vacancy,” Hagenbuckle says. “In fact, there was only one — our project.”
Though TerraCap spent more than $7 million on tenant improvements for DBPR, it allowed the firm to sell the property at a considerable premium, thanks to a 10-year lease and a 98% occupancy.
In April, TerraCap sold its Celebration asset to the 126,000-square-foot building’s largest tenant, which occupied more than a third of the space, for $21.8 million.
To add value to the deal, TerraCap erased some 23,000 square feet of vacancy in Celebration Place IV during its ownership.
“I think we’re viewed as a reliable buyer who closes on time. In some cases, that means more to a seller than maximizing return.” — W. Stephen Hagenbuckle, TerraCap Management
Less than a month later, TerraCap struck again, disposing of the 10-story Kane Plaza office building and an adjacent tract for $18.1 million — more than $6.6 million more than TerraCap had paid in 2014.
Fitting its template, TerraCap revamped the building’s lobby, elevators and lighting, and painted throughout. It also sold an adjacent two-acre tract of land for $2.75 million to Tampa’s Icon Residential, which is developing a townhome project there.
“We made the space much more modern,” Hagenbuckle says. “So much so that the YMCA, the building’s largest tenant, was preparing to leave when we acquired the building, and we convinced them to stay and leased up the rest.”
Also in May, the company capped its frenzy of dispositions with the $21.8 million sale of Lakeview Center.
TerraCap had purchased the property for $13.74 million, based in part on occupancy by DeVry University and investment firm USAA. When both tenants relocated, however, it appeared TerraCap would be in for a long slog.
That was until HealthPlan Services began growing into the nation’s “largest independent solutions provider to the insurance and managed-care industries” and TerraCap injected $3 million in improvements into the building.
In time, HealthPlan expanded from a small occupancy to take down the entire 186,300-square-foot building. For good measure, the company made Lakeview Center its corporate headquarters, as well.
“Buyers love buildings that are 100% occupied, and the fact that it’s their corporate headquarters, as well, made it even more enticing,” Hagenbuckle says.
TriOut Advisory Group, of Miami, was equally drawn to the notion that the property’s 19.3 acres would allow for development of up to 190,000 additional square feet of space.
“They’ve been executing their business model,” says Joe Rossi, an executive managing director with commercial real estate brokerage Colliers International, which represented TerraCap in the Lakeview Center sale.
“And they’ve had some absolute home runs,” Rossi adds. “They deserve a lot of credit because they began buying at a time when many people wondered how anyone could make a go of some of their properties, and they’ve come out looking like heroes.”
But Hagenbuckle cautions that the spate of sales shouldn’t be seen as a liquidation, or a sign that markets have turned.
He notes TerraCap recently closed on a $39.2 million deal for a pair of Orlando office buildings. Resource Square I and III total 244,549 square feet and are 85%% occupied at present.
The company also last year spent $116 million — its largest single deal to date — to acquire some 1,100 multifamily rental units in Atlanta, and it is working on closing an office transaction in Dallas where it will invest another $39 million.
“We’re still buying,” Hagenbuckle says. “We’re always looking for some tangible event where a seller needs to let go of something below replacement cost, so there’s room for us to come in and make capital improvements.”
Moreover, Hagenbuckle doesn’t see the current real estate growth cycle ending anytime soon, because lender constraints have limited the amount of new product — especially of office space.
“We’re very comfortable with the demand in the markets we’re in because there’s a limited amount, or in some cases no, new speculative investment,” he says.
Lenders have balked at financing new office buildings in may cases because rental rates, despite steady gains in places like Tampa, still don’t match construction costs.
“Lenders pay attention now,” Hagenbuckle says. “They’ve been very prudent this go round, and as a result, we have stable real estate markets, and that could elongate this cycle by a lot.
“Markets, for the most part, aren’t overinflated,” he adds. “There’s not a general oversupply, which is what causes markets to tank. We don’t have that these days.”
He believes, too, that TerraCap’s reputation has helped the firm land deals others might not.
“I think we’re viewed as a reliable buyer who closes on time,” Hagenbuckle says. “In some cases, that means more to a seller than maximizing return.”
Going forward, Hagenbuckle says TerraCap will expand its geographic footprint into cities like Dallas, and look at lodging, office and multifamily rental deals in select North Carolina cities.
The company also is in the midst of amassing a $300 million fund to acquire further properties. The fund, which is scheduled to close next April, has already deployed about $120 million in capital.
“It hasn’t always been roses, these past few years, but we have been fortunate,” Hagenbuckle says. “I guess we’re doing something right.”