CBRE Investors Acquires Majority Stake in M-F Developer

CB Richard Ellis Investors, an affiliate of Los Angeles-based CB Richard Ellis Group Inc., has acquired a controlling interest in Atlanta-based Wood Partners on behalf of its investors. As a business entity, Wood Partners will retain its name and management team.CBRE Investors declined to specify the sales price, though typically the company does investment deals in the $100s of millions range. All together, CBRE Investors made $11.7 billion of acquisitions in North America, Europe and Asia during 2007, and completed $4.8 billion in dispositions.Wood Partners specializes in upmarket apartment and condo development, having completed about 39,000 units since its founding 10 years ago. It also is a large owner of multi-family rental housing, with about 16,700 units in over 30 metro markets. According to the company, it has roughly $3 billion worth of additional development projects in its pipeline.Among other projects, Wood Partners is currently building Trump Towers Atlanta condo development, as previously reported in CPN. The first phase of the 365-unit building is slated for completion next year.CPN spoke this afternoon with Vance Maddocks, president & CEO of CBRE Investors, about the Wood Partners deal and the climate for multi-family investment acquisition. CPN: Why is this a good time for this kind of acquisition? Maddocks: About a year ago, our research group identified the multi-family [sector] as the top-performing property type over the next five years. That’s based on the fact that, even though the downturn we’re seeing is more consumer- than business-driven, we’re still going to see a significant adverse impact on office, industrial and retail space. We think vacancies are going to go up for those property types. Maybe not as much as around 2001, but still significantly. Multi-family space will stay at about 6 percent vacancy nationally, and have the strongest rental rate growth of any property type. CPN: How much annual rental rate growth are you projecting? Maddocks: Over the next five years, 1 to 2 percent–a strong forecast, given what we’re going through. CPN: Is that strength directly related to the weakness in the for-sale housing market? Maddocks: That’s only one factor, and actually it’s a small factor. The real driving force will be population growth among those earning good wages, and among retirees. People in their 20s, who are forming new households, and new retirees, who are downsizing their households, are two growing groups–and they’re likely to be renters. CPN: Is Woods Partners a good platform to access those groups? Maddocks: It is. We’re a large investor, and we’re not usually looking for one-off deals. We’re looking for bigger plays, such as Woods Partners. We can benefit from being partner with them because they’re one of the largest multi-family platforms in the country. Going forward, it’s exactly the type of acquisition we’re looking to do more of in the multi-family [sector].