The News: Developer Finds Strength in Diversity

With office vacancy rates continuing to rise, a developer with an expertise in suburban build-to-suit and speculative office projects is likely to have trouble keeping busy. But The Alter Group has continued to develop by expanding its horizons.The company’s most recent redevelopment project is a luxury boutique condominium in Vail, Colo. The company was awarded a $30 million construction loan to add 16 units to the luxury Landmark Condominiums by building into the air rights and to build a new entrance and clock tower.Alter has diversified in recent years, building industrial space, medical offices and even a hotel in Downtown Chicago, but it does have some offices in the pipeline. Senior vice president of national development Todd Yates said three South Florida projects are in the entitlement process. And while entitlement in Florida can take a long time, this is a good time to take care of the process, he noted.The near-term picture is brighter for the medical office sector. “With endowments and contributions down, many hospitals that formerly owned their facilities may look more favorably at leasing space,” Yates said. He expressed caution about building office space in Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C. He wondered what effect Wells Fargo’s merger with Wachovia would have on Charlotte. And inventory in Atlanta, which has seen a large amount of office development in recent years, has been hurt by a significant amount of mergers and acquisitions.Yates said the company is looking at office development opportunities in Nashville, which offers job growth and a diversified economy. But until the economy bounces back, Yates stated, the company will look for new opportunities, such as the condominium development in Vail, even if they fall outside the company’s sweet spot.