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On Wednesday, the Chamber’s Business Retention and Expansion committee met to hear from a panel of local experts in the commercial real estate sector about current and projected growth in Mobile. Facilitated by Reid Cummings, PhD with the University of South Alabama, panel presentations were given by: Gavin Bender Sr., Bender Real Estate Group (focus on office sector), Angie MacArthur, Stirling Properties LLC (focus on retail sector) and Ralph Neal III, Watson Realty Inc. (focus on warehouse and industrial sector). Below is an overview of what the presenters had to say:
Gavin Bender – Bender Real Estate Group
Bender noted Mobile has a relatively small office market compared with the state’s other metros. Mobile has about 6M square feet of office space, compared with 15M in Montgomery, 25M in Huntsville and 30M in Birmingham. Bender noted there has been an increase in demand in 2015, and his company is continuing to focus on finding good, available office space in Mobile for sale, purchasing it with investors and adding it to the company’s management portfolio. He noted that while his company has not seen Airbus suppliers coming into the local market needing just office space, he believes that as Airbus continues to ramp up their assembly process, there will be some movement in commercial office space.
Angie MacArthur – Stirling Properties LLC
MacArthur talked about Mobile’s changing retail sector with large national companies continuing to take notice in the port city. She believes many of these retailers have had a long-time interest in Mobile, and now with new retail developments, like McGowin Park, Jubilee Square across the bay, and what’s happening at Bel Air Mall, our market will continue to see additional investment. She noted that even during the economic downturn, many commercial realtors remained busy with projects as retailers were readjusting its retail footprint. She noted this will continue to happen as e-commerce grows. An example she provided was Best Buy who will be moving out of their 55K square foot space at Springdale, and heading into a 30K square foot space that better serves the retailer’s needs.
Ralph Neal – Watson Realty Inc.
Neal noted that Mobile’s “build to suit” market is good, and spurring some of it is the lack of “Class A warehouse/office space” in Mobile. He believes much of the warehouse and industry sector growth will be seen in established business parks with campus-like amenities. He thinks high growth areas right now are in the Rangeline Road area, and several spots throughout Mobile County – all with available land and infrastructure. Right now the majority of his clients who are looking to build and/or lease are searching for properties that can accommodate between 10,000-20,000 square feet of warehouse space. He said a key for many of his clients is having the ability to grow the company while remaining in the same location.