In this episode we will learn the story of how a successful retail real estate investor got into real estate, what was his first deal like, what has been the best deal of his career, and we’ll also touch a little bit about a not so talked about topic: how to deal with political risks in the city that you invest in. We are interviewing Michael Flight, an expert retail real estate entrepreneur who has been active in commercial real estate over the past 34 years. Michael has handled more than $500 million worth of real estate transactions.
You can read this entire interview here: https://montecarlorei.com/how-to-go-from-0-to-500m-in-retail-real-estate-investments/
Tell us bout your best deal.
There are a few best deals. There's one that we're still working on. We started managing it in nineteen ninety and we've redeveloped it three times now. We've expanded or renewed most of the tenants in the shopping center. It's a 300,000 square foot shopping center in suburban Chicago. We've actually torn down and rebuilt forty five percent of the shopping center. We took a Walgreens that was doing phenomenal volume and moved them to an aisle parcel that was just vacant, a parking lot. Over the years, the managing partner that became partners with us on a few different projects that we've done, that's just been a great project for us to expose us to a lot of things, not only with that, but geotechnical problems with soil stability. I'm fairly certain that most of the environmental problems are corrected, but every time we stuck a shovel in the dirt over there a new underground storage tank would come up. The other exciting thing was that it was in two major motion pictures. Wayne's World, and Wanted with Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie. They blew up one of the stores that we were replacing anyway since they were going out of business.
You briefly mentioned that the city wanted you to have a different tenant, can you elaborate there?
We have run into that in a number of different municipalities all over the country. It really depends on how strict their zoning laws are. It really depends on the individual city. That's why if you're buying a shopping center, you're going to have to live with whatever is the political system in there. Even if it's in a good state like Texas, it could be a difficult city. You need to know about that in advance. Now, we've had situations where we were doing a facade renovation on our property in Connecticut, next to New Haven. Most of the guys that were on the zoning board, probably three of them, also taught in the Architectural Department of Yale University. They all thought that they knew way better than the property owner what was needed for the shopping center. We went in with plans and they actually redesigned a large majority of the plans.
And that's how much control they have over most of the time with the facade renovation. It doesn't require a zoning permit and you would just go in for a building permit. But some of these municipalities have very strict zoning code, signage code, design code. They're into the minute details. Another thing that triggers some things is if the municipality has traffic planners. So if you decide to change any part of the parking lot, they will tell you that you need to do this and that in the parking lot. You just need to be aware of some of the things that go into it. Slightly different than owning apartment buildings. They're more visible and so cities take a more active interest in it, and a lot of times they generate sales taxes, so cities take a larger interest in it as well. They're kind of your partner, but without putting any money into it.
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