Talking Real Estate With Charlie Bresler
VisArts of Rockville, a local-non profit that promotes contemporary art, honored one of its longtime benefactors, Fleur Bresler, with a dinner and auction last Saturday night at its headquarters in Rockville Town Center.
VisArts is a lot like the Torpedo Factory in Old Town Alexandria; they both have work and display areas for local artists, including painting, photography, sculpture and glassworks.
VisArts has many prominent local backers, many of whom are from the business community. They include Manny Friedman, founder of Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group Inc, real estate broker Jim Ventura and Vornado/Charles E. Smith. They were all represented at the event.
Fleur's husband is Charlie Bresler. He is a former member of the Maryland House of Delegates and founded Bresler & Reiner, a Rockville-based real estate firm that owns office buildings from Houston to Pennsylvania to Virginia.
Bresler & Reiner has two office buildings under construction in Southwest D.C. The buildings, part of a project called Waterfront, are 500,000 square feet each. The District government is leasing space and plans to move in during late 2009 or early 2010. Bresler & Reiner are partners with Forest City Washington and Vornado/Charles E. Smith in the project.
Charlie's son, Sidney, is the chief executive of Bresler & Reiner Inc. It's a publicly-traded real estate firm, but you won't find B&R on the New York Stock Exchange. It trades on what is know as "the pink sheets or OTC," which is a vehicle for thinly traded stocks.
Charlie has been through 40 years of local real estate cycles, so I pulled him aside and asked him about the current climate.
"My sense is that there is an awful lot of commercial real estate building coming on and there is no way to know what the absorption is going to be," Charlie said.
Charlie then said something I had not really considered. Bix box stores could be vulnerable. He didn't want to name any retailers in particular, but he said some could be hurt by the pullback in consumer spending.
"These stores are going to get in trouble," Charlies said. "Architects are now doing plans to convert big-box stores for the time when they aren't big box stores."
Charlie said that the run of health and biotech leasing up Montgomery County's Interstate 270 corridor has run out of gas, at least for awhile.
"If you go up 270, from Chevy Chase out to Frederick, you will see building after building with big signs on them that said: 'Space.' Or you will see ground that is not being built on where you will see signs, 'Build to Suit.' The next year is going to be very tough," Charlie said. "Those who have the ability to keep up payments will be able to make it. The government has to step in and help."
November 17, 2008; 5:25 PM ET
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