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BOSTON-It appears some of the area’s new kids will be hanging around their blocks for awhile after all. At an industry forum Wednesday aimed at introducing some of the fresh investment faces in the New England market, two of the three invitees acknowledged high-profile attempts to harvest recently acquired portfolios have been put on hold by the deteriorating property sales sector. The third–Irish transplant David Greaney– pledged to continue adding to his firm’s holdings that now exceed $200 million in 15 transactions.

“We are really a long-term player, and we are going back to doing what we do best,” Normandy Real Estate Partners principal Justin Krebs told an audience of several hundred gathered at the Boston InterContinental Hotel during the Naiop of Massachusetts annual meeting. As in Normandy’s case, Brickman EVP Michael Bernstein says his company intended to keep their Boston investments for an extended period after entering the market in early 2006, but record pricing and demand for properties in the first half of 2007 led them to the sales arena. In Brickman’s case, the decision came just as the firm was completing the acquisition of some assets, including 40 Court St. in the city’s Financial District.

Over the course of the summer, however, the credit crisis seeped from the residential world into commercial real estate, throwing CMBS lenders into a standstill and thwarting countless deals, especially for multibuilding portfolios and other nine-figure opportunities previously favored by high-levered investors. Finally realizing that the escalation had peaked, Normandy and Brickman adjusted their strategies to wait for a more stable climate, Bernstein and Krebs relay. “We saw a lot of numbers that got us excited,” said Bernstein, figures that would have allowed the fund to immediately achieve its objectives for investors. “That’s how crazy it got,” he added of the financial fervor, albeit a temporary phenomenon.

Bernstein expressed confidence that Brickman can weather the difficulties, having already achieved the 25% rental growth in its earliest investments in half the four-year timeframe initially crafted. The New York City-based firm acquired most of the Boston properties for a fund focused on stability and steady cash flow, beginning with 313 and 330 Congress St. in Boston’s emerging Seaport District. Struggling mightily when Brickman made its initial foray there, the Seaport has rebounded strongly, and Brickman is bullish over the near term. “The market is healthy, and that will limit some of the pain we see from the uncertainty,” he said of Congress Street and other holdings in Boston and Cambridge.

Krebs was equally upbeat, maintaining that Normandy’s vertically integrated model bodes well for the status quo, with the company willing to upgrade properties in order to attract tenants, as it did at 400 Fifth Ave. in Waltham. That should prove an advantage over investors structured to flip their conquests quickly, said Krebs, whose firm has more than two dozen staffers overseeing the Boston assets. “It’s a dynamic that really helps us.”

And while the sales side may have settled down, both Bernstein and Krebs stressed that their firms are out raising fresh capital to take advantage of opportunities as they come available. The same is true for Greaney’s Boston-based firm, Synergy, said the founder who launched the company nearly three years ago after working for another local investment firm started by an Irish native, John McGrail. Greaney said his cadre of overseas investors not only has an advantage due to the weak dollar, but also because the dearth of leveraged capital is making the playing field less competitive. As a result, Synergy is eager to place capital in Boston during the coming year, he said, primarily in class B properties that can benefit from a hands-on redevelopment.

Greaney concurred with a suggestion that Massachusetts can be a difficult market to navigate at the outset, but said he has been able to make inroads partly due to the heritage of Irish investment in the market, plus a strategy to forge lasting relationships with brokers and property owners. That approach has allowed Synergy to purchase most of its buildings off-market. As a result of the strategy, Synergy has closed on every deal it has committed to, Greaney reported, even amidst the recent turmoil. “All in all, it has been a positive experience,” said Greaney, who has actually been in Boston since the mid-1990s.

Krebs is also not a true newcomer, having worked previously here for UBS and JP Morgan before helping Morristown, NJ-based Normandy begin its real estate campaign in suburban Boston in 2005. The company has invested in 20 deals since, accounting for $620 million of capital. Although product is hard to come by at present as other sellers balk at entering the stormy environment, Krebs said Normandy is eager to make further inroads in the region. “We believe fundamentally this is an exciting place to be.”

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