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PHILADELPHIA-Welcome to the Philly 411, our monthly column on real estate happenings in the Metro area supplied with intel from David Jacobs, a director at Llenrock Group, a local commercial real estate investment-banking firm. You can also follow their blog here. Opinions are the author’s ownValhalla Brandywine Near Approval

Local Philadelphia businessman and real estate legend Albert M. Greenfield III, of Albert M. Greenfield & Co., Inc. is inching towards final approvals for the massive ValhallaBrandywine development in Wallace Township, Chester County, PA. The project now has the support of the Chester County Economic Development Council, the Wallace Township Board of Supervisors, and even Governor Ed Rendell. Valhalla Brandywine will be a fully LEED-certified, 600-acre spa/hotel/recreational development featuring an 8,000 yard, state of the art golf course, a 275 English-style cottage home community, and will have enough recreational activities to make it seem like a “camp for all ages.” One can choose year round and seasonal activities ranging from hunting to yoga, bowling to ice skating, basketball to martial arts and more. What’s most unique about the project is its affordability. While most golf and country clubs seek significant entry fees and annual dues, Valhalla Brandywine will only cost $3,000 in both membership and annual dues for an entire family, less than the cost of a summer vacation, and without all of the headaches of travel.

Brandywine Realty Trust Pulls Listings from Market

Over the past 9 months, Brandywine Realty Trust had tested the market by listing several office properties and local portfolios for sale. The properties, located in South Jersey, Delaware, Malvern, King of Prussia, and Plymouth Meeting did not meet Brandywine’s pricing expectations. While various local brokerage houses had the listings, all of their marketing efforts produced similar, disappointing results. Brandywine, along with many of its REIT counterparts, is looking for a means to infuse fresh capital for operations, but according to one anonymous broker “were seeking 2006 pricing.” No wonder nothing traded.

WP Realty Sells Paoli West Professional Park

In early August, WP Realty sold Paoli West, a 19,237 square foot multi-tenant medical office building adjacent to the Paoli Hospital at 15 & 17 Industrial Boulevard, to a group of private investors. The buyer used proceeds from a recent refinancing of one of their other assets to purchase the property. Exact pricing remains undisclosed, but we know that the property traded at a single digit cap rate, and for more than the $3,225,000($168/SF) that WP paid for the property when they acquired it in February, 2005.

While non-distressed sales for most product types are scant today, medical office continues to garner significant investor demand in the region. Doug Rodio and Steve Marzullo of CBRE’s Private Client Group handled the transaction, and were happily surprised by the more than 10 competitive offers they received on the 93% leased property. Having recently transacted 5 other medical office buildings, Rodio commented, “I felt like I was in a time machine that turned back the clock a few years. We are going to continue to focus on this niche market because we strongly believe the fundamentals and investor demand for quality MOB’s are both very healthy.”

First Tenants Open at Exeter Commons

Exeter Commons, a 490,000-square-foot retail redevelopment project that has been on the drawing board of Exeter Township for the past 10 years, is now bursting with activity. Give all the credit to developer Goldenberg Group, who in the spring of 2008 formed a partnership with Ironwood Property Group to move this project forward. They celebrated the opening of their first major tenant, a 132,000-square-foot Target, at the $75 million power center just three weeks ago. Other retailers already open include Sonic, America’s Drive-In, Five Below, Red Robin, Chick-Fil-A, PETCO, Famous Footwear, and America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses. Tenants opening this month include Giant Foods (81,000 sq. ft.), Staples, Five Guys Burgers & Fries, T-Mobile, GameStop, and Supercuts.

Located upon 50 acres at the intersection of Business Route 422, Bypass Route 422 and 47th street in Exeter Township, Berks County, PA, the power center was recently completed even though the center’s official grand opening isn’t scheduled until October, when a 171,000-square-foot Lowe’s Home Improvement Center is set to open.

South Jersey Development

Barnes & Noble broke ground last week on a 36,000-square-foot bookstore in Glassboro, NJ, becoming the first retailer to begin construction as part of the municipality’s $300 million makeover of Rowan Boulevard. It will be accompanied by several mixed use buildings, including 185,000 square feet of retail space, 307,000 square feet of residential space, 40,000 square feet of office space and a hotel/conference center.

The 26 acre, $300 million makeover of the Rowan Boulevard corridor is the first leg of a project that will encompass 81 acres and blend new businesses, residences, office and entertainment venues. It is expected to attract 12 new restaurants, and an additional 48 retail stores. A 360-bed Rowan University housing complex is also expected to be completed this September, and an additional 324-bed housing complex is also now underway.

Movers & Shakers

Philadelphia-based law firm Dechert recently laid off 25 more attorneys and staff because of slowing economic conditions. Among Philadelphia law firms, Dechert has the largest corporate securities and real estate finance practices and those were hit hard by the subprime lending meltdown. The firm has cut more than 200 people in four separate layoffs since December. The previous most recent layoff in March axed 125 lawyers and staff firm-wide, with 63 of those cuts being lawyers. The Philadelphia office is the firm’s largest, with roughly 300 lawyers and 400 staff as of last year. Dechert’s firm-wide lawyer count has been reduced to about 900 from 1,000 in the past three months.

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