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Treo Group offers an example of how developers keep moving ahead despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Coconut Grove company is finishing up Regatta Harbour, the waterfront redevelopment project in Coconut Grove, and Vox Tallahassee, a 891-bed student housing project. It’s also constructing Vox Miami, a 361-unit student housing project at the South Miami Metro station.
With construction regarded as an essential business, the pandemic hasn’t had a great impact, says Otto Boudet-Murias, the principal responsible for managing the day-to-day operations. Of course, more precautions and separation of workers has been needed.
Treo Group has four principals who have participated in more than $500 million of real estate development and investments across all major asset types. It recently has had more than $200 million in projects in the pipeline.
The $50 million Regatta Harbour renovation of 9.5 waterfront acres was featured in an October 2019 SFBW article about the revitalization of Coconut Grove.
Treo is nearly finished leasing up 34,000 square feet on the ground floor of a new parking garage being built by the Metropolitan Parking Authority.
The tenants will be a mix of lifestyle, retail and entertainment tenants. “It’s a destination for people to walk around and spend the day. I think that’s the type of retail that will continue to succeed,” says Treo principal Eddie Garcia.
The marina is fully functional, and one of the historic Pan Am hangars on the site is being renovated so all the boats will be indoors, Boudet-Marias says.
Construction will begin shortly on the casual dining space, which is now expected to open in the first quarter of 2021. Treo is working with Grove Bay Hospitality Group on the open-air Hangar 42 casual restaurant and the upscale waterfront Afishonado with Top Chef season 13 winner Jeremy Ford.
A big plus for Regatta Harbour in the COVID-19 era will be the abundance of outdoor dining spaces and plenty of room for walking around while enjoying the scenery on and along Biscayne Bay.
“People who go there to eat there like to see all he boaters and nautical life,” Boudet-Marias says. Boaters like to pull up for dinner as well.
The project is walkable from the resurging downtown area of Coconut Grove and the condos along South Bayshore Boulevard.
The eight-story Vox Miami broke ground in November, and its 326 beds will be in 99 units ranging from one-bedroom/one-bathroom to four beds/one bath.
The $125 million project is being built on top of the parking garage by the station under a 99-year land lease with the county.
It connects directly to the station, and amenities will include a rooftop terrace, a swimming pool, fitness center and study lounge.
The second phase envisions a 180,000-square-foot office building with 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.
The pandemic has disrupted the office market with some companies looking at having more employees working from home and also looking at dispersal of space into more suburban locations, which South Miami represents.
“We’re monitoring office trends, but it’s too early to say how this plays out,” Boudet-Murias says. “There definitely a likelihood that markets in New York will relocate, speeding up a lot of the migration to Florida and we would benefit from that. Also, there’s a likelihood that, in some respects, companies might want more square footage. The trend had been to densify. Maybe some of that goes back in the other direction.”
Treo has acquired, operated and managed more than $40 million of student housing assets (850 units/1,400 beds) spread across five residential communities in Tallahassee.
Vox Tallahassee is 90 percent leased and expected to open for the fall term, Boudet-Murias says. The company has experience with multiple properties in Tallahassee and since the projects are off campus, they operate like traditional multifamily residences.
The amount of leases had gone up 15 to 20 percent since Florida State shut down its campus in recognition of the pandemic, Boudet-Murias says.
Treo targets student housing projects that are either within walking distance of campus or along mass transit routes. Some were acquired as value-added opportunities to renovate and improve properties and then improving income.
Treo Group began in 2013 when it was formed by Miami-based American Realty Capital and Treo Partners. The company has about $50 million in equity capital, which allows it to aggressively pursue, underwrite and quickly close complicated real estate transactions on a cash basis. Its source of capital is primarily family offices and local investors. Treo recently had more than $70 million of assets under management, including student housing communities, commercial shopping centers and land holdings for office, retail and residential use.
Boudet-Murias says Treo found opportunities to do student housing during the 2008-09 financial crisis when it moved quickly to acquire several portfolios of commercial backed securities loans.
“With four principals, we basically underwrite the deals directly and are able to move quickly to identify assets that we want to acquire,” he says.
Garcia noted the company has become active in manufactured and RV housing parks.
At the end of 2018, Treo acquired Pine Isle Park, a senior mobile home community with 317 lots near Homestead for $12.99 million. Treo has also acquired another project near Kissimmee in Central Florida.
Similar to its approach in student housing, Treo can upgrade park amenities and increase income floor. Another strategy is to redevelop parks into multifamily projects. ♦
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