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South Floridians not jolly for holiday spending southflorida.bizjournals.com

Scrooge may steal some holiday gift-giving cheer away from South Florida, according to the results of our Biz Pulse survey. Nearly 66 percent of the 141 respondents to our online poll said they planned to significantly cut spending for holiday gifts this year. About 22 percent said they were cutting back by a little, while 7 percent said they would spend the same. About 3 percent said they expected to spend more on gifts. The responses bucked the trend of increased holiday spending so far, according to the National Retail Federation.

More than 172 million shoppers nationwide were out prowling for deals during the three-day post-Thanksgiving weekend, according to the federation's 2008 Black Friday Weekend survey, conducted by BIGresearch. That’s up from 147 million shoppers last year.

Shoppers spent an average of $372.57 each, a 7.2 percent increase from last year’s $347.55. Weekend spending was estimated to be $41 billion.

Florida mirrored the positive national sales trends, according to Rick McAllister, president of the Florida Retail Federation. But, not everyone plans to get spending. “Who has money to spend?” asked Patricia Roberts in her comment on our Biz Pulse site. “Congress is giving to the ‘sleight of hand’ thieves and taking from the people [who have] ‘gotten their hands dirty’ making products. Bah humbug! READ MORE!

Corporate downsizing dumps office space on the marketsouthflorida.bizjournals.com

By Darcie Lunsford

Corporate heavyweights looking to lighten their real estate load in South Florida include Washington Mutual, Lydian Trust Co., Agilysys, Hewlett-Packard, Morgan Stanley, the Falcone Group, Colonial Bank, IBM and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The current parade of belt-tightening companies are trampling South Florida’s softening office market with 2.7 million square feet of sublets, according to CB Richard Ellis research data.

These sublets and shadow space – which includes space not officially on the market, but expected to be so soon – are driving South Florida commercial vacancy rates to their highest levels since the dot-com bust and post-Sept. 11 wipeout.

“I think the shadow space out there really skews the market,” said John Jaspert, a tenant representative with CB Richard Ellis. “I have never had more subleases on my plate than I do right now.”

“He said the uncertain economy has firms scrutinizing their real estate requirements. Sometimes, the decision is made before a firm even moves in. The Falcone Group, a privately held Boca Raton-based real estate and communications conglomerate, retained Jaspert in late November to sublet its never-occupied, 19,272-square-foot headquarters in the new Boca Village Corporate Center. “It is absolutely gorgeous. It is pretty opulent,” Jaspert said of the fully built-out office. “They are dealmakers, so they will get aggressive [with pricing].”

With fewer tenants looking for space, millions of square feet of new space in the pipeline, rising vacancy and mounting sublets, competition for rent-paying companies is steep, real estate brokers say. “The pendulum has swung from early summer, when it was a landlord market to being a strong tenants’ market,” said Diana Parker, a Miami-based office broker with Cushman & Wakefield.

Sublets compete with space being marketed directly by a landlord. But, rates on this unwanted space is often cheaper by 30 percent or more.. READ MORE!

Alonzo Mourning group gets land lease for rentals southflorida.bizjournals.com

By Bill Frogameni and Oscar Pedro Musibay

Without a competitive bid, Miami-Dade County commissioners gave Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning’s charity a lease on 7 acres of county land in downtown Miami, where he and partners plan affordable rental housing.

Some commissioners questioned the deal, alluding to scandals that in recent years led to a federal takeover of the county’s housing agency. Ultimately, however, the commission on Dec. 2 voted 12-1 in favor of the resolution.

AMC is partnering with Coconut Grove-based Housing Trust Group (HTG), a for-profit developer partially controlled by former CB Richard Ellis Vice Chairman Jay Massirman. Massirman declined comment and referred questions to HTG Executive VP Shawn Wilson. The partners will lease the land, in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood, for $1 a year for 65 years. AMC, which has never done a project of this kind, is to control the 190-unit development.

The project’s two buildings will target both the elderly and families. Ninety-five of the two- and three-bedroom units would be reserved for families with an income at or below 60 percent of the county’s adjusted median income. Elderly residents will have to meet the same income criteria to qualify for the 95 planned one-bedroom units. READ MORE!

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