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|Articles - January 2013|
|Monday, December 10, 2012|
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Strong relationships with banks have been another stabilizing force. “The banks know I’m there,” says Schnitzer, who refinances about $500 million worth of property annually. “We’re very honest, transparent and open.”
About that blocking and tackling: When the housing collapse hit, regional managers were empowered to give “more specials, free rent, more tenant-improvement dollars — anything to get the space full,” Schnitzer says. In 2011 he sold a signature property, the Alameda Towne Centre in the Bay Area, for $181 million. Harsch had purchased the shopping center in 1979 for $13 million, then invested another $75 million in upgrades in 2002. The sale helped Harsch maintain cash flow and pay off short-term debt, says Schnitzer, who also has written down tens of millions of dollars in internal asset values.
The past few years have been tough personally as well as professionally, says Schnitzer, who divorced a few years ago and recently lost his father. Along with the economic downturn, these family trials may help explain why such a powerful and admired member of Oregon’s business community seems a bit equivocal about the future. On the one hand, occupancy rates are up in a couple of cities, and this past October, Harsch made its first postrecession acquisition: an 18,000-square-foot warehouse in Sacramento purchased for $875,000. “We’re doing our best to lead the market up,” says Schnitzer, who recently instituted a program to raise rents by a penny per square foot, an increase that would generate an additional $200,000.
On the other hand, despite the positive indicators, Schnitzer says one big issue still haunts him: the idea that “this was not just another recession” and that the real-estate market may not return to “normal.” In the civic arena, meeting a fundraising goal is cause for celebration, says Schnitzer, who has served on more than 30 boards and, this year, received the 2012 Simon Benson Award for philanthropy. But the business world — you guessed it — requires a little more humility.
“The best deal you’ve done,” Schnitzer says, “is always the next one.”
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