Oklahoma City is swimming in an Inland sea.
Inland American, a non-listed real estate investment trust based in suburban Chicago, has bought another shopping center, Rockwell Plaza. The center has more than 40 tenants including Ross Dress for Less, Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts, PetSmart, K&G Men's Warehouse, Radio Shack and Dollar Tree.
Inland paid $31 million for the 254,690-square-foot center at Northwest Expressway and Rockwell Avenue, according to Price Edwards & Co. The seller was an entity of Rockwell Acquisitions Inc., whose president is Dan Ward, principal of the better-known Medallion Management.
Six of the metro area's top shopping centers are now in Inland portfolios. Inland has been on a five-year buying spree here, paying top dollar for some of the best retail properties. In addition to Rockwell Plaza, Inland-affiliated companies own:
• 240 Penn Park, on the northeast corner of Interstate 240 and S Pennsylvania Avenue.
• Memorial Square, on the northeast corner of Memorial Road and N Pennsylvania.
• University North Park, part of University Town Center, north of Robinson and east of Interstate 35 in Norman.
• Silver Springs Pointe, near Northwest Expressway and Council Road.
• The Shops at Moore, southeast of S 19 Street and I-35 in Moore.
Inland also owns Tulsa Hills Shopping Center in Tulsa and the Legacy apartment complexes here: Legacy at Arts Quarter in downtown Oklahoma City, Legacy Crossing at 3131 SW 89, Legacy Woods in Edmond and Legacy Corner in Midwest City.
Inland bought Rockwell Plaza at the same time it bought Stone Ridge Market, a comparable retail center in San Antonio.
“These properties are a terrific addition to our retail portfolio and match our long-term strategy of investing in multitenant necessity-based retail properties,” said Jeff Manno, vice president of acquisitions for Inland American. “Both assets are dominant retail properties in their areas, with diverse tenant mixes and strong demographics to position them for future growth.”
Formed in 2004 and now managing $25.8 billion in assets with properties in 48 states, Inland is regarded as “a quality institutional owner,” Price Edwards said in its just-released 2012 Year-End Retail Market Summary, downloadable at www.priceedwards.com.
But, the firm noted, “One firm controlling a significant portion of Oklahoma City's best retail projects may or may not be good for our market over time and bears watching.”
Jim Parrack, Price Edwards senior vice president and retail specialist, said, “Inland's continued appetite for Oklahoma City's prime retail” is the biggest factor in retail investment sales. “They are rapidly cornering the upper end of the market and appear to want to buy more.”
Price Edwards recorded 13 shopping center sales in 2012, a total of 1.2 million square feet for a combined $127 million. It was the highest level of sales in five years, the firm said, due to improvement in retail generally and increased availability of capital for investment.
The market for commercial mortgage-backed securities is still reviving and could reach $40 billion in 2013, Price Edwards said.
CMBS, the lifeblood of commercial property investment until the credit crash and recession in 2008, provided about $300 billion per year in financing at the peak, but all but vanished in the financial wreckage. Private development stopped cold.
Development capital from CMBS bond sales picked up in 2011 and took off in the first quarter of 2012 before cooling amid economic uncertainties. Now big lenders are again making loans for commercial real estate, bundling notes and selling the aggregate income to investors, then taking proceeds and making more loans.
Further, Price Edwards said, real estate lending by life insurance companies is at an all-time high.
“Much of these two sources of funds go only to the top-tier projects in big markets, but it remains a good sign for us locally,” the firm said.