In a spate of multimillion-dollar deals, Realife Real Estate Group of Independence is the new owner of three Northeast Ohio commercial properties, including a new Ohio City apartment building and two 1980s-era suburban office buildings.
For $13.6 million, Realife bought the six-story Edge32 apartment building, 3219 Detroit Ave. in Cleveland, on July 10, according to Cuyahoga County land records. The seller was an affiliate of commercial builder Chip Marous, CEO of Willoughby-based Marous Brothers Construction, which in 2017 developed the property with a view of Lake Erie.
Making a big switch in terms of property type, age and location, Realife on July 6 bought two low-rise Beachwood office buildings — Landmark Centre, 25700 Science Park Drive, and the Reflections Building, 24400 Chagrin Blvd. — from affiliates of the developer who constructed them, Bart Simon, chairman of Mayfield Heights-based North Pointe Realty.
Realife shelled out $3.8 million for Landmark and $3.2 million for Reflections, online county records report. Both buildings boast high occupancy. Realife paid a little more than the fair market value Cuyahoga County assigns to the office buildings: $3.6 million for Landmark and $3 million for Reflections.
Both structures are distinguished by classic ’80s designs, primarily tinted glass exteriors with multiple angles that afford tenants many corner offices for executives and staffers.
The older office buildings are not at the top of the buy list for most real estate investors amid the pandemic when there is a widespread question about future popularity of offices, a property type that was sagging even before the dangerous virus swept the nation. With many employees having spent months working from home and companies possibly seeing a chance to further slash overhead expenses, office buildings are not universally valued as the gems they once were in the past. Though, the question will only be answered by leasing action over the next few years.
James Asimes, Realife director of acquisitions, said in a phone interview that the company thinks both buildings are good investments because they serve the east suburban market near the homes of multiple business owners.
Simon responded to phone calls about the office building deals with an email.
“Our firm was privileged to design, build and develop these two successful projects in the 1980s,” Simon wrote. “I am so pleased our ownership groups sold them to Realife Real Estate Group, which, in our belief, is an outstanding real estate company as committed to Cleveland as we are.”
He did not respond to requests for more detail on why the company shed the properties after such long holding periods.
At the other end of the age spectrum, Edge32 faces a different market dynamic.
Edge 32 faces an onslaught of three new apartment buildings nearing completion or just starting to lease within a few blocks, with all of the competitors located closer to the popular West 25th Street and Hingetown beer, restaurant and retail districts.
Vacancy at Edge32 is 15%, according to online realty data provider CoStar, well above the 6.5% vacancy CoStar assigns to the downtown Cleveland and West Side area. Cuyahoga County assigns it a market value of $8.5 million for property tax purposes, although such residential properties benefit from property tax abatements.
The appetite of Realife for both property types has been established by prior deals. Last year, it acquired the Battery Park Lofts, 1250 W. 75th St. in Cleveland, also from a Marous affiliate, as well as an Independence office building.
Realife is led by Yaron Kandelker, an Israeli native who now lives in Cleveland. Kandelker has declined to be interviewed about the company, formed in 2014, and referred all Crain’s questions to Asimes.
Kandelker’s profile on the Realife website states that his strategy is to use his on-the-ground experience in areas where the company invests and to partner with experienced investors. The company has investors from Israel through an affiliated company of the same name, according to its website, but Asimes declined to discuss the company’s investors.
Realife is not alone in having a recently demonstrated an appetite for older office buildings in the east suburbs.
In a June 25 transaction, The Orlean Building, at 23875 Commerce Park Drive, which formerly housed the headquarters of the Beachwood-based home builder and apartment building operator, was sold for $1.2 million to 23875 CP LLC. The new owner is an investor group led by Kimball E. Rubin. Rubin’s namesake accounting firm is in the multitenant building. The one-story structure contains 15,000 square feet of office space.
The Rock On Cleveland Opportunity Fund III, an affiliate of Waterstone Brainworks Co. in South Euclid, paid $4.8 million to buy the Omni-Chagrin Building, 29255 Chagrin Blvd. in Pepper Pike, from a California-based investor group, Metro Officeplex, on April 28.
The three-story structure contains 33,000 square feet of office space. Waterstone owns and manages apartments and commercial real estate.