John Lauriello Speaks Up on BirminghamCREW Panel

Southpace Principal John Lauriello is known for his strong opinions. He’s passionate about downtown Birmingham, which made him a perfect choice to sit on a panel about new developments happening downtown at a BirminghamCREW event on May 21, 2013.

Other panelists included Andy Sink of Colliers International, Brad Moffatt with EGS Commercial Real Estate and Daniel Samford of Samford Properties.

It was a great event that included a lot of valuable discussion. The Q&A session was particularly interesting, and we took notes throughout that portion of the panel.

Here’s what everyone had to say.

Q: What does Birmingham need?

Andy Sink: One central government.

Q: What will the effects be of the Norfolk Southern Railroad extension?

Brad Moffatt: The Norfolk Southern Railroad has built a 180,000 TU facility in McCalla due to extending the Crescent Corridor from Texas to New Jersey. We are not sure yet what this impact will have on Birmingham. Some larger cities have been impacted greatly, while smaller communities have seen little impact at all by expansions such as this. We’re still waiting to see what we will experience.

Another panelist: On a similar note, experts are almost finished widening the Panama Canal which will greatly affect the Mobile port and should be a huge benefit to Alabama and Birmingham in particular.

Q: What do you see as the future for multi-family units?

John Lauriello: There will most likely be saturation soon if folks don’t stop building apartments. If you are looking at a project that is 6-7 years away, don’t lend money to it. If it’s within the next 2-3 years, you should be safe.

Andy Sink: Multi-family is actually the one sector that we (Colliers) do not invest in.

Another panelist: As a cultural trend, we are also seeing that many younger people, college students, etc are attracted to urban living in cities with walkable neighborhoods and retail.

Q: Do you think we’ll see growth in assisted living facilities in Birmingham?

Daniel Samford: There is definitely a gap in Birmingham regarding these types of properties. So yes, I hope/think we’ll see growth in that sector.

John Lauriello: One of our brokers, Steve Mordecai is actually working with a couple of those types of groups right now who are looking at land to build assisted living facilities. Also, Bryan Holt has sold a piece of land near I-65 & Hwy 31 to builders whose intentions are to build an assisted living facility there.

Q: What do you think is the future for downtown retail, shopping and grocery stores?

John Lauriello: Many people feel that now is the time for a downtown grocery store. However, I do not think this is the case. There are still not enough people living downtown to support a full service grocery store. A bodega or something similar to V. Richards, which is a grocer on a smaller scale, is definitely needed and would do well downtown. Something like Trader Joe’s would most likely only work well in the UAB area where there are enough folks to support it. Retail for downtown is still going to be difficult for now. (Update: Trader Joe’s not likely to come to Birmingham market anytime soon. See this article with commentary from Southpace Principal Bryan Holt.)

Southpace Properties, Inc. is Alabama’s largest independent commercial real estate firm. At Southpace, we add value to the use and ownership of commercial real estate through services such as office, retail, land, warehouse and industrial sales and leasing, tenant and landlord representation, development, consulting, investment sales, property management and construction management. With 12 CCIM designees, Southpace has the state’s highest number of CCIM accredited brokers under one roof.

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