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Inside Real Estate (Aug 14th, 2019)

1. China's Anbang Insurance Group is selling off its global real estate holdings including a $2.4 billion portfolio in Japan that is going back to its former owner, Blackstone Group. Anbang bought the collection of residential buildings in Tokyo and other big cities for around $2.4 billion in 2017. The Chinese government took control of Anbang last year and has put its substantial real estate holdings up for sale. Anbang may also be close to a deal on its collection of 15 U.S. luxury hotels. South Korean brand Mirae is working on financing for a deal that could be valued at around $5.5 billion. — YAHOO FINANCE
 

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2. The Mountain of Beverly Hills, a property once listed for $1 billion, will now be sold to the highest bidder at an auction later this week. The 157-acre parcel with views over Los Angeles will be sold at the Civic Center Plaza in Pomona, California. It was most recently listed for $650 million, and rumor has it that even Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos considered purchasing it. The auction could be stopped over small discrepancies like an incorrect detail in the public notice. The current owner, Secured Capital Partners, had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy but a judge turned down the petition, leading to foreclosure. Any buyer would have to pay at least $200 million to cover the debt owed on the property. If it does not achieve that milestone, it could revert back to the previous owners, the Hughes Trust. The sale would set a record in Los Angeles at that price. — WSJ

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3. Jargon Watch: Columbusing in real estate. Columbusing has long been used to poke fun at people "discovering" something that has existed for years whether it's a type of ethnic food or a style of music. In real estate, Columbusing is often used in gentrification stories in which people move into the neighborhood and act as if they invented it. The term is generally pejorative. These days, no one wants to be (Christopher) Columbus. 

One issue that comes up in conjunction with the Columbusing of neighborhoods is the rebranding of neighborhoods by the people and developers who move in. A case in point is the recent controversy over Quarry Yards in Atlanta and what constitutes "Old Atlanta" versus "New Atlanta." Some say "New Atlanta" is a way of positioning the city for white and wealthy young Millennials. 

Similarly in Denver, playwright Bobby Lefebre's new work "Northside" shines the spotlight on the gentrification of Denver's neighborhoods and the struggles that can erupt as people are displaced or priced out. He takes on the issue of neighborhood name changes as proof of Columbusing. As he puts it: "What is the creation of monikers like 'Lo-Hi' and 'RiNo' but a message that says: 'Thank you, but this is ours now.'"

How can developers position their projects without being accused of Columbusing? Share your thoughts by replying to this email to be included in an upcoming story on this ongoing concern. 

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4. Brick & Mortar Ventures, a new venture fund founded by Darren Bechtel, will invest in construction technology. The $97 million fund is the latest seeking to disrupt construction, which is still only beginning to explore what is possible with new technology (see the story of OpenSpace below for a great example of this). Darren Bechtel is the brother of Brendan Bechtel who runs the Bechtel Group, a large engineering and construction firm. While Bechtel Group is not an investor in Brick & Mortar, the company will be a preferred industry partner along with anchor investors such as Autodesk, Cemex, and Sidewalk Labs. — VENTURE BEAT

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5. Many entrepreneurs have tried to solve the issue of on-demand residential real estate showings; the latest are two Realtors who have created an app called Zühaus. The app allows you to request an agent and be shown a home within minutes. It is new to the market and just launched in Raleigh, North Carolina. A variety of companies have tried to create the "Uber of home showings" over the last five years, but issues of procuring cause (who gets credit for the buyer) and questions of client vetting have delayed progress. Now with Opendoor and other iBuyers offering self-guided showings in some markets, the need to compete is increasing. — WTVD

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6. WeWork was just one of the investors in OpenSpace, a platform that uses artificial intelligence to create 360-degree imaging of constructions sites. OpenSpace raised $14 million in the Series A round led by Lux Capital with contributions from other capital firms, JLL Spark, Tishman Speyer, and Suffolk Construction. Tishman Speyer has used the technology at large projects including the Spiral at Hudson Yards in New York City. OpenSpace captures images by having people walk around a construction site with cameras on the hardhats. The platform then gathers the images and layers them with the project plans to create a comprehensive site map. — CRUNCHBASE NEWS

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7. Keller Williams announced that it had a total of over 160,000 agents for the first half of 2019. Those agents closed 535,953 transactions, roughly on par with last year. Sales volume was up by 0.5 percent to $163.9 billion. The firm is rapidly expanding its technology offerings including the Command, a database management program, and Kelle, an AI-powered app. Ruben Gonzalez, the chief economist for Keller Williams, is forecasting a 3.5 percent drop in existing home sales for the rest of 2019. — INMAN NEWS (paywall)

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8. Denver International Airport is ending its contract with Great Hall Partners to complete renovations on the airport's main terminal. Great Hall Partners had a contract for $1.8 billion including $650 million for the renovation itself but has said that the project could cost millions more. The airport refused to give the contractor more time and money. Denver International Airport CEO Kim Day said the project will go forward but that the original completion date of November 2021 will not be met. Construction may resume next year. Great Hall has released a statement saying that part of the problem with the project was the discovery of weak concrete in areas of the terminal. — CBS4 DENVER
 

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9. BSA Council, formerly the Boy Scouts of America, is selling 1,150 acres of contiguous land near Las Vegas. The property has the approval to be used as a master-planned residential community with 1,250 proposed units, ranging from condos to single-family homes. The property is being marketed at roughly $90 million. It is located near State Route 160 which is currently being updated. The property is listed for approximately $90 million. Las Vegas has seen prices rise faster than any other city in the country in recent months according to Case-Shiller data. On a Facebook post by the Pahrump Valley Times, locals expressed concern about the traffic that a new community could create. The property is being marketed by Newmark Knight Frank which will offer aerial property tours by helicopter for qualified parties. — CONNECT MEDIA

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10. Urban Creation has developed a new apartment building by dropping nine fully-built units into a vacant structure in Bristol, England. This is believed to be the first time this technique has been used in the U.K. The building is a former nightclub on an urban street and may be an example of how modular construction can be used to ease the U.K.'s housing crisis through infill development. Go Modular created the units which include kitchens and bathrooms. The property will be used as student housing. The installation took place over four nights as units were lowered in on cranes. — HOUSING TODAY

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Written and curated by Deidre Woollard. Deidre has a background in real estate public relations and runs the largest Facebook group for real estate press opportunities. Tips welcome at deidre@inside.com.

Editor: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside).

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