Stumbling Into Real Estate Success

Direct investment in real estate is uncommon for most very wealthy individuals (they tend to invest indirectly through private-equity funds or established developers). It is even less common for an individual to happen upon success in real estate, largely by accident. For Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen, these are paths well traveled.  Allen fell into real estate after a nonprofit group planning a park in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood defaulted on a 20 million dollar loan he made, giving him control of the land. Instead of selling the property, Allen’s Investment firm, Vulcan Inc., chose to buy more adjacent land and develop apartments and offices. While the project suffered an initial blow during the recession, the area got a boost when Amazon decided to station it’s headquarters in an 11 building compound on the site. The company turned the area into a hot spot for businesses and residents alike, and now many more developers have joined in to take advantage of the growing market.

Allen and Vulcan’s property purchases and developments are mirroring the investment decisions of a few key wealthy individuals in different areas of the United States. Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert has been buying up land in Detroit with hopes to redevelop key areas of downtown, while Michael Dell of Dell Computers is currently working on redeveloping the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, California (among other projects).  While each region has benefited from a resurgence in the real estate market, Vulcan has been in a particularly profitable area, due to Seattle’s prominence within the tech industry. While a lag in this sector could spell trouble for Vulcan and other investors, current returns show that, for now, the area remains profitable. The Lake Union submarket (where Vulcan is focused) showed average prices per square foot of $39 in the third quarter, the highest of any submarket in the region. This, combined with vacancy at 3.6% (compared to a 10.6% average for the region) show that the area remains in high demand.

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Virginia MacKoul

Virginia is a graduate from the University of Florida's College of Design Construction and Planning with a degree in Sustainability and the Built Environment, and a minor in Urban Regional Planning. Virginia joined the Front Street team in 2011, as an intern. Upon graduation, Virginia joined the Front Street team full-time as the Director of Client Services. Ms. MacKoul’s addition furthers Front Street’s continued growth and expansion within Gainesville and other North Central Florida markets. She was promoted to Director of Marketing in 2014 and now manages the firm’s team of interns and oversees all marketing and branding activity. Virginia was born in Boston and moved to Lee County, Florida in 1997. Virginia graduated her high school's International Baccalaureate program and started at the University of Florida with a focus on Architecture. Virginia shares Front Street's passion of giving back to the community and those in need. Virginia's hobbies include photography, cooking, football, movies, music, and spending time with her dog, Brinkley.

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