Guest Opinion: Demand for Triangle real estate is changing

July 6, 2018 | Triangle Business Journal
Lee Roberts

Triangle residents have grown accustomed to the sight of cranes, street closures and construction vehicles. Even a casual observer can see that new office buildings, hotels and apartments are going up everywhere, in established areas and emerging ones alike. But what’s not as obvious is the way this real estate is being used is fundamentally changing.

Office tenants are demanding more flexibility and exploring new locations. Microbreweries now share space with building contractors in old warehouses. Millennials are seeking different experiences, whether at work or when traveling.

While large and established office tenants used to occupy the most expensive space in the most traditional locations, today those tenants often seek more. They want to attract and retain young employees, which means “walkability,” amenities and interesting places to go for lunch or a beer after work.

Durham’s American Tobacco project was one of the first national examples of this trend, with a former manufacturing facility now housing endowment managers and private equity firms. Raleigh’s Warehouse District, traditionally home to art galleries, night clubs and vacant industrial buildings, has a new Class A office building called The Dillon.

Co-working represents another major change. Early targets were local entrepreneurs who wanted an inexpensive alternative to their kitchen tables. These retrofitted spaces offer food trucks, coffee and local microbreweries to encourage synergy and socializing. Some, like HQ in Raleigh, The Frontier in Research Triangle Park and American Underground in Durham also make additional expertise and programming available to their tenants. The concept has been so successful it’s gone corporate.

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Lee Roberts

Managing Partner

Lee co-founded SharpVue and leads its real estate investment effort. He has spent his 25+ year career in real estate investment and finance and has been involved in the sector in several contexts, including private equity, investment banking and commercial banking. Immediately prior to SharpVue, he served as budget director for the State of North Carolina, a role in which, among other initiatives, he led an effort to rationalize the state’s real estate portfolio.

Before his time in public service, Mr. Roberts was most recently Managing Director of Piedmont Community Bank Holdings, a private equity-backed bank investment platform in Raleigh. He was earlier a Partner at Cherokee Investment Partners, a real estate private equity fund in Raleigh, and he spent nine years with Morgan Stanley in London and New York, focused on real estate investment banking.

Education: Georgetown, JD; Duke, BA

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