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Asana Makes a Splash in Old Town Alexandria

July 26, 2017

Charlotte, North Carolina-based real estate firm Asana Partners is making a splash in Old Town Alexandria with a handful of recent acquisitions — much to the delight of many economic development types in the city.

Asana's acquisitions — which total $85 million so far and include a portfolio of 14 properties owned by PMA Properties and the building that will soon be home to a new Conte’s Bike Shop — comes at a time when the retail picture in Old Town has been a bit bleak. Retail vacancy in the area was at 6 percent as of June 30, according to the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, a number of local businesses have closed and properties like the former European Country Living store space — which Asana also purchased — have sat empty for extended periods. 

For his part, Alexandria Vice Mayor Justin Wilson heralded the investment by Asana as good news in a Facebook post Monday.

“Investment is generally a good thing, particularly when it is from this pedigree,” Wilson wrote.

Other Alexandrians weighed in on the acquisitions, which Bisnow first reported Tuesday, as “the real deal” and hoped that the new landlord could help land buzzy tenants.

Alexandria Economic Development CEO Stephanie Landrum told Bisnow she’s optimistic the Asana investment will help bolster the King Street corridor. Landrum has been leading an effort to launch a business improvement district in Old Town that would aim to create a more lively retail strip in the historic neighborhood.

That effort hasn't gone super smoothly, with the battle over the new taxing district turning bitter this summer before the Alexandria City Council opted to push off a vote in order to revamp the proposal. As a King Street area property owner, Asana would be a significant payer into any kind of Old Town BID — though no vote of property owners is required for its implementation.

While sentiment wasn’t universally positive, most public comments suggested businesses in the city see Asana's interest as a good thing. Sugar Shack donut shop owner Rob Krupicka noted that the institutional investor is more likely to bring in larger national chains, he also pointed out that Asana may be willing to invest in properties where their previous owners were not.

“If the businesses don't want to invest in a BID and compete, the big guys will buy them when they fall,” Krupicka said in a Facebook post.

Asana is a relatively new company, but it has a pattern of buying up this kind of real estate. Led by former Edens CEO Terry Brown, Asana has been buying up properties in the south end of Charlotte, as well as the Deep Ellum neighborhood in Dallas, both of which have an eclectic stock of older, mixed-use buildings that house a range of offbeat local and larger national retail tenants.

Asana tends to renovate the relatively small properties, rather than redevelop — pretty much the anti-Edens, which has focused on creating large mixed-use projects and revamping larger, traditional strip shopping centers, at least in the D.C. area.

“We feel Old Town has all of the qualities of a vibrant street retail corridor,” said Reed Kracke, development director with Asana who is leading the D.C.-area investment effort. “With the surrounding density, strong demographics, active development pipeline, historically and architecturally significant buildings and specifically on King Street, and the concentration of over 300 retail storefronts, in the seven months we have been active in the corridor, we have experienced strong retailer interest.”

And there could be more acquisitions to come: Asana closed on a $500 million fund in January, noting in a press release that its target was “high-growth urban and infill locations in the United States.”

SOURCE: Washington Business Journal, Rebecca Cooper
 

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