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The Daily Ten – Malls turns to offices & warehouses, Biden to boost homebuyers and builders, Richard Branson’s covid passports…

January 20, 2021by Steve NsonNews

The Daily Ten – Malls turns to offices & warehouses, Biden to boost homebuyers and builders, Richard Branson’s covid passports…

January 20, 2021 by Steve Nson
Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

The Daily Ten

1. Blackstone’s Pre-Covid-19 Portfolio Shifts Have Turned Out Well | WSJ

The investment firm boosted exposure in hot industrial-space category and shifted out of retail and traditional office space

The pandemic has slammed some of the major property types, but changes that Blackstone Group Inc. made to its real-estate portfolio over time have helped the investment firm navigate through the fallout.

In the years before Covid-19 hit, Blackstone altered its property mix based on changes taking place in the economy and technologies. While investors at the firm weren’t preparing for a pandemic, their moves to gradually reduce exposure to certain real-estate categories have since served them well.

Retail and lodging, for example, have been the two hardest-hit commercial-property types during the pandemic, as travel nosedived and consumers migrated to online shopping with many stores closed or limiting capacity because of Covid-19.

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2. Biden looks to give a big boost to homebuyers and builders | CNBC

Anyone looking to buy a home today is likely frustrated by sky-high prices and slim pickings. But President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office Wednesday, will aim to ease those issues as he gears up to implement his plans for the housing market.

From home financing to home construction, Biden’s plans are focused on affordability. Here are some policies he could push for:

$15,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit

Urging big banks to get back into FHA lending

Encouraging new construction of both single- and multifamily housing

Strengthening the Community Reinvestment Act, which is intended to help low- and moderate-income areas

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3. Developers Want Malls to Become Warehouses or Offices. It Is a Slog. | WSJ

Potential land mines await those seeking to raze and redevelop a space that spans dozens of football fields

Many developers look at failing malls and envision modern office campuses, bustling warehouses or residential buildings. But some are finding that converting these shopping centers isn’t so easy.

Repurposing a mall is expensive. New owners typically need to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars on construction and labor, developers and brokers say.

Razing and redeveloping a space that spans dozens of football fields is filled with potential land mines. The new investor may own the mall but not the department stores or parcels in the parking lot, which means an owner needs their approval. Owners will also need to seek rezoning and entitlements permits that can take years, during which economic conditions can deteriorate.

Consequently, many recent conversion efforts have gone awry, forcing the owner to sell the property at a discount. In other cases, local government authorities have lost patience and bought the owners out.

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4. The big problems with Nigeria’s small property tech market | Bloomberg

In four years, the property tech startup, Spleet has gone from an idea born out of trying to solve a pesky housing problem in Lagos to planning an expansion to Rwanda and Ghana. 

When Dolapo Adebayo was ready to move out of his parents’ house, he faced an interesting and expensive problem. Renting a house in many states in Nigeria, requires tenants to pay a year or two years’ rent. This excludes other charges.

Those charges pile up and discourage renters in a city like Lagos where property prices are high. So Dolapo founded Spleet with Akintola Adesanmi. Spleet is a property technology startup helping people in Nigeria rent houses without needing to pay costly upfront fees. The solution uses technology to match people with flexible and affordable rental options.

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5. Richard Branson hopes Covid vaccination passports will allow for easier air travel | CNBC

Sir Richard Branson told CNBC on Tuesday he hopes so-called Covid vaccination passports will be available for prospective airline passengers who have been inoculated, potentially allowing them to bypass other virus mitigation measures before traveling.

“Vaccination is everything. Once vulnerable people, in particular, have been vaccinated, I think all kinds of businesses can start opening up again: restaurants, travel companies, cruise companies,” said Branson, who co-founded the airlines Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia.

“Hopefully there will be a proof-of-vaccination piece of paper that people can use to be able to get on a plane without having to be tested or without having to quarantine,” the British businessman added in an interview on “Squawk on the Street.”

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6. Could California’s Shopping Centers Be a Housing Fix? | Bloomberg

A trio of bills propose plugging the state’s huge housing gap with commercial-to-residential conversions of strip malls. New research suggests it could work.

El Camino Real is a 600-mile historic thoroughfare that once linked Spanish missions in California, running from San Francisco to San Diego. Between Daly City and San Jose, the road is a nearly 45-mile corridor of suburban offices, fast-food outlets, auto parts stores, and other businesses slicing through Silicon Valley, tying together some of the nation’s priciest residential neighborhoods. Like so many other shopping-center laden strips of pavement that ribbon California, this segment is, for the most part, devoid of homes.

Joe DiStefano sees boulevards like El Camino Real as more than just spots for takeout or an oil change. He sees a “perfect storm of opportunity.” Cofounder and CEO of UrbanFootprint, a software company that builds urban planning tools, DiStefano has done numerous studies on the housing potential hiding in California’s commercial strips. According to UrbanFootprint’s analysis of El Camino Real, this lone corridor could theoretically accommodate more than 300,000 new units if the road was upzoned to allow residential development and its parking lots and big-box stores became low-rise apartment complexes.

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7. Onesies, Long Johns and Union Suits for a WFH Age | The New York Times

In Milan, men’s wear designers influenced by lockdown propose a uniform for a new work world.

“When was the last time you buttoned a shirt?” Alessandro Sartori, the artistic director of Ermenegildo Zegna, said last week on a phone call from Milan before his fall show. The question was not wholly rhetorical.

Like many of us, Mr. Sartori has spent lockdown wearing garments that are comforting and easy, with few of the protective dimensions of clothes designed to shield us from the outside world. It is not that we’ve spent much of the last year in sweats and T-shirts and hoodies because we are lazy. Rather, we molted our cloth armor because we had no need of it.

In response, men’s wear designers in Florence and Milan presented collections last week that, for all their willed optimism, felt tentative, cautious, almost infantilizing. Far from risking bold statements about a future certain to bring great change, they showed uniforms for a grown-up nursery school.

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8. Austin housing market heats up amid Sun Belt real estate surge | Fox Business Network

Austin is slated to be the country’s hottest housing market in 2021

The housing market is heating up in Sun Belt cities.

Austin is slated to be the country’s hottest housing market in 2021, joining a slew of cities like Nashville, Tampa and Denver that are likely to see spikes in home value growth, a new report by real estate marketplace Zillow suggests. 

As many as 84% of economists, investment strategists and real estate experts surveyed by Zillow about the U.S. housing market in 20 of the country’s largest markets said Austin home values would outperform the national average. What’s more, page views on Zillow for-sale listings in Austin by out-of-town searchers surged 87% in November 2020 compared with a year before in pre-pandemic days.

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9. Drone-focused construction startup TraceAir raises $3.5M | TechCrunch

Bay Area-based construction startup TraceAir today announced a $3.5 million Series A. Led by London-based XTX Ventures, this round brings the company’s total funding up to $7 million. The raise includes existing investor Metropolis VC, along with new additions Liquid 2 Ventures, GEM Capital, GPS Ventures and Andrew Filev.

We first noted the company back in 2016, when it pitched a method for using drones to spot construction errors before they become too expense. It’s a pretty massive field that various technology companies are attempting to solve through a variety of different means, ranging from quadrupedal robots to site-scanning hard hats.

Last February, TraceAir announced a new drone management tool. “Haul Router provides the best mathematically objective hauls for each given drone scan,” the company noted at the time. “Any employee can use the tool to design a haul road and export the results to feed into grading equipment.”

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10. Microsoft joins $2B investment in Cruise to speed commercialization of self-driving vehicles | GeekWire

Microsoft is partnering with Cruise and General Motors to accelerate the commercialization of self-driving vehicles by bringing its cloud computing technology to the equation. The tech giant joined a new $2 billion investment in Cruise, along with GM, Honda and others.

San Francisco-based Cruise, whose valuation rose to $30 billion, plans to leverage Microsoft’s Azure to handle the immense amount of data that needs to be collected to operate autonomous vehicles at scale.

“Advances in digital technology are redefining every aspect of our work and life, including how we move people and goods,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a news release on Tuesday. “As Cruise and GM’s preferred cloud, we will apply the power of Azure to help them scale and make autonomous transportation mainstream.”

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