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Q & A with CBRE’s Phil Schenkel

By LVEDC Staff on June 11, 2013

Editor’s Note: This week’s edition of our Q&A features Phil Schenkel of CBRE who gives us the lowdown on the Lehigh Valley’s commercial real estate market.

During your career as an office broker, how have clients’ demands changed?

Phil Schenkel: The biggest change I have seen in the past 25 years in the business is the speed at which information is disseminated and the limited amount of time that people are given to absorb what they have been presented. When I first started, fax machines and overnight FedEx deliveries were seen as the epitome of speedy delivery. Now documents are circulated immediately via email or uploaded to shared websites. Leases and Agreements of Sale can have two and three turns in a day whereas it used to take a week. Also, the ability for anyone to reach so many people with a couple clicks of a mouse has really broadened a broker’s ability to truly find the right fit for their client base.

What are CBRE’s priorities with the Water Front project?

PS: The Waterfront is going to be one of the transformative projects for the revitalization of downtown Allentown. This long dormant part of the market will now have renewed focus and energy.  The project will bring life, excitement and ultimately commerce to one of the most underrated features our region has to offer. CBRE will be taking the lead at The Waterfront to source new companies to the Lehigh Valley by offering a unique opportunity for companies to relocate to the area and have brand new, high-quality office space with a waterfront view and other nearby amenities at lease rates that will be much lower than what property owners in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia can offer.

What role do incentives play in helping a deal come to fruition and are there drawbacks?

PS: In the competitive world of commercial real estate, incentives, used either by an owner looking to attract a tenant from one building to another or by a community looking to lure a new business to the area, are necessary tools of the trade. Companies use these incentives to defray relocation expenses, hire new employees and to generally lower their overall occupancy costs which in turn should improve their profitability and make them that much more attractive of an investment

Where do Lehigh Valley prices for office space compare to other regions?

PS: As is the case with other elements of real estate, prices for office space are relative to their specific market. What might be a high rate for Class A office space here in the Lehigh Valley may be seen as a real bargain to someone coming from a market only 50 miles to the south or east of the Lehigh Valley. However, the Lehigh Valley has always been competitive when positioning itself against other markets as a relocation alternative. The relatively lower cost of commercial real estate is also matched by lower housing and lower overall costs of living, when compared to the sub markets closer to Philadelphia and New York.

What are the top challenges CBRE faces in this market moving forward?

PS: CBRE’s global platform of services really enables our office to provide a level of services to our clients in this market that is difficult to match. Helping our clients understand what we can offer and how that will improve their profitability is a constant process. Although on a daily basis we do not utilize all the service lines that CBRE has to offer, it is good to know that we have the necessary tools available to us to deliver the highest quality of service to our clients in the Lehigh Valley or whatever market our clients are looking to consider.

All the signs are there…

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. has launched its most aggressive billboard campaign ever with 19 digital screens and vinyls that are blanketing Lehigh Valley wi[...]

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