About 10 years after its Phoenix headquarters opened in 1979, Opus West came up against a major recession in the Valley. It survived that test and is weathering today’s economic downturn with the same tactics.
A division of the Minneapolis-based Opus Group real estate development company, Opus West is going head-to-head with Arizona’s moribund economy with its corporate structure, diverse product base and a development philosophy that has served it well.
“We are vertically integrated and that allows us to react quickly in good times and bad,” says Jeff Roberts, vice president of real estate development.
Opus West has in-house property management, construction, design and development services. Presently, the company’s design-build staff is opening new revenue streams by offering its services to outside clients, such as corporations and governments.
The company still looks for opportunities and is more likely to find them within its broad line of products — retail, industrial, office and residential, including condos, apartments and senior housing.
As part of its approach to development, Opus West does not hinder its flexibility with a sizeable property portfolio and keeps its land inventory low, Roberts says.
“In the late ’80s and early ’90s (recession), many companies accumulated a large portfolio and were much more affected, while we had built our buildings and sold them for a profit,” he says. “That makes us much less subject to market cycles.”
In these tough times, Opus West is again focused on finishing existing projects to get new tenants moved in, taking care of existing tenants and keeping the door open to build-to-suit projects for tenants that are willing to commit, Roberts says. Projects on its plate include the 263,000-square-foot mixed-use Tempe Gateway building in downtown Tempe and the 170,000-square-foot Mill Crossing shopping center in Chandler.
One bit of good news Roberts sees in today’s economy is a “reasonably strong amount of large tenant activity” as companies move for economic reasons or to take advantage of a down market and upgrade to nicer space. Roberts expects little new construction in 2009.
“I don’t look at it as a year where there will be any major projects,” he says. “It will be a year of people working through leasing up what they’ve got and, hopefully, a year we hit bottom and see things heading back up. The big question is whether the economy picks up enough where we can get some significant net absorption.”
Roberts has more than 17 years of real estate experience in eight different cities. Prior to joining Opus West, he was an asset manager for Beta West in Denver. Roberts holds a bachelor of science degree in real estate from Arizona State University.