Top 9 commercial real estate law firms in the Valley

When the development of a new project comes to a halt, attorneys specializing in real estate get to work in addressing the problem and finding the best path to an effective solution.

In an industry where the problems can be as diverse and complex as the solutions, finding the right commercial real estate law firm for a particular set of needs can be half the battle.

To help, AZRE identified some of the Valley’s top commercial real estate law firms and asked experts from each to elaborate on their firm’s real estate practice and issues facing commercial development.


Berry Riddell

berryriddell.com

Wendy Riddell

Founding partner

With a talented bench of all tenured lawyers that came out of the best mid-to-large sized firms, the attorneys at Berry Riddell have experience in all aspects of a real estate transaction from entitlements, purchase and sale to finance and litigation where necessary. The firm also has two city planners on staff to assist clients with the development approval process.

TOP ISSUE: “An increasingly adversarial political climate puts more pressure on city councilmembers to meet every wish of their constituency, so we find a greater need for creativity in balancing the wants of the neighborhood with the plans of the developer when presenting projects for approval.”

NOTEABLE WORK: After two other zoning attorneys tried and failed, the team at Riddell fought for nearly two years, and eventually won approval for rezoning a parcel of land to become an auto dealership in Mesa. Faced with passionate neighborhood opposition, the site plan was reworked eight times to suit the needs of the developer and accommodate the neighbors’ wishes.


Buchalter Nemer

buchalter.com

Paul Weiser

Managing partner at Scottsdale office

With attorneys, clients and referral sources going back decades, this firm has handled almost all aspects of commercial real estate law such as purchases and sales, financings, leasing for office, retail, industrial and medical spaces, as well as lease enforcement, construction, brokerage and other related issues.

TOP ISSUE: “Population is not increasing as fast as it once did. Businesses are more cautious as to their leasing needs. When coupled with high vacancies and rental rate pressure, new developments will find it harder to obtain financing without significant pre-construction leasing.”

NOTEABLE WORK: The firm negotiated a single-building lease transaction for over 200,000 square feet for an office building landlord that involved getting the existing tenant to vacate the space sooner than it had anticipated while simultaneously negotiating for the purchase of a co-landlord’s interest in the building and the subsequent closing of escrow in regard to that purchase.


Burch & Cracchiolo

bcattorneys.com

Ed Bull

President

Burch & Cracchiolo has 10 experienced real estate, zoning and construction lawyers, including six with over 25-years of experience in Arizona and four State Bar Certified Specialists in real estate. They assist the firm’s real estate, developer and builder clients with a practical, problem-resolving, get it done attitude that runs the gamut from purchase and sale agreements through title review, financing, zoning, platting, construction-related agreements, leasing and beyond.

TOP ISSUES: “The increasing costs and availability of labor and materials, and the corresponding cost of construction; the pros, cons, benefits and challenges of infill development; infrastructure availability and cost; flexibility in financing; and finding the marketplace’s balance between supply and demand.”

NOTEABLE WORK: “The repurposing and integrated redevelopment of The Henry Restaurant and Fox Restaurant Group’s corporate headquarters within a previously vacant building on Camelback Road, east of 44th Street in Phoenix, which included a wide variety of zoning-related entitlements, leasing and other real estate matters that are among the necessary and sometimes tedious, but always fulfilling, challenges of infill redevelopment.”


Clark Hill

clarkhill.com

Douglas Folk

Member of construction law group

Clark Hill utilizes an integrated approach to client services through its depth of talent and breadth of practice. It has experience with all types of commercial and real estate development, including sports and entertainment venues, multifamily, education, healthcare, government, resort and industrial facilities. From negotiating a purchase or sale, to assisting with permits and site assessments, to project finance and investment needs, to managing lease and rental needs, Clark Hill has a lawyers for any and all of a project’s needs.

TOP ISSUE: “Our clients are interested in urban infill development, repurposing underutilized retail centers and big box stores, and finding creative ways to finance and build new mixed-use projects with multiple development partners.”

NOTEABLE WORK: “We are quite experienced in putting together design/build teams that are able to fast track a project on the client’s schedule. Clients retain Clark Hill for representation for their commercial real estate needs because we take the time to understand their needs, define the development objectives, and then provide the right mix of services for a successful project.”


Fennemore Craig

fclaw.com

Joe Chandler

Director and chair of real estate practice group

Fennemore Craig’s real estate practice group is one of the largest in the Mountain West and encompasses all aspects of real estate from acquisition and finance through development, leasing and sale. Clients include developers, investors, large landowners like federal and state agencies as well as Indian tribes and allotees.

TOP ISSUE: “Technology – the need to adapt to and anticipate new technologies that will prepare today’s real estate professionals to more efficiently and effectively assist their clients, manage deals and generate new business now and in the future.”

NOTEABLE WORK: The OdySea Aquarium, a 200,000-square-foot oceanic and freshwater aquarium, containing two levels and holding 2,000,000 gallons of water, which is the largest aquarium in the southwest and located on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

Acquisition, entitlement, development, financing, and operation of a full-service boutique resort located in Paradise Valley, consisting of 175 hotel rooms, 31 hotel-condominium units, a restaurant, market, fitness facility and the rehabilitated Mountain Shadow Executive Golf Course, which will include single-family homes and villas.


Grady Gammage Jr.

Grady Gammage Jr. (Photo courtesy of NAIOP Arizona)

Gammage & Burnham

gblaw.com

Grady Gammage, Jr.

Founding member

The firm’s practice spans the entire range of the development process from purchase and finance through construction and leasing as well as land use entitlement. It also develops new niche specialties for areas such as State Land Department transactions, water policy and the Government Property Lease Excise Tax system based on the modification or creation of real estate laws at the Legislature. The firm is currently working on ASU’s Stadium Facilities District, which will result in major mixed-use developments on the ASU land surrounding the Town Lake and the current athletic facilities.

TOP ISSUE: “The relationship between the public and private sectors with regard to development approvals, financing and incentives is probably the single most challenging and difficult issue facing commercial real estate development projects today.”

NOTEABLE WORK: For nearly 40 years, the firm has been deeply involved with the development around Tempe Town Lake, which started with a public/private partnership that helped finance and build the lake and led to the development of Hayden Ferry Lakeside, the initial Marina Heights PAD, Papago Park Center, Tempe Marketplace, Playa del Norte and multifamily developments by SunCor, Pulte, Lennar and others.


For Use By Jennings Strauss and Salmon

Jennings, Strouss & Salmon

jsslaw.com

Bruce May

Chair of real estate department

For the past 75 years in Arizona and the Southwest, Jennings, Strouss & Salmon has represented regional and national developers in large scale high-rise multi-use projects, large apartment complexes, office and residential condominiums, golf courses and resorts, power centers, high-end retail projects, developments on tribal land as well as sophisticated commercial real estate financing and lending projects.

TOP ISSUE: “What happens when a tenant’s business is found to be, or becomes, illegal? For example, although state law permits the sale of medical marijuana through licensed dispensaries, it is still prohibited by federal law. If the landlord does not include provisions in the commercial lease for such an event, it may not have recourse to collect monies owed under the terms of the lease should the tenant’s business be forced to close.”

NOTEABLE WORK: Most recently, the firm represented a client in the multi-million-dollar purchase of a large golf club in Arizona, a transaction that involved, among other tasks, complex taxes, lending and corporate issues, including mezzanine financing and the commercial lease of an office building by the purchaser.


Quarles & Brady

quarles.com

Stan Johnson

Partner and chair of real estate practice group

Quarles & Brady offers a full range of legal services with more than 50 attorneys nationwide, including real estate attorneys in its Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tucson offices that collaborate in an integrated multi-office platform. The firm’s primary areas of service include: acquisitions and dispositions, commercial leasing, development, real estate finance, real estate investment trusts (REITS) and tribal real estate.

TOP ISSUE: “Unfortunately, economic incentives for real estate development can sometimes be a challenge in Arizona. The state does not allow tax increment financing (TIF) and, although the landmark CityNorth case was decided several years ago by the Arizona Supreme Court, there remains uncertainty as to what types of incentives a municipality can provide for real estate development. This uncertainty adds risk for both the municipality and the developer, which necessarily has a negative impact on development.”

NOTEABLE WORK: “Quarles & Brady represents Liberty Property Trust in the acquisition, development and leasing of Liberty Center at Rio Salado in Tempe, which is located on an 80-plus acre construction landfill site formerly owned by the City of Tempe. To date, Liberty has built and leased five office buildings and one industrial building at the site, which is years ahead of the development schedule set out in the development agreement.”


Withey Morris

witheymorris.com

Jason Morris

Founding partner

A high degree of specialization and the strength of the firm’s relationships with city staff and elected officials helps it give clients greater certainty for what can otherwise be a very unpredictable process, especially as it pertains to land use.

TOP ISSUES: “The top issues facing our clients would be increased government regulations of land use, neighborhood opposition, the increasing cost of development and the unpredictable nature of zoning approvals. With a combination of these factors, coupled with the risk of a development cycle, our clients rely on us to provide a road map for success.”

NOTEABLE WORK: “Our portfolio ranges from Agritopia in Gilbert to the Ritz Carlton in Paradise Valley and includes The Continuum Office Industrial Project in Chandler, The Heritage District in Downtown Gilbert, The Cityspace/Block 23 in Downtown Phoenix, The Entertainment District in Downtown Scottsdale, Conair Corporation in Glendale and American Furniture Warehouse in the West and East Valley.”

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