In this edition of the HSA Team Member Spotlight, we talk with Dion Watton, CPM, asset manager for HSA Commercial. In his role at HSA Commercial, Dion is responsible for managing HSA Commercial’s 2,600,000-square-foot Wisconsin commercial real estate portfolio, which includes the 655,217-square-foot mixed-use BrownDeerBusinessPark, the 1,021,575-square-foot industrial complex at 11100-11500 W. Burleigh in Wauwatosa that HSA is converting to retail, and the 450,000-square-foot Park 94 business park development in Mount Pleasant.
HSA: Since you are responsible for HSA’s management portfolio in Wisconsin, can you discuss the firm’s recent investment and development activity in the state?
Watton: Our company has been a significant real estate investor in southeast Wisconsin for a number of years and has grown its office, industrial, and retail portfolio to over 2.5 million square feet. But we have been especially active here in the past few years with the construction of the Park 94 business complex, part of which was later sold to Seda Packaging. Our firm has also announced that it’s converting an industrial park in Wauwatosa into retail and has signed leases with Nordstrom Rack and Dick’s Sporting Goods to anchor the project. Just in the past month, a fund that includes HSA and Innovative Capital Advisors also bought a high-profile shopping center in Brookfield, which the team at HSA has plans to redevelop. So, although we’ve always had a strong presence in southeast Wisconsin, we are definitely continuing to grow as new opportunities present themselves.
HSA: As you mentioned, HSA partnered with Innovative Capital Advisors to purchase the Plaza 173 shopping center in Brookfield. What management initiatives do you have for this property?
Watton: Plaza 173 is located on a very busy stretch of Bluemound Road near an upscale mall in Brookfield, but because of the fact that the property was stuck in foreclosure for so long, the center suffered from a lack of care and attention. Now that our firm has assumed control of the property, our first step is to meet with all tenants to identify their needs and begin developing those valuable relationships. We also tapped into our local broker network and successfully negotiated a short term lease that will augment cash flow to support our efforts to energize the asset during the redevelopment phase. Then, as our leasing and redevelopment plans take shape, there are a number of capital improvement projects that will be necessary to attract high-quality retail tenants. Throughout that redevelopment process, we have to manage relationships with the Village of Brookfield and with the existing tenants that will continue to operate their businesses in the center.
HSA: With regard to the adaptive reuse project in Wauwatosa, what specific challenges does a project like that pose for a property manager?
Watton: There again, while the first phase of the Mayfair Collection project that will include Dick’s and Nordstrom Rack is under construction, we have industrial tenants that still occupy and operate in facilities elsewhere on the site. So, we have to make sure that they can continue to run their businesses without disruption or interference. We also have to maintain a constant dialogue with the City of Wauwatosa to ensure that their concerns throughout the construction process are reasonably addressed. Because of the scope of the project is so large, there are a variety of budgeting, construction, and community relations issues that can arise, so it’s always important to remain active and vigilant in meeting those challenges.
Last December, Dion Watton was honored as the 2012 Certified Property Manager (CPM) of the Year for the second consecutive year by the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) for the organization’s Milwaukee chapter.