Real Deals

This time, the new business deal is my own

Staff WriterAugust 6, 2009 

In the five years I've covered real estate at The News & Observer, I've tried to follow two rules when it comes this column:

No. 1: Break news and offer unique insight every week. No. 2: Never write in the first person.

This week, I have to break the second rule to make good on the first.

This will be my last Real Deals column. Friday is my last day as the real estate reporter for The N&O. On Monday, I take over as the editor of The Cary News and its little sister, the Southwest Wake News. They are weekly newspapers owned by The News & Observer Publishing Co.

In my five years in this job, I have witnessed booms and struggles.

I saw plans for Eastern North Carolina's tallest building, RBC Plaza, become a reality. And plans for a taller tower, Soleil Center, fall apart.

I've walked, legs shaking, on the rooftops of tall buildings and along the jibs of the tower cranes that built them. And I have talked, legs shaking, to tall developers such as basketball stars Christian Laettner and Brian Davis (who, I found out, is known for picking up and shaking a partner during a disagreement over a project in Durham).

I've seen the region's once-droopy downtowns catch a second wind. And I've seen how a credit crunch has killed that momentum.

I saw the reinflation after the tech bust, and I tried to explain the prices of everything from the dirt under buildings to the air above them.

Over the past two years, as things have slowed, the stories have changed to become one of how deals are getting done, who's in financial ruin, who's avoiding it, which projects have been put on ice, and which ones are doomed.

More of those stories will come about before things turn around. Lower land prices will complicate things for folks trying to sell homes. And the credit crunch, coupled with falling occupancy and rental rates, will bring some landlords to their knees.

I'll be keeping an eye on those stories in these pages and as part of my new duties.

My new job will be to manage a small group of reporters whose stories will examine everything including crime, education, and, of course, real estate in Cary, Morrisville, Apex, Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina. I won't be far away. I'll move from The N&O's class-Z headquarters into a class-A Highwoods building in West Raleigh, on the edge of Cary, where I'll learn firsthand whether the Raleigh landlord is properly balancing its strategies of cutting costs while improving tenant retention.

So don't be a stranger. My e-mail address won't change. My new phone number, starting Monday, will be 919-460-2605.

Editor's note: The commercial real estate column will be on a short hiatus as Jack Hagel's successor gets settled. In the meantime, please contact assistant Business editor Alan M. Wolf at or 919-829-4572

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