Property consulting firm zumBrunnen, Inc., heeds the call

During this difficult time for the real estate industry, Atlanta-based zumBrunnen, Inc., a national construction and property services consulting firm, is helping owners, developers and investors meet their objectives. President and Founder John zumBrunnen describes his company’s philosophy, Build it Right/Manage it Right, this way: “We provide customized solutions for every client and every project, whether it is before, during or after construction. The classic approach of providing standardized consulting reports and services simply does not work for the real estate client.”

The following examples demonstrate how zumBrunnen, Inc. has fulfilled its client’s needs with proactive, customized strategies.

Shell Point Retirement Village When the owners of Shell Point Retirement Village, a landmark retirement community in Fort Myers, Florida, needed to assure their investors that the $150 million expansion would be built to the highest of standards and delivered on time and on budget, they hired zumBrunnen, Inc. (zBi) as the owner’s and investor’s representative. Responsibilities included design and contract review, construction monitoring, budget management, payment approvals and schedule reporting. Thus far, the project has been a success and is currently on budget and on schedule

As the most recent phase of construction neared an end, zBi supplied the owners with its FacilityForecast® Software, a state-of-the-art capital budgeting program to enable the community to meet their needs and keep track of the long-term capital expense requirements for the entire facility.

“John [zumBrunnen] offered sound insight to the project from the early negotiations with the contractor through the final punch list,” says Robert Southern, “He was a team player and helped bring harmony to the project. When the owner, contractor or architect were in disagreement, John reviewed each position and found workable solutions. We are now in the process of developing our capital reserve program and are excited to be able to not only identify our capital needs, but manage and price our product accordingly.”

Gold Kist, Inc. And Cotton States Insurance Corporate Headquarters GC Properties, an Atlanta-based partnership for Gold Kist, Inc. and Cotton States Insurance, wanted to assess its 20-year-old headquarters building for purposes of long-term budget planning and immediate repair needs. The company hired zBI to complete the job. The work was completed in short term to provide GC Properties with valuable year-end financial information. The reports, charts and graphs were again a product of zBi’s FacilityForecast® Software. Senior Vice President Michael Stimpert and Director of Corporate

BranchPrperties – hired zumBrunnen, Inc. to complete a feasibility study so it could submit a competitive bid to purchase retail and office space in the historic district of Raleigh, North Carolina. Office Services George Crawford, both with Gold Kist, acted as property managers for GC Partnership. They note, “The budget reports helped us to systematically prioritize the capital needs and clarify our overall strategic plan for this facility.”

Cameron Village zumBrunnen, Inc. also completed a feasibility study for Branch Properties LLC. The company needed the study for a competitive bid to purchase 550,000 square feet of retail shops and 75,000 square feet of office space. The properties occupied six city blocks in the historic district of Raleigh, North Carolina, and were constructed and renovated over a 50-year period starting in 1949. The work was especially challenging due to the various buildings and ages, and the reports had to be delivered within a 45-day due diligence period. To keep on schedule, cost data was fed to the client as the data was developed. “As the project unfolded, zumBrunnen, Inc. worked effectively by keeping in constant touch with our office as issues were identified,” notes Richard Lee, partner with Branch Properties. “Bill Burke, the senior project manager with zumBrunnen, Inc., kept us fully appraised and openly discussed the various options and philosophies to help bring this deal together. Had Bill taken a classic approach of simply producing and delivering the final report without our input, we would have had far less time to evaluate and digest the numbers to determine if the deal was to go forward. Ultimately, we were the successful bidder and were able to close the deal.”

Multi-Property Apartment Disposition

Although zBI has specialized over the years in producing Property Condition Assessments for acquisitions, Post Properties, a national multifamily real estate investment trust (REIT), hired the firm to assist on the disposition side. As six projects were readied for sale in the Southeast, zBI produced reports on each to identify immediate repairs and a 5-year capital reserve budget to address issues that might impact the sale. Doug Gray, senior vice president with Post Properties, praises the survey, saying, “As part of our effort to extend the Post brand to our disposition program, we have found it beneficial to identify and disclose potential issues upfront as we price and bring a property to market. This essentially eliminates the possibility for a significant issue to be discovered by the purchaser, which can reopen the door to negotiations. Any time a deal has to be renegotiated, the process can prove to be costly for all parties, especially if the deal unravels.” Cost data from each property can be merged collectively to develop a reference database for managing and benchmarking. These reports can then be provided to the respective property managers to help them critique their own performance. Westin Charlotte Convention Center Hotel.

When the lead lender, Wachovia Securities, Inc. of Atlanta, wanted a firm to monitor construction financing of the Westin Charlotte Convention Center Hotel, a $150 million project in Charlotte, North Carolina, zBI answered the call. Warren Snipes, vice president for the developer, Portman Holdings, says, “As the construction lender representative, zBI has proven to be a proactive team member by helping to identify potential issues before they became serious problems. Their approach works well with the project team, facilitating solutions for the various challenges that come up during the construction process. When extremely difficult issues had to be dealt with in negotiations with the contractor, Rick Alcala, senior project manager for zBI, participated in developing solutions that resolved the issues. Working as an objective, independent third party to the team, the company proved to be an asset to the project, versus being an added burden simply imposed by and for the benefit of the construction leader.”

“The key to these types of success stories is the ability of a consulting firm to combine professional savvy, knowledge of markets and customized responsiveness to meet the client’s specific needs on a project-by-project basis,” says John zumBrunnen . “Additionally, to deliver value-added services, it is paramount the consultant remain objective, be a good facilitator and bring creative thinking to the table.”

Reprinted From Southeast Real Estate Business, September 2002 © 2002 France Publications, Inc.

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