HAL Real Estate Investments

Specialty: Commercial and residential property investment, management and development
Management: Dana Behar, president and CEO; Keith Maehlum, vice president; Gabe Grant, vice president
Founded: 1993
Headquarters: Seattle
Employees: 6
Recent projects: Purchased 7th & Madison office building (First Hill); 93,000-square-foot Boeing lease in Triton Towers (Renton); sold the Cameo (Capitol Hill), 901 Dexter Ave. N. and the Plaza at Yarrow Bay

Photo by Benjamin Benschneider, courtesy of HAL Real Estate Investments
HAL bought the bank-owned 7th & Madison office building in Seattle for $30.8 million last year — less than half its replacement cost.

HAL Real Estate Investments, which buys, sells, develops and manages commercial and residential properties, is unique for its flexibility, according to Dana Behar, its president and CEO.

The firm is a subsidiary of HAL Trust, a publicly traded holding company with a market capitalization of nearly $5.8 billion based in the Dutch island of Curacao. Behar’s job is to put some of that money to good use.

“We have the ability to buy or sell or simply sit out of the market as we see fit,” he said. “There are times we’re actively buying, times we’re actively selling, and times we’re looking and waiting.”

No capital restraints

Having ready money at its disposal means the firm can move quickly and opportunistically, unconstrained by the need to raise capital first — a big advantage when credit is tight.

For example, HAL was able to purchase the bank-owned 7th & Madison office building on First Hill for $30.8 million last year — less than half its replacement cost — after the building sat empty for more than a year following its completion.

The deal couldn’t carry any debt, Behar said, “so someone had to be able to write a check.” HAL reached an agreement to lease the building to Polyclinic before the sale closed, though the firm is comfortable with buying speculatively, he said.

In addition to 7th & Madison, HAL owns three multifamily development sites, all in Seattle, and the Triton Towers office complex in Renton. In the past year the firm also sold the Plaza at Yarrow Bay office campus in Kirkland and a pair of residential development sites, the Cameo on Capitol Hill and 901 Dexter Ave. N., which it owned with Capstone Partners.

Core assets bid up

With Yarrow Bay, which sold in April for $100 million to Kilroy Realty in Los Angeles, Behar said HAL took advantage of what it saw as a discrepancy between market pricing for core assets like Yarrow Bay and distressed assets like 7th & Madison.

With today’s low cap rates, people take a risk when they bid up core assets that they think are safe, he said. Some distressed properties, by comparison, could prove a better deal.

For now, HAL’s construction projects are limited to parking and building-access improvements for Polyclinic. “At the moment we’re concerned about the strength of the market,” Behar said, though “we’re bullish about Seattle in the long term.”

A six-story, 275-unit mixed-use development HAL is planning for Columbia City’s historic district is an example of the sort of project Behar thinks can thrive here.

Seattle has few walkable neighborhoods well-served by transit, especially compared with cities like New York, Boston and Philadelphia, he said. Columbia City, with its “urban, authentic vibe” and proximity to the Central Link, has assets that will be shared only by Capitol Hill and the University District when the light-rail line opens north of the Ship Canal in 2016.

Such neighborhoods will become increasingly valuable, and demand for them will continue to grow.

“Young, talented people want to be in those areas,” he said. “It’s not a passing fad.”

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