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Many aspects of Foundry’s culture and structure set the company apart from others in the commercial real estate industry, but one that consistently floats to the top as a differentiator is Foundry’s Religious, Education, and Not-For-Profit Group (RENFPG). In fact, the platform even predates the broader Foundry platform, having launched in the late 1960s by real estate broker Richard Messier, father of Matt Messier, SIOR, CCIM, who today leads the RENFPG.
The Messier family learned early that real estate involving churches, not-for-profits, and educational facilities was a very niche market. The expectations and interests were different, the pool of potential buyers much smaller and, as it turned out, the stakes could be higher. In many cases, transactions involved more than brick and mortar; they directly translated to helping a cause or ministry grow and prosper.
Over 50 years later, Foundry’s RENFPG continues to serve this unique client-base, and as the real estate needs of these entities have evolved, so too has Foundry’s team grown to meet those needs. Joining Matt in the Orlando office but serving clients in varying geographies are Joey Blakley, Senior Vice President, who leads Foundry’s private and charter schools’ practice, as well as Project Director Mark Meyer, who often leads comprehensive studies on behalf of clients with a focus on an organization’s real estate, facilities/programs, and functional requirements. In Atlanta, the team has grown to include Associate Bill Palaski, who leads the acquisition and disposition of assets throughout the state of Georgia, while in Dallas, Associate Stuart Ashmun has the same responsibilities for the state of Texas. Foundry’s RENFPG even stretches all the way to the Pacific Ocean, where Partner Chris Bury, Senior Associate Charlie Howarth, and Operations Manager John Schneider manage the acquisition, disposition and management efforts assisting churches, schools, lenders, denominations, and other not-for-profit organizations on the west coast of the U.S. The team has been growing in diverse talent as well. Just last year, Carlin Beekman, who has worked with the group since 2019, earned her brokerage license and transitioned to the role of Brokerage Associate on the team.
Matt Messier reflects on Carlin’s career growth at Foundry to date. “From the time that Carlin entered the doors at Foundry, I knew she was going to be a superstar. Along with her strong work ethic and desire for excellence in everything she does, she quickly became a favorite of both clients and coworkers. When she mentioned she would like to enter into brokerage, I was very excited because I knew that she had everything needed to be successful. I’m not quite sure what I or Foundry would do without her, she is one of our greatest assets.”
With Carlin’s move, Jess Henderson was tapped to serve as the group’s Marketing Coordinator, supporting the team through the preparation and distribution of marketing and other client materials. The timing of the additional (wo)manpower to the team has been opportune, as the past couple of years have marked a time period of unprecedented cross-platform growth for the group we’ve affectionately come to know as “Church World.”
While the pandemic and its resulting impacts have caused extraordinary circumstances across a number of industries, religious, education, and not-for-profit real estate was especially hard-hit. With state and local mandates calling for people to stay home for almost all their traditional activities, ministry had to move online, and most were quick to adapt. If they had not already instituted an online giving platform or ways to connect in community with one another, churches learned quickly how to adopt such measures while ministering to people who were facing an array of emotions during the various phases of the pandemic.
As with most periods of uncertainty, opportunities arise, and the pandemic opened doors for Foundry’s RENFPG to help churches reimagine the ways their real estate was being utilized. What the pandemic did was speed up the realization by both church leaders and churchgoers that physical buildings were not necessarily essential for continuing ministry. In some cases, buildings that had long been unoccupied and that were sitting on desirable tracts of real estate could be repositioned to provide a new income source for churches that often find themselves looking for better ways to steward their funds.
Fortunately, Foundry’s RENFPG has decades of experience in helping to shepherd religious organizations through such transactions, often starting at the point of determining what use cases the churches would be comfortable with the real estate being used for.
Recently, Foundry represented the Pacific Southwest District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) in the sale of a Los Angeles-based property it had owned since the mid-1950s. Over the course of the past 70+ years, the denomination provided chapel with worship services, bible studies, community outreach, and student residential units, primarily for UCLA students, at the property. As the deferred maintenance mounted and services dwindled, the LCMS chose to set up a foundation, from which the proceeds of a property sale could be used to fund student ministries across southern California and even into Arizona. Landmark Properties purchased the property and is turning it into a student housing community, with several units set aside to provide affordable housing.
“Landmark was a tremendous partner throughout the entire process,” said Chris Bury, a Partner for Foundry’s RENFPG. “They saw the vision for both the district and the property. We worked through all development issues together as a team. Their creativity and expertise maximized value while protecting the seller from liability.”
Leveraging the Platform
As Foundry’s service lines grow, so too do opportunities for cross-platform transactions. The RENFPG often pulls in other service lines within the company – or vice versa – to assist clients with a full spectrum of real estate services. Just recently, Foundry represented the Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) – owner of the northeast Portland Concordia campus – in a sale to the University of Oregon. Matt pulled in Rick Helton and Ally Lanahan of Foundry’s Investment Advisory Group (IAG), who assisted with preparing marketing materials required to sell a college campus in addition to helping advise LCEF during the sale process. The 19-acre campus will be the new home of the Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health, a first-of-its-kind children’s mental health center aimed at addressing children’s behavioral and mental health issues that have become even more evident since the start of the pandemic.
“LCEF was intentional in finding a buyer for this property that would serve in the best interests not only of the immediate surrounding community, but of children and families that will be impacted by the positive outcomes to come out of the Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health far into the future,” said Matt.
Last year, Foundry’s RENFPG worked closely with Gabe De Jesus, Brokerage Principal in the Orlando office, to facilitate the headquarters move of the Christian and Missionary Alliance family of churches from Colorado Springs to Columbus, Ohio. Serving in a tenant rep role, Foundry helped the Alliance purchase 11 acres, including a blighted former Kmart building that had been vacant for over a decade, to make way for a mixed-used development – called “Alliance Place” – set to feature housing, a conference center and hotel, in addition to the Alliance operations and other office and retail spaces. Located in the Columbus suburb of Reynoldsburg, residents and community leaders had long since given up hope that a partner of the Alliance’s caliber would come into the equation to provide the economic injection the community had been longing for, but when Matt Messier, the “Church World” team, and others throughout the Foundry platform come together to strategize something as large as the relocation of an entire denomination’s headquarters’ operations, every involved party seems to win.
This summer, the team partnered again with IAG to complete the sale of the Music Circle North building, representing the United Methodist Church (UMC) as the seller in the transaction. Up until that point, the four-story, 27,000-square-foot building had been home to the UMC’s general council and financial administration (GCFA) services. The new owner is Austin-based development company Endeavor Real Estate Group. Foundry team members who were a part of this cross-platform transaction included Matt Messier, Scott McKinney, Rick Helton, Ally Lanahan, and Lucas McIntosh.
“This transaction represented another example of Foundry’s ability to field the right collaborative team to benefit our client,” said Ally Lanahan.
As just another example of the cross-platform reach that Foundry’s RENFPG can have, Brokerage Principal Jimmy Johnson in Tampa reached out to Joey Blakley about selling a church property in south Tampa. As of this writing, the site is already under contract with a scheduled closing on the first half of the property in November and then closing on the second half in the first quarter of 2023. The buyer plans to redevelop the property for townhomes.
These are just several examples from the past couple of years; and they aren’t inclusive of all the transactions Foundry’s RENFPG has worked on with others across the company.
Fifteen years into Foundry’s existence, the company is growing at an accelerated pace. Our “Church World” team has been integrated into the company from the beginning and has always had a keen eye for spotting opportunities that will allow them to reach out to other service lines within Foundry, providing a win-win for clients and associates alike. It has been incredible to watch others adopting the same approach as we continue to add more services and lines of business to our diversified company. We can all take a page from the “Church World” playbook to think outside our core functions and find ways to leverage our platform to benefit our clients in big ways.