Top GSA Property Owners (2014 Edition)

Top Lessors 2014

Last year we published our inaugural list of the ten largest owners of GSA-leased properties. In this article we chronicle the top 10 list again, along with a few new honorable mentions. The ranking looks a lot like last year’s but we see some pending property trades that could shake things up in 2015.

Some notes regarding this list:

  • We have ranked owners by square footage and not rent or any other measure because square footage is the most unimpeachable metric available to us.
  • Our ranking is based solely on GSA-leased properties, so it doesn’t include owners of buildings leased directly by agencies under their delegated, statutory or independent authority. However, we track those leases too and in some instances we’ve noted how the rankings might change if we took this analysis further.
  • We have only tallied leases that have commenced. If a lease has been awarded but not yet commenced (as in a lease-construct project, for example) we haven’t counted that in this list.
  • Determining “ownership” is tricky business. We have typically defined the owners as those operating partners who are the face of these properties–the people who ultimately manage the assets. However, we recognize that in most instances there are behind-the-scenes equity partners whose ownership stake is far larger than the operating partners’. We have not attempted to identify these equity partners in this list.
  • If you think we’ve mis-counted your portfolio, email me or leave a comment below.

THE OWNERS:

1. Government Properties Income Trust (NYSE:GOV)
Government Properties Income Trust remains the undisputed leader in the government-leased property sector. The REIT owns 91 buildings totaling 11 MSF. Some of this space is leased to state agencies and non-GSA federal agencies so, for the purposes of this ranking, GOV controls 5.75 MSF of GSA-leased space in 52 buildings. The firm remains an active buyer of government properties.

2. JBG Companies
JBG is, hands-down, the most active property developer in the Washington, DC area so it is no surprise that it would also be an active builder and owner of GSA-leased buildings. Though JBG sold four GSA-leased office buildings over the past year, it also delivered new build-to-suit projects for the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (491,000 SF) and the Social Security Administration (538,000 SF).

3. Vornado Realty Trust (NYSE: VNO)
If there were an award for resilience, Vornado would win it. The firm, which has significant holdings near the Pentagon, was one of the worst to suffer from Department of Defense relocations due to BRAC.  Though BRAC was enacted into law in 2005, most of the space vacated by DoD went dark last year. In response, Vornado has been aggressively courting new GSA tenants.  Earlier this year it was awarded the 183,000 SF U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lease in Falls Church, Virginia, and it was also awarded a 75,000 SF Department of Labor lease in Crystal City, Virginia. We don’t yet count these in our ranking stats, but they should further solidify Vornado’s position on this list as those awarded leases become active.

4. UrbanAmerica Advisors
Since 2007 UrbanAmerica has owned a portfolio 14 properties that are primarily leased by GSA. The firm is now moving to dispose of those assets and next year we can expect the contract purchaser, Princeton Holdings to replace UrbanAmerica on this list.

5. NGP V
NGP (formerly National Government Properties) returns again to our ranking based upon their ownership of 40 GSA-leased properties. These properties are owned by NGP’s fifth fund (thus the roman numeral “V” in their name), which has been pretty much completed.  The firm is completing fundraising on its 6th fund, and should be ready to begin buying properties again before the end of this year.

6. LCOR
LCOR makes this list again based on its role as the face of an investment group of high net worth individuals that own the 2.4 MSF headquarters of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the largest GSA lease in the United States. Last year, LCOR was also credited with the new 358,000 SF lease-construct project for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in Montgomery County, Maryland. That building has since traded to its equity partner, USAA Realty (see below).

7. Saban Capital Group
Saban Capital is an L.A.-based private investment firm founded by billionaire Haim Saban. Though most of Saban’s investments are in the entertainment, communication and media industries, the firm made its entry into the government property sector in 2010 with the purchase of the Record Realty Trust portfolio. Saban now owns 24 GSA-leased properties.

8. Boston Properties (NYSE: BXP)
Boston Properties owns 20 GSA-leased office buildings, nearly all of them in the Washington, DC area. However, that will soon change. Its largest holding, the 700,000 SF, 3-building Patriots Park project in Reston, Virginia, is under contract to a Korean investor.

9. Space Center, Inc.
Space Center provides underground records storage in facilities carved from underground limestone formations in the Kansas City suburbs. The naturally cool, humidity-controlled environment is perfectly suited to archival storage for agencies such as the National Archives and Records Administration, IRS and the Social Security Administration. These agencies have proven to be stable, long-term tenants, maintaining Space Center’s position on this list.

10. HPI Capital
HPI Capital was #10 on the list last year, and would be again this year had it not been for the sale of a single property: a 153,000 SF NARA records facility in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The HPI portfolio also features a number of direct agency leases that we do not count in this ranking. Overall, HPI owns 15 government-leased buildings with 1.5 MSF of GSA-leased square feet.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

USAA Realty
USAA has been a quiet, and dominant, investor in the federal space for years.  The firm has invested equity in several GSA lease-construct projects and now it has purchased several of those outright, along with some other strategic investments. With its acquisition earlier this year of the 358,000 SF Three White Flint, leased to primarily to FDA in North Bethesda, Maryland, USAA is poised to appear in the top 10 ranking next year.

CenterPoint Properties
Centerpoint merits an honorable mention this year due to the delivery of a single, yet remarkable, build-to-suit asset: the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) campus located south of Kansas City. This $750 million, 1.5 MSF facility replaces the the NNSA plant at the Bannister Federal Complex. (see “Greetings From Kansas City”)

Easterly Partners
Easterly Partners is a Washington, DC-based real estate investment firm established solely for the purpose of federal property investment. In just a few years the firm has amassed a portfolio of 15 properties, including three new purchases since we published this list last year. At the rate it is currently underwriting investments, we expect Easterly to crack the list of “top 10” investors next year.

Elman Investors
One of the earliest dedicated investors of government-leased properties is Lee Elman who has been buying and selling assets leased by federal, state and municipal government tenants for the past two decades. Elman Investors recently closed on their 80th government-leased property. Few investors have been as active over the long run, especially in the past few years.

Updates were made to this article to correct the size of JBG’s and NGP’s holdings and to add the venerable Lee Elman (Elman Investors) to the honorable mentions.

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