Commercial Real Estate Profile: Ian Black
February 05, 2016
Founder and CEO,
Ian Black Real Estate
Ian Black Real Estate has been busy of late, and not just with the transactions the Sarasota-based commercial real estate brokerage and management firm has been closing in the region’s heated market.
In the past two months, firm founder and CEO Ian Black has named new partners, moved his office, sold his former business address and purchased an investment property in the city’s burgeoning Rosemary District.
His firm has also taken on additional lines of business, been moving into new territory and been involved in some of the largest deals of its 13-year history.
The moves come, too, amid a 30% hike in revenue in 2015.
Taken together, Black says the moves demonstrate the business is “growing up.”
“So much has happened of late that we need to make sure we don’t get ahead of ourselves, and I don’t think we have,” Black says. “We have a good team of people who work well together.”
Most noticeably, the firm moved its headquarters earlier this year to the 84,000-square-foot Kane Plaza office building in downtown Sarasota. There, Ian Black occupies 4,000 square feet and has rights to another 1,600 square feet.
As part of the shift from its long-standing quarters in the city’s Rosemary District, Ian Black also is spearheading roughly $10 million in renovations to the building’s lobby, common areas, bathrooms and signage with owner TerraCap Management, of Bonita Springs. The firm is handling both leasing and management of the property.
“We presented the landlord with a series of recommendations aimed at taking it from a (class) C building to a B-plus or an A building,” Black says.
To date, the recommendations are paying off with new tenants. When TerraCap acquired Kane Plaza, for instance, it was 76% occupied. Thanks to a series of outstanding leases Ian Black has negotiated, the building could be 92% committed by March.
“They’ve done a great job so far,” says Steve Good, a TerraCap partner. “They’re a good fit for us, and we’ve worked really well together as a team.”
While Ian Black has remained focused on Sarasota, the firm has begun chasing deals in Charlotte and Lee counties, as well. It has also expanded into tenant representation, corporate services and by taking on joint listings with giant brokerages like Cushman & Wakefield.
Internally, Ian Black has added partners Michele Fuller and Nick DeVito to its roster, bringing to six the number of principals in the firm. Black, 69, says the appointments recognize the strength and depth of the firm’s talent.
But the firm’s increasing business has really differentiated it. Late last month, firm partner Jag Grewal brokered the $20 million sale of a 30-acre tract in Charlotte County at the entrance of Gasparilla Island. The deal marked the largest in firm history, and came on the heels of its work in the $18 million purchase of the Main Plaza office and retail complex in downtown Sarasota late last year.
“When we made the decision not to have an internal leasing team, Ian was the first person and company I chatted with to do that,” says Fred Starling, a Sarasota County developer and investor whose 600,000-square-foot portfolio is leased by Ian Black.
“I’ve always been impressed with Ian and his team, and his ability to reach out, assess a deal and make recommendations,” Starling adds.
Black, too, has personally been making moves. Last month, he sold his firm’s office at 1069-1075 Central Ave., in Sarasota, for $510,000, and then acquired a building on the same street for $1.03 million through a 1031 tax-free exchange.
Black first invested in the city’s burgeoning Rosemary District in 1995.
And despite all the moves, Black says his ambition is that the firm will continue growing, and move further into tenant representation and receiverships, as well as asset management.
“I’d like us to continue to widen our base of skill sets,” he says. “We never want to be a big company and we know we don’t have the resources to compete in that arena, but I like to think that our marketing material and capabilities are on par with the big firms.
“We’ve had a lot to contend with all at one time, it’s true, but at the same time, we had a great year last year, so we’re thankful for that.”