Environment and Real Estate & Retail

Mann seeks larger digs as growth strategy pays off: Busy developer eyes property for new headquarters

February 21, 2005

On Bash Street, off the beaten path from often-congested East 82nd Street, Mann Properties has quietly built a commercial real estate development business that is outgrowing its cozy quarters.

The location in the developer's secondoldest office park has served Mann well since the mid-1980s. But flanked on both sides by other companies, the space offers virtually no chance to expand, let alone any opportunity for increased visibility.

So Managing Partner Brian Mann, 37, has brokered a deal to purchase 20 acres of property just north, at the corner of East 96th Street and Masters Road, that can accommodate Mann's plans for roomier headquarters for its 30-plus employees.

"We're going to absorb some space next door as a Band-Aid," Mann said. "But we need a flagship facility that can absorb our growth and is in a spot that is more visible."

The development firm, founded in 1970 by Brian's father, Gerald, saw revenue spike 40 percent last year. An additional gain of 30 percent is projected this year, although Mann declined to provide specific revenue figures.

Brian Mann said he began to plot an aggressive growth strategy in 2001 after he bought his brother Dave's portion of the family business following a disagreement over the direction of the company. Dave is no longer involved in the business.

"He had a business model he wanted to pursue that was different than my business model," Mann said, "and that is as much growth as we can digest."

Mann Properties concentrates on light industrial, retail, office/warehouse and residential land development. Much of its recent growth stems from a concentration on its residential unit, in which Mann has tripled the number of home lots it's sold, from 250 to 750, in the past three years.

The company has also been involved in development along booming State Road 37 from Fishers to Noblesville. Outside the metropolitan area, it has expanded operations to Lafayette and is involved in a project in Charlotte, N.C., led by a home-builder client.

The increase in activity led Mann to embark on his search for a new headquarters site. He settled on the property on East 96th Street after his first option, land along the much-traveled Interstate 69, was deemed too pricey for the accessibility it offered, Mann said.

The sale of the 96th Street parcel, known as Masters Crossing, is contingent on zoning approval, which could be granted yet this month and ultimately would be considered by the Indianapolis City-County Council.

If approval is given, Mann has an agreement with owners to purchase four homes on the property that would be torn down. An 11-acre adjoining tract already under development by Mann will feature 113 town houses built by Ryland Homes. The remaining nine acres would include Mann's headquarters, a 30,000-squarefoot, two-story building, and 26,700 additional square feet of office and retail space. Mann would initially set up shop on the second floor and eventually expand to the lower level.

The area where Mann wants to build just south of the Hamilton County line is ripe with commercial development, including several well-known retail projects Mann developed, including Home Depot, Aldi, Bob Evans Restaurant and Payless Liquors.

Mark Perlstein, co-owner of The Linder Group, an Indianapolis-based retail management and brokerage firm, said Brian Mann has lived up to the vision he created: to grow the company in all aspects.

"He and I discussed his 10-year game plan in terms of how he wants to grow the company," Perlstein said. "He has certainly lived up to a vision that he believes in."

Mann's strengths include identifying properties with development potential quicker than competitors, Perlstein said. For instance, Mann pioneered retail development at Pendleton Pike and Sunnyside Road on the east side by leading a deal that brought a Kroger supermarket to the barren area.

Perlstein estimated that the strip now boasts more than 500,000 square feet of retail since Mann led the charge.

Bill French, vice president of retail sales and leasing at the local office of Colliers Turley Martin Tucker, described Mann as a conservative developer with a solid reputation.

"I think [Mann has] performed admirably," he said. "When Mann says [it's] going to do something, [it's] going to get it done."

Gerald Mann launched environmental engineering firm American Testing and Engineering Corp. in 1956, and owned the company until he sold it in 1995 for nearly $60 million to New York-based ATC Associates Inc. In the meantime, he dabbled in industrial park designs and started the former Mann Realty Co.

The company began operating as D.B. Mann Development in the early 1980s and was led by Dave Mann for 17 years. It morphed into Mann Properties in 2001 when Brian assumed leadership as managing partner.

It's currently involved in the Camby Village development on the southwest side at State Road 67 and Camby Road. Mann sold some of the land to locally based Flaherty & Collins Properties to build apartments. Mann still is involved in the commercial aspect of the project and is scouting for a big-box retailer to build on land near Kentucky Avenue. And at Concord Crossing in Lafayette, Mann has Wal-Mart under contract.

Mann's bread and butter, however, still rests with smaller office/flex facilities where the average tenant leases 5,000 square feet. In fact, the two-story building Mann is proposing for its headquarters would be the first multistory facility in the developer's portfolio.
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