Broadbent’s new era: Veteran real estate firm known for strip centers prepares for new headquarters, new leadership

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The distinctive black-and-white façade of the Zipper Building at Washington Street and Virginia Avenue is gone, stripped away like ceiling tiles from an old bedroom.

Replacing the unusual exterior of the three-story structure will be a more traditional brick and stone look-and a new moniker bearing the name of owner The Broadbent Co.

Broadbent, the longtime developer of retail strip centers including Castleton Plaza, Clearwater Crossing and Fashion Mall Commons bought the downtown building last October and is set to vacate its longtime location at the top of the Capital Center’s south tower this October. The move not only represents a new location for the company, but an ultimate shift in leadership.

Company co-founder George Broadbent is in the process of handing the reins to his two sons, Josh and Brian.

“We have been paying rent to others for 35 years; it was time to own our own building,” George Broadbent said in an e-mailed response to IBJ questions. “It’s a fresh beginning for the boys to work with me in planning the future growth of the company.”

He and Robert Skinner founded The Skinner & Broadbent Co. in 1972 after working together at the former W.A. Brennan development firm. Skinner, who retired in 1987 and died last year, let the company continue using his name until it was changed to the current title in 2004.

In purchasing the Zipper Building for an undisclosed amount from a locallybased partnership, Broadbent will boost its headquarters office space from 20,000 square feet to 30,000 square feet. The firm will occupy the top two floors of the 56,000-square-foot building, and plans to lease the ground floor to a bank and a retailer. The city has approved the addition of three drive-through bays suitable for banking. No lease agreements have been signed so far.

Broadbent plans to use the basement for an exercise room and storage space.

The design architect is Leech Hensley Architects Inc. in Fishers and the architect of record is locally based Brenner Design Inc.

Broadbent received a six-year abatement that ultimately will save it $361,296 in property taxes in exchange for $8.1 million in renovations and the creation of 20 jobs at an average of $22.91 an hour, according to city documents. The company currently has 120 employees-70 at its headquarters and 50 at its center sites and self-storage facilities.

The Metropolitan Development Commission approved the abatement, in part, because members think Broadbent’s project will spur further investment in the surrounding area.

Company executives pondered moving the headquarters to the north side, but decided against it. Almost half of Broadbent’s employees live south of Washington Street and its accountants, lawyers and bankers all are downtown. Further, the location serves as a center point for 23 of its retail centers that are spread throughout the city.

“The price was right, and we love the location,” said Joyce Bradley, the firm’s executive vice president of finance and administration. “We wanted to be in the hub of activity downtown.”

Passing it down

Bradley is the longest-tenured executive, joining the company in 1974 as the first employee. The focus since the beginning has been on retail development, although the slant has shifted since its early projects, which involved tenants such as Hook’s Drugstores, Guarantee Auto and Donner 3D stores.

The company began purchasing ground near mammoth-size malls to develop large strip centers, or what are known as “power centers” in the industry. The centers are typically anchored by a big-box tenant like Best Buy or Kohl’s Department Store. Company executives pointed out that they’ve never inked a deal with Wal-Mart. The largest strip center in Broadbent’s 4-million-square-foot portfolio is the 362,000-square-foot Greenwood Place.

But issues within the industry that forced stricter financing requirements for development projects, coupled with several big-box bankruptcies and mergers, caused Broadbent to once again refocus its efforts. That emphasis today is on developing smaller, boutique-type centers that might be only as large as 75,000 square feet. One of its latest projects, for instance, is Raceway Crossing, a 26,000-square-foot retail center in Avon.

Through the years, though, the firm has maintained a solid reputation among retail brokers.

“They are one of the leading and premier retail real estate companies in Indianapolis and Indiana,” said Mark Perlstein, a principal of Sitehawk Retail Real Estate, formerly known as The Linder Co. “They’re very well thought of and a respected company, and have a lot of talented individuals within the organization.”

Besides Bradley, executive vice presidents includes David Cheslyn, development and acquisition; Timothy Baker, leasing and sales; John Stuckey, property management; and Frank Tinsley, accounting. William Cooper is president of S&B Construction Co., a construction management subsidiary.

Tinsley, who joined in 1993, is the relative newcomer of the bunch. The remaining five VPs have been at Broadbent since at least 1990.

In that year, the firm expanded its real estate services to include brokerage of land and buildings, tenant representation, third-party management, maintenance and general contracting. In 2000, the firm broadened its scope to include self-storage facilities, of which it now has four. All are in Florida.

Outside the metropolitan area, Broadbent has properties in Evansville, Fort Wayne and Louisville, and in Florida, Michigan and Tennessee. The company is “chasing some things” in Colorado, and would consider more areas east of the Rocky Mountains, excluding New England, Cheslyn said.

Leaving Lafayette Square

In November, Broadbent put three of its strip centers in the Lafayette Square area on the block: Lafayette Place, which spans 379,097 square feet and is 56-percent occupied; Lafayette Shoppes, 146,735 square feet and 91-percent occupied; and Georgetown Plaza, 111,600 square feet and 84-percent occupied.

It also is selling Airport Place, a 102,875-square-foot center at West Washington and Sigsbee streets. That center is 94-percent occupied.

Unloading the properties that have been in Broadbent’s portfolio for 20 years enables the company to better explore other opportunities, Cheslyn said. Company executives said the action is not a direct response to the decline of Lafayette Square Mall, which anchors the retail trade in the vicinity of 38th Street and Lafayette Road.

Clint Fultz, a principal of Indianapolisbased Prime-Site Brokers, is part owner of the Georgetown Cinema 14 and Save-A-Lot grocery in the Lafayette Square mall area.

Luring tenants to parts of the Lafayette Square market has grown tough, Fultz said. But rather than lowering its standards, Broadbent has stuck to its principles and refused to compromise the quality of its properties, he said.

The 176,000-square-foot Supercenter that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is building at 46th Street and Lafayette Road might bring the area a ray of hope.

“I think the Lafayette Square area is clearly on the upward track,” Fultz said. “I don’t think that [Broadbent] made the decision to market those properties because the area is going to get worse. [It’s] owned those for a long time.”

The company closed on four properties for development last year and wants to have at least that many in the pipeline annually, Cheslyn said.

If the past is any indicator, the goal should be attainable.

“Integrity-our word is a contract,” Broadbent said in his e-mail, citing reasons for the company’s success. “We believe we manage our properties better than most other companies; we pick first-class locations, and we hire quality people.”

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