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Carter lists Broughton properties to restructure debt

Atlanta developer Ben Carter has listed his Broughton Street properties for sale with commercial real estate company CBRE and says the goal is to restructure. Carter says he remains devoted to Savannah.

During a phone interview on Thursday, Carter, who has invested about $92 million into 37 properties along the downtown corridor since 2014, said he is looking to recapitalize the project, which is often done to reduce a company’s debt and equity and make its capital more stable through investments and partnerships.

“When we came to town a lot of the buildings were vacant, a lot of them were severely deteriorated, so at that time the kind of capital investment that we could find was acquisition and redevelopment capital, which is a little bit more expensive in terms of return expectations and what we call core capital,” Carter said.

The goal, he said, is not to sell, but to recapitalize and remain a long-term owner and citizen of Savannah through the company’s investments on Broughton Street. The properties will remain affiliated with Ben Carter Enterprises, he said.

“Capital sources join us to invest in projects often…,” he said. “We’re continuing on forward and looking forward to it… It just happens to be an opportune time now to find somebody that might want to own it with us for the indefinite future.”

Carter said the project, which was first introduced in early 2014, has been incredibly rewarding and challenging.

“It’s what I consider a legacy investment of almost irreplaceable real estate, so we feel that there may be capital out there in today’s market that would take a very, very long-term ownership view of the asset … We think it might be a core investment if some investors could join us to continue to own and operate the properties,” he said.

More than a dozen stores have opened under the Broughton Street Collection umbrella, including H&M, J. Crew, L’Occitane and Beetnix Super Food and Juice Bar. The project is about 80 percent leased, and Carter said previously announced grand openings of several stores, including Massachusetts-based clothing and accessories retailer Vineyard Vines and Le Macaron French Pastries are still on schedule.

“We’re continuing to try to bring in additional retail,” he said, adding that he is also exploring new restaurant options along the street.

“… We’re going to try to add and improve the food scene on Broughton Street. I think that’s one of the components that has a real opportunity to grow. In some of our vacant buildings, we’re trying really hard to target a chef-based restaurant to come to town.”

Carter said he’s proud of the dialogue that his project started, including the plans for a revitalized streetscape.

“I think the dialogue (for the streetscape) has spread beyond Broughton Street and now the city is looking at ways to enhance and update both safety and architectural style an quality of the streetscape environment… I’m exited that that’s going forward,” he said.

“My experience has been in my whole career that there are often naysayers and if you just stick to your commitment and do the best you can people will eventually come around and I think that’s occurred.”

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