Practice Leaders: Norman B. Berlin and Matthew J. Swett
Pepper Hamilton LLP’s Real Estate Group represents clients in all aspects of real estate development, transactions and litigation. We provide clear, practical advice to help clients achieve their business goals, whether it involves a simple lease renewal, a complex securitized financing, a mega-development proposal or a tax dispute. In each matter, we define success the same way: by meeting the client’s objectives as efficiently and effectively as possible.
The Pepper Advantage
Pepper has more than 35 lawyers experienced in a broad range of real estate matters. While our attorneys are skilled and experienced in a variety of niche areas of real estate law, we don’t have the “tunnel vision” that unfortunately is common to many specialists. Business challenges rarely, if ever, can be segregated into the neat legal categories specialists like to operate in; often problems overlap several legal areas or are related to important issues outside of the specialist’s discipline.
Because of the breadth and depth of our group, we can handle the most detailed and complex matters – without ever losing focus on how the matter relates to our client’s overall business goals. That means we will get the right people at the right level doing the right work for you from the start. As one client told us recently, what sets Pepper apart from the competition is that we “find solutions to problems, rather than find problems with solutions.” Another advantage to retaining Pepper is the ability of our real estate group to call on more than 500 peers in a wide range of related areas, such as corporate law, construction, finance, tax, environmental, bankruptcy and insurance. From antitrust to zoning, chances are a Pepper lawyer has already handled a matter like yours.
Our philosophy about client service can be summed up in one sentence: We counsel each client as if it were our only client.® That is not just a slogan. It is the basic principle guiding our practice. It means that every phone call, every e-mail or other communication from a client is important, and is treated accordingly. It means that while we will strive to get you the answer as quickly as possible, we will not let the need for speed cloud the quality of our work – we will always give your matters our best objective judgment.
Our clients include national and international businesses; regional powerhouses like Brandywine Realty Trust and Equus Capital Partners, Ltd., formerly known as BPG Properties, LTD; and local institutions like the Pennsylvania Ballet and the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation. We represent developers, real estate investment trusts (REITs), commercial and consumer lending institutions, Fortune 500 and closely held corporations, major nonprofit institutions, investment banking firms, commercial real estate companies, retail and hospitality businesses, small business investment companies (SBICs), syndicated partnerships, and state and local governmental agencies.
Our practice involves the development, acquisition, disposition, leasing, financing, construction and syndication of industrial, commercial and residential real estate; real estate loan and partnership workouts, foreclosures and bankruptcies; zoning and land use; housing and urban development; and real estate taxation. We also handle all types of litigation involving real estate.
While we perform basic legal work necessary to structure and close transactions, we also help clients identify and develop business opportunities. Through close working relationships, we hope to assist clients in meeting their goals and objectives beyond a single transaction.
Our core practice includes:
Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs). Pepper has extensive experience in handling large, complex corporate and finance transactions for public and private REITs and other large owners of commercial real estate. We have handled REIT mergers and acquisitions and represented REITs in numerous public and private equity and debt offerings, joint ventures and portfolio acquisitions and dispositions.
Acquisition and Development. Our engagements in this area include the acquisition and development of downtown office buildings and suburban office parks, corporate headquarter facilities, build-to-suit manufacturing, warehouse and distribution facilities and industrial parks, residential multifamily complexes, single-family residential subdivisions, mixed-use developments, retail developments, hotels, condominium conversions, cooperatives, medical centers, assisted living communities, nursing homes and resort communities and wind/energy projects.
Land Use and Zoning. We help property owners and developers obtain necessary planning and zoning approvals and permits, including representing clients in appeals before municipal zoning hearing boards and trial and appellate courts.
Real Estate Leasing. We are experienced in representing landlords and tenants in a variety of leasing transactions, including build-to-suit leases, turnkey leases, tenant improvement allowance leases, subleases, office leases, retail leases, warehouse and industrial leases, and manufacturing facility leases. Leases carry a variety of business and legal risks, and sophisticated clients understand that a well-negotiated lease can save time and money. Many lease and sublease transactions require an assessment and allocation of costs, benefits and risks. We understand the need to negotiate and document the transaction quickly, while minimizing our client’s legal and business risks. LEED® and Green Building. Pepper advises clients on sustainable development matters, including those related to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) rating systems. We counsel building owners and construction firms on the practical risk allocation, contracting scheme, and organization of a project team for a green building project. We have experience creating contracts to promote or require integrated project delivery, which is necessary to satisfy the LEED requirement for integrated design.
Pepper counsels clients on integrating LEED or other green building rating systems into leases for green buildings.
Economic Development Incentives and Public/Private Projects. Increasingly, businesses opening new facilities or relocating search for economic development incentives such as grants, low-interest loans, tax credits, tax exemptions, pooled financings and tax-exempt financing. Many complex projects, especially multi-use projects, also involve public/private joint ventures and operations. We are skilled at navigating through government bureaucracies and coordinating the requirements of government programs with the private-sector portion of joint projects.
Real Estate Finance. In addition to representing financial institutions in real estate collateralized loans, our group is experienced in helping clients understand and assess available financial products and decide which financing methods best suit their business needs. Our experience includes traditional mortgage loans, mortgage securitizations, off-balance sheet financings, interest rate swaps and other derivatives, bank syndications and bond market financings.
Real Estate Taxation. We represent property owners and real estate developers in the appeal of real estate tax assessments.
Real Estate Litigation. We are experienced in all aspects of real estate litigation. Our experience includes issues of foreclosure/deficiency judgments, ownership disputes, easement and boundary disputes, lease disputes, right of first refusal, buy-sell agreements, specific performance disputes, tax appeals, land use and zoning appeals, and eminent domain and condemnation matters.
Brownfields Redevelopment. We represent owners, prospective buyers, developers, lenders, and local governments and redevelopment authorities interested in improving property, or otherwise enhancing its value or reducing liability arising from its environmental condition.
Condominiums and Cooperatives. We represent unit owner associations and developers of condominiums and cooperatives. We serve developers by structuring condominium transactions and creating efficient and functional legal structures that satisfy the complex requirements of condominium law. We also advise numerous owners’ associations on matters of day-to-day condominium governance as well as issues involved in managing any large real estate project or business organization.
Housing and Community Development. While many firms have experience in public finance, banking, real estate or administrative law, we are one of the few firms in the country that combines these disciplines in a comprehensive national housing and urban development practice. We help obtain agency approval of business plans, defend against administrative enforcement actions, negotiate the purchase of assets from government agencies, participate in agency financing, and assist clients in negotiating workout arrangements on troubled properties. Our lawyers assist clients in the sophisticated area of low income housing tax credit development, and represent for-profit and nonprofit developers of, and investors in, low-income housing across the nation. (See also our Affordable Housing practice description.)