Overview

At HunterMaclean, our commercial real estate practice group offers comprehensive legal and business counsel on a wide range of real estate matters.

Our team of attorneys uses innovative and resourceful ideas to help clients structure and document transactions to match their business plans. We work closely with all facets of commercial projects, including acquisition, land use and zoning, environmental review and permitting, capitalization, financing, development, construction, leasing, and resale.

Our real estate attorneys have extensive experience handling a wide variety of commercial transactions and working with owners and developers of shopping centers, mixed-use projects, hotels, apartments, office buildings, industrial and business parks, affordable housing projects, educational facilities, and timberland. Working in conjunction with attorneys in other practice areas, our commercial real estate practice group also regularly advises clients on corporate, tax, bond financing, bankruptcy, employment, and ERISA issues.

Experience

  • Representing Batson-Cook Development Company and several other companies in the development of News Place on Ellis Square in the Savannah historic district. The project opened in 2008 and includes a city-owned 1075-space subterranean parking garage constructed under a historic square, the restoration of Ellis Square, construction of a new hotel, restoration of the historic Savannah Morning News buildings for a Ruth’s Chris Steak House and other retail and restaurant uses, and development of forty luxury condominium units facing Savannah River.
  • Representing the Westin Savannah Harbor Resort and the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center on Hutchinson Island, just across the river from historic downtown Savannah. Over a twelve year period, we handled land acquisition, environmental permitting, zoning and land use issues, governmental relations including the annexation of the property into the City of Savannah, negotiation of a contract with the City that enabled irrigation of the golf course on the island with treated effluent, and formation of a public-private partnership that developed the infrastructure for the island, resulting in a combined investment of over $200 million.
  • Representing Fort Howard Corporation in locating and constructing a $750 million recycled tissue mill in Effingham County, Georgia. We handled land assembly of over thirty separate parcels, governmental relations, local property tax and land use issues, and negotiations with state agencies concerning road construction and environmental permitting.
  • Representing the owners of Oglethorpe Mall, the largest regional shopping center in South Georgia, in acquiring a substantial number of surrounding properties and in planning and implementing several major expansions of the mall in a built-up urban environment.
  • Representing the Savannah Economic Development Authority as its special environmental counsel in obtaining a first-of-its-kind wetland permit pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which led to the pre-permitting of the wetland development within Crossroads Business Center, a 1,750 acre mixed-use industrial park.
  • Representing numerous shopping center owners and their operators and real estate brokers in acquiring properties, developing the sites, obtaining governmental permitting, and leasing and managing the properties.
  • Representing developers and lenders in the financing of commercial real estate projects. Also successfully appealing increases in the tax assessments of numerous commercial properties.
  • Representing affordable housing developers in obtaining and syndicating I.R.C. Section 42 tax credits and obtaining additional financing for such projects through conventional financing, tax-exempt bond issuances, HUD loan programs, and loan programs offered by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
  • Representing convenience store and gas station owners with real estate, permitting, and regulatory matters.
  • Represented the developer of Trustees’ Garden, which is located on the site of the original gardens planted by the Trustees of the Colony of Georgia. The project is located on the site of a former manufactured gas plant. In cooperation with counsel for the seller-utility, obtained “prospective purchaser” limitation of liability certification for the buyer and developer from Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
  • Represented the owner of a 4,000 acre timber tract that was located on all four quadrants of the intersection of Interstate Highways 16 and 95 in selling the property in phases over a period of several years. Negotiated a development agreement under which the seller obtained a percentage of the retail sales price as the property was developed.
  • Assisted a metal fabricating business based in the Northeast with due diligence and contracting matters related to a plant expansion in north Georgia. This was a development authority transaction that was being structured as a lease with payments in lieu of taxes.
  • Assisted an international manufacturer of building materials in locating a new plant in Georgia, including customary due diligence, documentation related to incentives, and associated real estate matters.
  • Assisted a national apparel retailer in acquiring a distribution facility in the western United States. The transaction involved customary legal services including negotiation of acquisition contract, coordination of all due diligence (title, survey, assessment of physical condition, and environmental reports), and closing the transaction.

Publications & Presentations

Publications

Cyber Security for Commercial Real Estate Businesses and Professionals

Cyber attacks of business computer systems and websites are increasingly common. Attorney Daniel Crook discusses security measures that can help protect against attacks.

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Important Considerations in Negotiating a Commercial Lease Agreement

A commercial lease agreement is one of the first and most important contracts that a brick-and-mortar business owner will enter into. Real estate attorney Jennifer Mafera discusses leases further in her article for BiS.

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An Overview of the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC)

The federal New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program was established in 2000 by Congress to spur new or increased investments into operating businesses and real estate projects located in low-income communities. The program attracts investment in low-income communities by allowing individual and corporate investors to receive a tax credit against their federal income tax liability.

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Government Relations: The Intersection of Regulation, Public Policy, and Business

HunterMaclean attorney Harold Yellin explains how government relations lawyers can help navigate clients through complex regulatory, legislative, and public policy concerns.

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New Businesses Pose Questions for Existing Regulations

This article for Business in Savannah discusses the ways in which new businesses can challenge current guidelines and how to the best ways to navigate the process.

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Commercial Lease Negotiations - Deanne Wills

Current Economy Affects Commercial Lease Negotiations

This article for Real Estate Finance Journal gives an overview of some of the important aspects of negotiating commercial lease agreements and how the current economic climate can work to the tenants’ benefit.

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Mercy Housing Southeast Sits at Revitalization Forefront

By Edward O. Henneman, Jr., published on September 7, 2011, in Business in Savannah.

A non-profit real estate development company that excels at creating affordable housing communities, Mercy Housing Southeast is committed to developing affordable, program-enriched housing for low-income families, seniors and people with special needs who lack the economic resources to access quality, safe housing opportunities.

Beginning with its adaptive reuse and historic preservation of the Florance Street School and Charity Hospital in 2002, which was converted into an 88-unit affordable housing development, Mercy Housing has played a prominent role in the development of affordable, multifamily housing in Savannah. Mercy’s initial development projects in Savannah concentrated on the Cuyler-Brownsville neighborhood.

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Don't Let the Mud Hit the Fan - Wetlands Legislation is Often Overlooked by Business Owners.

By Andrew H. Ernst, published on September 10, 2000, in Savannah Morning News.

We are all aware of the environmental problems associated with the purchase of property that may be contaminated with hazardous substances. However, Savannah business owners often overlook another important environmental issue: wetlands legislation.

Overlooking the Clean Water Act, which regulates the filling of wetlands, among other things, can be a costly mistake. You may acquire property only to discover your plans thwarted or complicated by the Army Corps of Engineers or the Environmental Protection Agency which have recently stepped up enforcement actions with respect to wetlands development.

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The 404 Permit That Couldn't, But Did - The Story of Crossroads Business Center

By Andrew H. Ernst, published on April 2, 1992, in The Journal of Environmental Permitting 1, no. 2 (Spring 1992).

Coauthored with Richard D. Knowlton, president and chief executive officer of the Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA).
Originally printed in The Journal of Environmental Permitting, Vol. 1, No. 2, Spring 1992.

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The Savannah Economic Development Authority(SEDA) recently received a “first of a kind” 404 permit from the U.S. Corps of Engineers for a 1,784-acre business park based on environmental factors that affect property rather than on typical land use patterns. SEDA formed a team consisting of an engineering firm, an environmental lawyer, an environmental engineer, conservation groups, including the Georgia Conservancy, and local citizens to develop the plan and consulted with the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prior to submission of the permit to the Corps.

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Presentations

Public-Private Development in Historic Savannah - News Place on Ellis Square

Presented at the International Municipal Lawyers Association in Savannah, Georgia, in September 2005 by HunterMaclean Attorneys.

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Achieving "No Net Loss": The Future of National Wetlands Policy

Presented at the American College of Real Estate Lawyers in Washington, D.C., in October 1998 and at the Terrene Institute National Mitigation Banking Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 14, 1999, by HunterMaclean Attorneys.

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News

Attorneys Christopher H. Smith, Francesca Macchiaverna, and Patrick L. Barkley join HunterMaclean

HunterMaclean is pleased to announce that the firm’s Savannah office has welcomed three new attorneys: Christopher H. “Smitty” Smith, Francesca Macchiaverna, and Patrick L. Barkley.

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Christine Ryan joins HunterMaclean’s Real Estate Practice Group

Christine Ryan recently joined HunterMaclean, a leading business law firm with offices in Savannah and Brunswick, as an associate in the firm’s Real Estate Practice Group.

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Savannah Morning News Business Advocate of the Year: Harold Yellin

Harold Yellin, a commercial real estate and zoning/land use attorney, was named Business Advocate of the Year for 2014. Julia Ritchey interviewed him for a feature article in the Savannah Morning News.

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Fulton County Daily Report Honors HunterMaclean Partner Daniel Crook as “On the Rise” Attorney

Daniel Crook, a HunterMaclean partner, was recently named a 2014 ‘On the Rise’ attorney by the Fulton County Daily Report. The honor is given to an elite group of Georgia lawyers under 40 who contribute to both the legal community and the communities in which they live.

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Fifteen HunterMaclean Attorneys Honored as 2014 Georgia Super Lawyers and Rising Stars

Atlanta magazine just announced the top attorneys in the state of Georgia, and 15 attorneys at HunterMaclean were named either Georgia Super Lawyers or Rising Stars.

 

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HunterMaclean Honored in 2014 Edition of U.S. News - Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms”

HunterMaclean recently earned nine First Tier and four Second Tier rankings in the 2014 edition of  U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms.”

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Savannah Morning News Highlights Ted Henneman's State Bar of Georgia Pro Bono Award

HunterMaclean partner Ted Henneman will receive a special State Bar of Georgia Pro Bono Project Award in October for his outstanding contribution to Savannah’s affordable housing trust fund effort.

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HunterMaclean Attorney Ted Henneman Honored with State Bar of Georgia Pro Bono Award

Firm partner Ted Henneman received the State Bar of Georgia’s 2013 A Business Commitment Pro Bono Award, which recognizes exceptional business law pro bono contributions in Georgia.

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28 HunterMaclean Attorneys Among 'Best'

HunterMaclean, a business law firm with offices in Savannah and Brunswick, has announced that 28 lawyers from the firm were selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America 2013.

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Mr. Hutchinson Island

On Wednesday July 18, Savannah celebrated the accomplishments of John McCleskey, developer of Hutchinson Island. On hand were HunterMaclean attorneys Brooks Stillwell and Drew Ernst, who were key partners in bringing the Hutchinson Island project to fruition.

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HunterMaclean Partner Harold B. Yellin Named Savannah Music Festival Chairman

The Savannah Music Festival recently named HunterMaclean partner Harold B. Yellin the chairman of the non-profit organization’s board of directors.

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Urban Outfitters to open on West Broughton Street in Savannah

HunterMaclean attorneys Ronald Cohen and Deanne Clarke represented the landlord in the deal to bring Urban Outfitters to the historic Sears building on West Broughton Street in Savannah.

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Spotlight

Creative Financing: Firm Secures Multi-Million New Markets Tax Credit for Health System

Firm partners Ben Hartman and Adam Kirk spearheaded a landmark multi-million-dollar New Markets Tax Credit Program deal for Southeast Georgia Health System, one of HunterMaclean’s clients. The deal will lead to significant savings for the Health System’s new Medical Office Building and Community Care Center.

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Big Plans: Firm Clears the Way for Westin Resort’s Development

The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa is well-known as one of the most popular and most successful hotels in Savannah, but the hotel, which is located on Hutchinson Island just across the river from Savannah’s National Landmark Historic District, had several major legal hurdles to overcome when it was first conceived in the 1980′s.

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