Cranberry Corporate Center

At first glance, it can be hard to tell which of the six single-story buildings along Executive Drive belong to Cranberry Corporate Center. After all, they were built over a 15-year period, with different architectural features, they sit side-by-side with independently-owned buildings, and one of them - the Cranberry Post Office - has a paint scheme unlike any of the others.

But they share something else which transcends the details of their appearance: it’s that almost all of their space is now under lease to business tenants. In fact, of the 217,000 square feet enclosed in the complex, less than 6,000 square feet is currently available. And instead of being concentrated into one or two industries, its 19 tenants represent a healthy mix of business types.

In the world of commercial real estate, that’s essentially a home run. It’s also the fulfillment of a business objective which has long been the focus of its owners, Leonard Silk and Andrew Stewart, whose partnership, The Silk and Stewart Development Group, owns and manages nearly a million square feet of commercial real estate in western Pennsylvania, Arizona, and central Tennessee.

The CCC is Currently Full

Cranberry Corporate Center, which Silk and Stewart acquired in 2008, was not the partnership’s first venture in Cranberry. The retail buildings along Rt. 19 which today house FedEx Office, Bravo’s, and Mattress Discounters, were parts of a real estate project that the partners undertook back in 1995. And it was apparently a good experience.

“We like the Cranberry market very much, and we’re not the only ones,” Andrew Stewart reflected recently. “We’ve had a great relationship with Cranberry, going back to the construction of the Kinko’s and what was then an Italian Oven. The county line runs right through the front door of Bravo’s, so we had to get permits in both Cranberry and Marshall. It was quite the soap opera. But we got through it. And now we’re looking at opportunities for new development in Cranberry.”

That’s partly because Cranberry Corporate Center is already maxed out to the limits of its building permits, while the market for commercial space - driven in part by the booming energy industry along the I-79 corridor - has continued to grow.

“Research the Cranberry market and you’ll find there’s very little vacancy here and frankly, across the entire western Pennsylvania market,” Stewart said. “We didn’t have the great construction party here that they were having in Phoenix and California and Florida and Georgia, so we don’t have the great hangover that they’re having. Western Pennsylvania is truly a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race market, and we’ve been blessed by that.”

Not everyone realizes it, however. “Over the last couple of years, I’ve had the same conversation with the real estate reps for some of my national tenants,” Stewart recalls. “They call us and say ‘we have this space in Cranberry Corporate Center, our lease is up next year. We’d like to renew early and we’d like you to cut our rent by 30 percent if we do; our landlords in San Diego, Atlanta, Illinois, and Seattle were thrilled to cut our rent by such and such.’ To which I respond: I can appreciate that’s what you want - but we’re not going to touch your option rent.”

Business is Booming

Four years ago, when Silk and Stewart acquired the Cranberry complex from another partnership, that sort of argument might have been more persuasive. “Back then it was 20 percent vacant and 20 percent of the leases were rolling over within 12 months. That’s why they decided to sell,” he said. “Since then, we’ve made significant investments in addressing deferred maintenance. We put together the capital to reposition the asset. That was our plan. And Executive Drive? We call this Main and Main. I mean how much better a location can you find in Cranberry than this? It’s ideally situated between the exit from I-79 and Starbucks. It’s what everyone’s looking for. And Cranberry’s a place that people want to live.”