Intelica CRE’s strategic pillars

Formerly known as the Principal Commercial Real Estate Company, Intelica CRE, a St. Louis-based property-management firm, rebranded itself at the beginning of 2012 to mark a new chapter as it looked to grow beyond its original commercial niche. Presently, Intelica CRE handles more than four million square feet of property valued at $450 million, and the firm offers services in everything from asset management and industrial, office, and retail brokerage to construction and development services. American Builders Quarterly spoke with the firm’s cofounders, COO Dan Dokovic and president Dan Merlo, to learn more about what’s changing at Intelica CRE and what that change really means.

So, what does “Intelica” mean to you?

Dan Dokovic: Although we started our company in 2009, the brand Intelica was developed at the beginning of January 2012. The word is formed out of the words “Intellectual Capital.” We describe this using four words, or pillars, derived from “Intelica”: inquisitive, insightful, innovative, and instructive. The first means exploration through research. We have a lot of data pertaining to commercial real estate that we use to make better property decisions. “Insightful” means we use that data to make enlightened decisions. “Innovative” means that on certain projects, where people might not see potential, we can spin it sideways and find good in it. “Instructive” means that we work with the client as a team, and this is how we solve problems.

What was the strategy behind starting a real estate company in the wake of an economic recession?
Dan Merlo: Commercial real estate is cyclical, and because we’re all seasoned veterans in this industry, we thought, “What better time than 2009 to start a new business?” This plays into the idea of these pillars that make Intelica what it is. In our opinion, there is no full-service, independent firm or practitioner of commercial real estate in our local marketplace that is only local and that serves the local market. People were running their own portfolios, handling their own products, and trying to hold on to it. Or they hired a service provider from some big out-of-town firm. We fill that local need.

Have you seen many changes since 2009 in the commercial real estate industry?
DD: Retail has been really strong for out-of-the-ground development. Tenants like Dollar General are looking to open 1,200 stores in the next 24 months; Family Dollar, 600; Walgreens, 571. But on the other hand, when you look at the office market in a place like St. Louis, there isn’t much demand for new office buildings. Currently there are 1,327,000 jobs in the St. Louis metro area. In 2002, there were 1,336,000.

DM: We believe that it is still a tenant-buyer market, but most industry sectors—retail, office, industrial, multifamily—are seeing absorption in most submarkets. Most of these sectors are doing better than they were a few years ago, and we see this as an all-around increase in activity. We’re still not in the landlord market, but it’s on the right path.

Are your construction services an outgrowth of these industry developments?
DM: As we grew our management, it was part of the natural growth to have some kind of construction management. This is evolving and growing. For example, we’re selling an existing medical facility for one of our clients who recently bought a new facility. Our construction manager has overseen the entire design and build-out, retrofitting that new 50,000-square-foot building.

DD: We’ve recently completed work with Dollar Tree, and we’ve just gotten contracted to do six Kiddie Academies throughout the St. Louis area. We’re also working on a fee development deal for Walgreens. Our construction department is extremely busy, and though there are some large projects, most are steady, busy projects. Those steady ones are our bread and butter.

So you’re seeing construction pick up along with everything else you’re doing?
DM: Yes. Greenfield development is starting to get looked at again, though we’re still absorbing space. There are still plenty of options out there, even if it’s an industrial client. For example, we have an industrial client that is looking for a particularly large requirement. Two years ago, we would have looked at 20 different, quality opportunities, and today we’re looking at three.

DD: We’re looking to grow all segments exponentially here in the next three years. We’re seeing an uptick in the market, and we’re positioning ourselves to take advantage of that, especially in construction management, which will support our efforts in brokerage and management.

Although Intelica is young, it already seems to have hit some high points. What are you excited about moving forward?
DD: We started our company in the midst of a recession. We were able to take our company from nothing and turn it into a large player in our market. We did this through hard work and through utilizing those four pillars. Our optimism comes from the idea that if we can be successful in a hard market, then when the market is on an uptick, we are prepared and ready to take it by the horns.

DM: We’re working on a lot of projects right now. By the end of 2012, we had over 60 transactions closed. We feel good about what we’re working on and where we’re headed. ABQ