Sarah Castor and John Gay began their boutique real estate company, Strictly Commercial, 30 years ago when there were few firms focused on protecting tenants. Castor’s husband, Craig Castor, joined them as co-owner and principal, and the company had been in business about 20 years when it merged with international commercial real estate firm Cresa
Cresa’s values aligned very well with those of Strictly Commercial. Both firms shared a desire to approach each interaction as ethically as possible while representing only tenants, instead of working from “both sides of the table” — a place where even the most well-intentioned might find themselves compromised.
“A typical broker has a fiduciary responsibility to the landlord, precluding a fiduciary to the tenant,” said Sarah Castor, principal of Cresa’s Orlando operation, along with Gay. “Therefore, protecting the tenant’s interests comes secondary to the landlord’s bottom line. It’s very difficult for a listing broker to tell a landlord, ‘I’m exclusively working on your behalf to protect your bottom line’ and then go out and represent tenants and tell them honestly, ‘I’m going to get you the best deal possible.’ It can be a real conflict.”
Instead, Cresa approaches every interaction without that burden, focusing on understanding the clients, their business and the space that will truly benefit them. “We become an extension of our clients’ business to handle their real estate needs,” Craig Castor said.
“We are grateful to honestly and ethically represent that company as if it were our company. Our strategic approach is built on evaluating the company’s business plan, what their goals and objectives are, and then presenting the real estate that best fits their needs and culture to facilitate success at their firm. It’s always exciting — it’s never the same type of business, and yet the problems and hurdles tenants face are a common thread we’ve dealt with and resolved for more than 30 years.”
Understanding their clients’ goals, needs and objectives is only half of the team’s specialty. The other half is the ability to synergize the team’s extensive knowledge of Florida’s real estate markets with the clients’ needs.
New and expanding businesses and a wide talent pool are establishing Central Florida as a hub of innovation, but the scenario also presents a potentially overwhelming question about where these companies are planting their roots — and how to keep them growing here. In providing solutions to clients, Cresa takes into account all aspects of a company’s facility needs, such as available space/growth, employment, access, visibility
Cresa has been guiding businesses through these questions for decades — in some cases, even overseeing construction of the facility. In a tight market especially, with rising construction costs, tenant improvements are a major consideration for companies, and managing those costs effectively can have a dramatic effect on the bottom line.
In a transaction that requires an intimate and honest understanding of both the market and the client, the firm essentially becomes a real estate matchmaker.
And not just a matchmaker — a relationship counselor offering advice at every turn, Gay said. “Soup to nuts. We are there for our clients from the beginning, through lease execution, through design and construction, and finally through move-in and tenancy.”
That means Cresa works with clients on project management, lease administration, workplace intelligence, labor cost comparisons across multiple markets, lease audits, data center expertise
Recently, the firm oversaw an analysis of more than 110 OneBlood locations across the state, working through both relocations and lease renewals to make sure the healthcare giant with more than 1,000 employees in four states maximized its budget and its real estate. Projects like those require taking into account not just the technical and medical needs of such locations, but also the ease of access for employees and donors and the comfort of both.
That’s just one of several rewarding partnerships that also include Visit Orlando, AdventHealth, National Dentex, Oracle and KemPharm. Cresa represented the specialty pharmaceutical development company in its search for the right fit, ultimately securing a modern suite that fit the company’s needs for meeting areas, conference rooms, and open and traditional office spaces.
“We pride ourselves on being responsive and taking great care of our clients,” Gay said. “We oversee real estate, design, construction and move-in of the tenant, making sure our clients get what they want, when they want it and within budget.”