Colby Durnin | Courtesy Sentinel Real Estate Group

Hyper-Focus Trend Emerges in SoCal

Carrie Rossenfeld Professional Services

It’s not enough to focus on office in Orange County — you need to be specific on each area, Colby Durnin, CEO of Sentinel Real Estate Group, tells SoCal Real Estate. The 17-year-old Irvine, California–based company recently changed its name from Sentinel Development, undergoing a rebranding that Durnin said in a recent statement more accurately represents the firm’s full spectrum of commercial real estate services.

“Over the years, we have expanded from a development and management company to offering clients targeted services to lead them successfully through the entire life cycle of an asset,” Durnin added. He elaborated that Sentinel provides guidance and collaborates with clients on every aspect of a project, from conception through due diligence, design, entitlement, development, construction management, leasing, operations and property management, and disposition. The firm recently opened an office in New York.

We spoke with Durnin about the rebranding and the commercial real estate trends he is noticing now.

SoCal Real Estate: What was the impetus behind the rebranding of your firm? Why now?
Sentinel was historically a development company, but in the past several years we have evolved to provide a variety of services to third-party clients, including development services and asset and property management. It seemed appropriate to change the company name to one that reflected the breadth of our service offerings and capabilities and didn’t simply pigeon-hole us as a developer. We decided to make the company-wide change when we hired our head of business development, based out of New York City, to promote our new growth initiative.

What new services are you offering clients that they especially need now?
We offer third-party development services that touch every phase of an asset’s lifecycle — project identification, business planning, entitlements, development, construction management, property/asset management, and disposition assistance. Most specifically, we believe that in today’s lending environment, we can step in and provide expertise as a service provider or the general partner to quality development deals that need execution experience and the skillset for funding. At this point in the cycle, so many of the proposed contracts necessitate that the sponsor and its partners extend beyond their typical development experience. Our goal is to assist both sponsors and lenders in turning deals that may not otherwise make sense into transactions that lenders and equity partners can comfortably underwrite. We want to help lenders and investors get capital out the door and help sponsors execute on their projects.

What commercial real estate trends are you noticing in Southern California?
Real estate in Southern California and all markets has become hyper focused on specific submarkets and product type. It is not enough to focus on Office in Orange County, but you need to be specific on each area — as an example, the John Wayne Airport area versus Newport Beach. Likewise, the trends are moving into splinters: it’s not just class-A versus woody walkup, but class-A, class-B, creative, creative lite, etc. We see this across all asset types.

Tenant needs are also getting more sophisticated. In all markets it has become an “arms race” for amenities. While this can become expensive and doesn’t always drive rental rates, it does help with absorption. It is a fun part of our business as well, getting our creative juices flowing with new and different concepts. For example, we took inspiration from SteelCraft in Long Beach and Union Market Mission Viejo at Kaleidoscope to incorporate a food hall into an office tower in Denver and are building areas for food trucks to park and serve our multifamily projects. People not only want more of an urban vibe within their work and life sphere, but these amenities lend a social and experiential element to the projects, which is appreciated by tenants and property owners alike. Thoughtful features like these help lure new tenants and increase tenant retention.

What else should our readers know about your company?
We are experienced in all asset classes and most geographic locations around the country. We are also very entrepreneurial and are continually establishing creative ways in which we can work with our partners and clients as new market opportunities arise.