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Saturday, Mar 25, 2023

Spotlight: Igor Olenicoff

Olen Properties Rides Rental, Low-Rise Wave

Olen Properties Corp.’s first commercial development was in 1974, when it built the 14-building Orange Freeway Business Park, a roughly 190,000-square-foot collection of offices and flex space along Orangethorpe Avenue in Placentia.

“I valued that project on a good day at $130 to $150 a square foot,” Igor Olenicoff, Olen’s founder and president, told the Business Journal earlier this year. Such a price would place the park’s value a little under $30 million.

Olen had recently received an unsolicited offer to buy the property for well over double that price, Olenicoff said at the time. The exec tells the Business Journal that occurrences like that have become more regular as investors and real estate investment trusts look to find infill locations in OC, often to convert the sites into new industrial projects.

Olen Properties, which rarely sells its local commercial buildings, kept hold of the Placentia property.

That long-term investment strategy has served Olenicoff well; Olen now counts more than 8 million square feet of commercial space—largely low-rise space, a product type that’s gained value the past two years in the wake of the pandemic.

The company has nearly 2,000 tenants, and 380 buildings in OC. Most buildings are believed to be debt free.

“Business is solid as are our projects that continue to experience solid occupancies and valuations,” said Olenicoff, who notes that the prices being sought for his own properties makes it a challenge to find deals of his own to buy, especially in OC.

“Generally, a public REIT wants it far more than we do,” he said.


Southeast Surge

When Olen’s made buys of late, it has largely looked out of state, and largely focused on apartments.

The company’s added thousands of rental units to its ever-expanding portfolio in the Southeast over the past few years. It now counts over 17,000 rental units, largely garden-style complexes, in eight states.

Recent all-cash acquisitions include the 254-unit Sycamore Fort Mills complex near Charlotte, N.C., and Creekside at Providence, a 209-unit apartment community in Mt. Juliet, Tenn.
Olen paid $64 million for the latter property, or about $306,000 a unit, according to brokers.
Mt. Juliet, a suburb of Nashville, has been an area of focus for Olen of late, with other deals for newer complexes in the works, according to Olenicoff.

Rental increases at Olen’s complexes have been topping 15% the past two years, providing a sizeable boost to the company’s bottom line, he says.


BIG BREAK: Worked for Shell, Touche Ross, Motown Records, where he was a VP and business consultant to Berry Gordy, expanding the company out of Detroit to Hollywood. Founding partner in real estate syndicator Gemini Pacific. VP of operations at Dunn Properties before starting Olen.


STOCK HOLDINGS: Reliable sources tell the Business Journal that much of Olenicoff’s liquidity is invested in the stock market, and it has been tech heavy the past few years, which gave Olenicoff an outsized boost in wealth estimate the prior two years. With a year-over-year decline in that portfolio likely this time around, it’s one reason the latest $8.4 billion estimate isn’t larger.


PHILANTHROPY: Andrei Olenicoff Memorial Foundation, charity for eye health, blindness cure, in memory of Olenicoff’s late son.

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Mark Mueller
Mark Mueller
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief of the Orange County Business Journal, one of the premier regional business newspapers in the country. He’s the fifth person to hold the editor’s position in the paper’s long history. He oversees a staff of about 15 people. The OCBJ is considered a must-read for area business executives. The print edition of the paper is the primary source of local news for most of the Business Journal’s subscribers, which includes most of OC’s major corporate and community players. Mark’s been with the paper since 2005, and long served as the real estate reporter for the paper, breaking hundreds of commercial and residential real estate stories. He took on the editor’s position in 2018.

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