Cleveland, Ohio-based Forest City Realty Trust Inc. (NYSE: FCEA, FCEB) said its board of directors has authorized a process to review strategic alternatives for the company’s retail portfolio, which consists of ownership interest in 14 regional malls in markets around the country, and 19 specialty retail centers, which are located primarily in New York City.
Forest City is a real estate investment trust (REIT) principally engaged in the ownership, development, management and acquisition of commercial and residential real estate throughout the United States, and has $8.9 billion in consolidated assets.
“Over the past five years, we have made tremendous progress transforming Forest City by focusing on core urban markets and products, reducing complexity, paying down debt, driving operational excellence and converting to REIT status,” said Forest City president and chief executive David J. LaRue.
“As part of this ongoing transformation, and after careful consideration, we have made the decision to explore strategic alternatives for our retail portfolio. We intend to look at a range of options and expect the review process to be concluded by the first quarter of 2017. Assuming we identify and transact on a chosen alternative, or alternatives, our intent would be to redeploy the value from our retail portfolio into apartment and office assets that align with our focus on core markets and urban, mixed-use placemaking projects,” he added, implying a potential divestment of its retail portfolio.
The company said it intends to retain its ownership interest in Ballston Quarter (formerly Ballston Common Mall) in Arlington, Virginia, which is being redeveloped into an urban mixed-use project to include office, multifamily, and retail uses.
Forest City was founded as a family-owned lumber and hardware business in 1920 after the Ratowczer (later changed to Ratner) family emigrated to the U.S from Poland. Through hard work and good fortune, the family building materials business – started by four siblings, Charles, Max, Leonard and Fannye Ratner – grew and expanded beyond the founders’ wildest dreams.
The company originally sold building materials to contractors, eventually expanding into retail. In the 1930s, the company purchased its initial lots for community development and bought its first apartment building. Forest City built prefabricated apartment housing in the 1940s, while also developing its first strip shopping malls.
During World War II, the company made pre-fabricated houses for government housing and began building strip malls. In 1955, Forest City began converting its lumberyards, Forest City Lumber, into do-it yourself home stores.
Forest City’s real estate operations continued to grow as the company went public in 1960, initially offering 450,000 shares over the counter and joining the American Stock Exchange a few months later and eventually moving to the New York Stock Exchange.
The 1960s, 70s and 80s saw the company’s development footprint expand from the Midwest to California and New York as it became known for dynamic urban developments. The company would exit the retail and lumber businesses to focus on the ownership, management and development of real estate.
In the 90s and 2000s, Forest City completed some of its most well-known projects, including the world-renowned Stapleton community in Denver, The New York Times Building in Manhattan, University Park at MIT near Boston, and Victoria Gardens in California.
The company is said to be the second largest holder of real estate in Downtown Cleveland.