MRES launches first London-area projects Mansur Real Estate Services Inc. (MRES), an affiliate of Indianapolis-based Mansur Group, will redevelop two office buildings in Great Britain. The transaction is valued collectively at nearly $29 million.

Mansur has begun restoration of the 15-18 Austin Friars building, which was originally constructed in 1890. Located in London's financial district (also known as the "Old City" district), the $5.5 million project is slated for completion in mid June. Mansur Group member, Mansur Investments Services Inc., acquired the six-story, 33,000 sq. ft. property from Benchmark Group for $15 million.

Additionally, in spring 2000, MRES will begin work on Heathervale House, a 12,600 sq. ft. office building located in Kent. The $4 million project, which calls for significant architectural and structural improvements, is expected to be complete in early 2001.

Canal Zone properties poised for commercial development As the Panama Canal becomes an integral part of the Republic of Panama, so do Canal Zone properties previously held by the United States. The process of handing over nearly 230,000 acres of former military bases - which began in 1979 - was completed recently with the transfer of Fort Clayton. It is estimated that the total value of all Canal Zone properties, excluding the Canal itself, is approximately $4.6 billion dollars.

Panama's location and time-zone advantages for U.S. companies - in addition to development pillars such as Panama's international banking center, ports at either end of the Canal and the Canal itself - have attracted manufacturers interested in export processing, light manufacturing and logistics. Furthermore, more than $500 million has been committed to tourism projects including a golf course and shopping center in Amador and a business-class hotel developed by Spain-based Sol Melia.

Technology and academic projects are being developed on the grounds of the former Fort Clayton. Several companies have already announced plans to establish operations in the Techno-Park, including Oracle and Eli Lilly & Co. This project, coupled with the City of Knowledge - also being developed on the grounds of Clayton - are slated to begin this year.

IIC, Crow Holdings to open Berlin office Dallas-based Crow Holdings, a global real estate investment company, and the Industrial Investment Council (IIC) will be opening a real estate office in Berlin. Executives for Crow cite the city's size as one of the reasons behind the move.

"Berlin is the largest city in Germany and is the crossroads to the east," says Robert Roethenmund, managing partner of Crow Holdings International. "We believe that the outlook for development in Germany, particularly Berlin and the surrounding region, necessitates a presence there."

In the past, Crow Holdings has largely concentrated its German activities on the Duesseldorf, Frankfurt and Hamburg markets.

GMAC Commercial Mortgage opens Canadian office Responding to an increased demand for commercial financing in Canada, Horsham, Pa.-based GMAC Commercial Mortgage, a wholly-owned subsidiary of GMAC, has opened its first office in Canada. The company will operate under the name, GMACCM of Canada Ltd.

Headquartered in Toronto, the firm will concentrate on commercial mortgage originations, as well as primary and master servicing. Senior vice president John M. Beam Jr. will oversee the GMACCM Canadian Lending program.

PricewaterhouseCoopers unveils research journal PricewaterhouseCoopers has introduced PricewaterhouseCoopers Hospitality Directions Europe, a semi-annual research publication designed to analyze the European lodging market and to publish lodging forecasts for key European markets.

The inaugural issue of the journal offers an econometric forecast for the United Kingdom lodging market; explores the structuring of European lodging investment; examines new forces shaping lodging ownership in the European hotel market; and qualifies the impact of the Internet on lodging distribution. In recent North American versions, the journal has predicted such issues as the potential boost in lodging demand from increased travel as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and identified investment opportunities for U.S. lodging companies.

Copies of the research journal can be obtained by going to LodgingResearch.com. q

Trendwest Resorts enters Australasian region Trendwest Resorts, a Redmond, Wash.-based timeshare company, has begun doing business in the Australasian region. Trendwest Resorts, South Pacific will develop, market and manage timeshare resorts in Australia and Fiji. The company hopes to commence sales in the first-quarter 2000.

Trendwest Resorts is currently developing 76 units in a timeshare resort on Denarau Island, Fiji, with the first stage of 38 units already delivered to the WorldMark Club. Hoping to acquire and develop resort locations on the Gold and Sunshine Coast of Australia, Trendwest has filled many of the senior management positions for the Australasian operations and expects to make further appointments during the next several months.

Latin America set for major take-off Several recent deals in Latin America seem to be casting a new eye on development in that global region, after years of neglect and the stigma of recession.

Dallas-based Staubach Co. has been appointed by Cisco Systems, the Internet networking giant, as its Latin American service provider. Staubach specializes in tenant representation.

VOA Associates, an Orlando-based architecture, planning and interior design firm, is working on three new projects in the region with a total value of about $100 million. The first is a $15 million, 80,000 sq. ft. Compensar Family Entertainment Center in Bogota, Colombia. Completion is scheduled for May of 2000.

Another project is the Rio Quente resort development, considered Brazil's largest, located about 200 miles from Brasilia. VOA is providing concept planning services to integrate the existing resort with a new water park, a new entertainment district and new hotels and residential developments.

Also in the works is a site feasibility study for a 5-acre urban entertainment center in the coastal community north of Vina del Mar, Chile. Plans call for a new entertainment center to join the existing timeshare and condominium resort.

And in late-October, Brazil Realty SA announced the formation of REIT Brazil, giving individual and institutional investors alike a chance to invest in large real estate projects in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city. The REIT, based on the JK Financial Center, which Brazil Realty is building in Sao Paulo, will sell shares in the project.

Showing its commitment to the region, Cushman & Wakefield, New York, recently opened new offices in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Santiago, Chile. "We have experienced an increased demand from multinationals to supply a full range of services throughout Central and South America, due to population growth and stronger local economies," says C&W executive managing director of international services John Coppedge.

All bets are to keep an eye on this region for much more activity.