Discussion about distressed assets typically centers on evaluating balance sheets. In many cases, opportunistic investors are looking for situations where borrowers have become overextended — taking on more debt than can be paid back through the income being generated by properties. The decision on whether to buy and what to bid is seen purely as a financial assessment.

According to Ronald A. Altoon, founder and partner-for-design of Los Angeles-based Altoon + Porter Architects LLP, that is precisely the wrong way to go about evaluating distressed real estate opportunities.

Altoon, an ICSC trustee and former president of the American Institute of Architects, has worked on helping resolve distressed assets for decades. In his experience, the real problems that need to be addressed when assuming control of a distressed asset are often the ones you can’t see on the balance sheet.

For that reason, architects can play a vital role in assessing troubled situations and help turn properties around. Altoon has worked on helping reposition 54 distressed assets during his career. And he’s now taken that lifetime of experience and authored a new book, “Retail Rescue: Visions + Strategies for Repositioning Distressed Retail Properties.”

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