Rough year shakes up area real estate agencies

OLYMPIA - The commercial real estate company Colliers International will close its Olympia office this month, a move that is altering the South Sound real-estate market as Colliers brokers move to competing firms and other companies step in to take its place.

Some of the changes already have happened, according to another commercial real estate company and brokers who used to work at Colliers’ Olympia office.

GVA Kidder Mathews announced this week that it has hired four commercial real estate brokers and two staff members previously with Colliers in Olympia, including Mike Flanagan, who will head up a forestland specialty group for GVA. The added staff members give the local Kidder Mathews office nine people, spokeswoman Karen Benoit said Tuesday.

Colliers International managing director Peter Truex could not be reached Tuesday, but managing director Bret Jordan said the company decided to close the Olympia office because so many of its brokers already did business in Tacoma. The Colliers Tacoma office will expand as a result, although Colliers will continue to have a presence here, Jordan said.

It wasn’t clear how big the Colliers Olympia office was, but former Colliers broker Larry Gilliam said it had a staff of about 20. Gilliam, who joined Coldwell Banker in Olympia as an associate broker last month, said the Olympia office closed as a result of the slower economy.

“We didn’t do enough, and I’m sure many are singing the same song,” he said about the amount of business the office did in 2009.

“It has just been a slow time, but I think 2010 will be better,” he added.

Gilliam was a co-owner of the Olympia real-estate company known as Hodges, Gilliam & Dana Investment Real Estate when Colliers acquired a majority stake in the business in October 2007. That relationship wasn’t always smooth. Troy Dana, who became a managing director of Colliers’ Olympia office after the deal, sued Colliers for breach of contract in Thurston County Superior Court in June 2009. Dana could not be reached Tuesday, but Gilliam said the decision to close the Olympia office was driven by the slower economy and not the lawsuit.

The decision to close Colliers’ Olympia office also has meant that new companies are representing some of South Sound’s well-known properties, such as Viewpoint Tower (formerly the Capitol Center building), the former Olympia brewery and downtown’s Olympia Press Building.

Scott Shapiro of Seattle, who co-owns both Viewpoint Tower and the Olympia Press Building with Jim Potter of Snohomish, said they decided to market the properties for lease themselves under ERV Realty when they learned Dana and Gilliam were leaving Colliers last month.

“We’re still working with all agents, whether they are at Colliers or at some other firm,” Shapiro said.

Barney Ng, the California-based owner of the former brewery, said he continues to work with Dana to market the property.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403