Extreme makeover corporate edition

Evolv officially opens its doors this month in Atlanta. The full service real estate solutions group is a Lane Company spin-off, replacing CondoLane, the condo sales and marketing subsidiary launched in 2003.

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Unlike CondoLane, Evolv is an entirely separate company with a much- expanded platform embracing the full spectrum of multifamily from condos, townhomes, lofts and rental apartments to resort and vacation ownership properties.

Services include everything from pre-development to design to interfacing with general contractors and architects, all the way through marketing, presales and sales, helping with the planning process, closings, owner walks, warranty HOA administration, operations integration and mortgage solutions.

“We decided to take the company that formally was CondoLane and build a new platform, which is now Evolv, to provide a full range of real estate solutions to people in the industry,” says Gigi Giannoni, who joined Lane Company in June to head up CondoLane and today serves as Evolv’s president. Start-up capital for Evolv came from George Lane, who founded the company that bears his name in 1974, and a number of other original Lane Company investors.

“Evolv might partner with a Gables Residential, a Trammell Crow Residential or a small development group starting up a project, say, in Arizona, where they don’t have the infrastructure or don’t want to hire the infrastructure. Instead of hiring the people full-time within their company, they can outsource the services through us and we then become a value-added partner in a strategic alliance. We’ll interview staff if they want to do it themselves or hire a property management company if they want to go third-party. We’ll get them all set up and situated to run as a stand-alone and then we’ll mosey on,” said Giannoni, who has worked for some of the biggest multifamily and resort powerhouses, including Trammell Crow Residential (TCR), Gables Residential and Sunterra Corp.

She served as Florida marketing director for TCR from 1987 to 1992, then joined Sunterra two years before Gables Residential bought TCR’s Southeast and South Central portfolio and became a REIT. She then joined Gables in 2002 as vice president of marketing and training and left in 2004, six months before the REIT was acquired and privatized by an investment fund managed by ING Clarion and Lehman Brothers. Prior to joining Lane Company, Giannoni held the position of chief operating officer at Gameday Centers Southeastern, which develops, sells, markets and manages luxury sports condos near universities.

Her experience is a natural fit with Evolv, the evolution of which took shape during discussions she had with Lane Company President Bill Donges over the period of a couple of months. Giannoni built the business model for Evolv around the new company’s senior team, which has a combined 50-plus years of expertise in development, operations, marketing, sales and HOA administration. That team includes Vice President of Operations Scott Melhus and Vice President Condominium Operations Andrew Gardner. Melhus, who worked with Giannoni at Sunterra for six of her seven years there, joined the Evolv team in July. His background includes operations, property management systems and setting up and running vacation clubs and sales.

Gardner has been directly involved with Evolv since the new platform was introduced. He has a background in homeowner association management, sales and closing procedures and customer service and has spent time working for Community Management Associates and K&C Builders.

Evolv isn’t looking to become the largest company in its field. Rather it is tailoring its services to appeal to developers and asset managers interested in long-term relationships with a focused service entity. “We plan to represent no more than seven developers at a time and, if one developer comes to us with a substantial number of communities, that number could be as few as four or five,” said Giannoni.

The company’s bread and butter will come from developers building ground-up condos, apartments or townhomes. About 25 percent of the business will be split between resorts and vacation ownership, the latter of which includes vacation clubs, fractionals, weeks and points programs of all kinds.

“The vacation ownership market has evolved with the entry of
Starwood. And the growth of Marriott, Sunterra and Fairfield Resorts has brought an amazing amount of credibility to the industry and also a tremendous amount of scalability in the quality of the products that now have all the bells and whistles,” said Giannoni.

She also sees opportunities in the conversion reversion trend and in the mixed-use development arena. “A lot of people are going to the mixed-use developments because it simplifies their everyday existence. You don’t have to travel to eat, be entertained, drink with a friend or shop for clothing. Everyone’s lives are so busy that they are looking for that comfort zone, and that is what mixed-use is really starting to provide to people. Evolv will focus on some of the smaller markets that are trying to bring mixed-use into their world, including Charlotte, N.C., and on the resort community side, Jacksonville. We believe there is a tremendous demand for developers to incorporate lifestyle opportunities that appeal to all demographics within these mixed-use communities, including the 55- plus market. We also like the waterfront or harbor-type communities,” said Giannoni, who believes those smaller cities are counting on mixed-use to lure new residents and businesses.

Evolv currently is marketing and selling several projects in Atlanta that were in the works under the CondoLane banner for its client Lane Company. Among them are several communities Lane Company is building within the 138-acre Atlantic Station, the country’s largest brownfield development, which is located in Midtown Atlanta. Lane Company’s for-sale projects there include Art Foundry, element and ATL Lofts.Evolv also is marketing and selling the 352-unit eon at Lindbergh, a green-built condo community with one- and two-bedroom residences starting in the $180,000 range, under development by The Dawson Company and co-owned by Dawson and the Lane Company. The project broke ground November 10 and is rising within the 47-acre Lindbergh City Center in Buckhead, the largest transit-authority-sponsored transit-oriented development in the country. Eon is within walking distance of a MARTA station. Also in the portfolio is Paces 325 in Buckhead, with several more communities in the works. Business development is underway in Florida, North Carolina and Texas.