MURAL’s Zeigler sees bright spot in mixed-use, underserved urban locations

Ex-Cedar Realty Trust pro looks for new borrowing opportunities in urban and suburban underserved locales.

Robin Zeigler, the former chief operating officer at New York-based mortgage REIT Cedar Realty Trust, has formed her own privately owned, full-service estate company MURAL Real Estate Partners in a bid to combat some of the disparities being seen across many of the US’ underserved urban and suburban locales.

“In almost every major city, there is a market that’s on the other side of the train tracks, the bridge, the highway where working people live but there aren’t many goods and services,” Zeigler told Real Estate Capital USA. “We really look to enter these types of markets, create mixed-use centers that become the fabric of these neighborhoods.”

MURAL Real Estate Partners, which stands for Mixed Use Revitalization Approached Locally, is evaluating acquisitions and partnerships throughout the country and has earmarked more than $500 million for the purposes of mixed-use redevelopment and value-add renovations on existing shopping centers or multifamily product.

“Because these markets might not have goods and services, their purchasing and spending power historically hasn’t been being utilized or captured,” said Zeigler. “That, coupled with the other demographics around it, have caused these markets to be ignored.”

As one of the few Black women with C-suite experience at a publicly traded commercial real estate company, Zeigler has navigated complex transactions in economically challenged regions for more than two decades. Her experience includes the development and operations for more than 16 million square feet in mixed-use projects throughout her career. Most recently, she spearheaded Cedar Realty Trust’s strategic effort to reimagine and redevelop its grocery-anchored shopping center portfolio, initiating the company’s urban mixed-use development platform.

“We want to create community, but we also have to make a strong economic return both for ourselves and for our partners and institutional capital,” said Zeigler. “And so, a good deal is one where all the requisite parties are benefiting economically.”

“A lot of institutional capital shops have social impact funds or initiatives that they’re looking to deploy,” added Zeigler. “Some of them are, candidly, more actionable, and others are more marketing material. And so, part of the process is moving through that with the different institutional capital providers and understanding who really can execute on providing investment dollars into these types of neighborhoods.”

In the underserved markets, Zeigler said there is a need for affordable and workforce housing in the underserved markets she and MURAL are targeting.

“When we say mixed income residential, what we’re really looking at is a combination of three tranches of housing: affordable housing, workforce housing and market rate housing,” Zeigler said. “Each project may have a different combination of those three categories, as long as we focus on the appropriate strategies to be able to make sure that we have attainable and approachable housing for that market.”

For MURAL, understanding a market and its broader trends are crucial. This includes looking at job opportunities; assessing the available spending power and where that money being spent; reviewing what type of goods and services are available; and recognizing what type of mix of housing would be appropriate to really tap into that current community and promote economic growth. MURAL is flexible on borrowing structures, typically incorporating both debt and equity in deals.