Finance  ·  Distress

CMBS Deal Backed by Suburban Office, Industrial Assets Hits Special Servicing


Even the sturdy industrial sector is not entirely immune from exposure to the mounting distress penetrating commercial real estate. 

A $104.7 million commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) loan secured by a mix of 32 office and industrial properties in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley moved to special servicing Thursday after the borrower requested a modification in advance of the loan’s looming January 2024 maturity date, according to a report from DBRS Morningstar

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The sponsor of the borrowers is PennCap Acquisitions and the lead originator was Ladder Capital. The portfolio — known as the PennCap portfolio — consists of 69 percent suburban office and 31 percent industrial by balance in the debt package. By square feet, the mix is 51.8 percent suburban to 48.2 percent industrial, data shows. 

The WFRBS 2014-LC14 and COMM 2014-LC15 deals have “slightly underperformed underwritten expectations” with debt service coverage ratio (DSCR) of 1.13 times as of June 2023, which is below the 1.40 level that the deals were underwritten at and also below the typical 1.20 industry standard for CRE lenders. 

“You have a very tight lending environment now and cash flow that’s managed to keep the loan afloat for 10 years but just isn’t isn’t sufficient to refi, which is why the borrower reached out for a modification to try and get some extra time to get some leasing done and get cash flow improved,”  David Putro, head of CRE analytics at Morningstar Credit Information & Analytics, told CO. 

Putro noted that despite its DSCR struggles, occupancy in the portfolio as of March 2023 hit its highest level in several years at 84 percent, and the special servicer holds “fairly significant reserves” with plans to make principal loan payment in November during the loan’s open date period to avoid penalties. The reserves include $2.2 million captured in an additional collateral reserve from a cash flow sweep and an additional $11.8 million held back by the servicer after a property release.

Lisa Pektor, president of PennCap Properties, said the firm has made a request to the lender for modification of the loan to get consent to repay the debt in full through via a series of synchronized transactions instead of a same day close 

“We have made a request to the lender to modify the loan to provide consents to repay the loan in full though a series of synchronized transactions as opposed to a same day close for multiple transactions involving multiple parties,” Lisa Pektor, president of PennCap Properties, said in a statement. “We are genuinely pleased with the attention and expeditious manner by which the Special Servicer has been working on reviewing the request.” 

Pektor added that PennCap is bound by a non-disclosure agreement and is “unable to provide any additional details on the multiple transactions in progress.”

While a 1.20 DSCR has typically been the industry standard for CRE lenders, Putro stressed that loans now need to be well north of that and closer to 2.0 to achieve a refi. He cautioned that even though there is a large industrial component to this loan, it doesn’t mean more distress is on the horizon for the sector given the many localized warehouse tenants and the large office concentration in the portfolio.

“In this case, it is a lot of in between flex industrial stuff assets being bogged down by the office component,” Putro said. “I certainly wouldn’t use this as a predictor for what’s to come for industrial as it seems to be a different sort of an animal than a straight industrial portfolio that is being used for last-mile warehousing or Amazon.” 

Andrew Coen can be reached at