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Saturday, September 22 Business

Danbury real estate firm lands another RV park in Florida

DANBURY — Athena Real Estate is not your typical property investment firm.

Instead of targeting homes, empty lots or office buildings, the Danbury-based firm zeroes in on RV parks, manufactured home communities and self-storage facilities. This week, Athena Real Estate announced its latest acquisition, Silver Springs RV Park and Campers Garden, in Silver Springs, Fla. It is a 199-site park located across the street from Silver Spring State Park, a well-known nature park.

The firm seeks those types of properties as they were the kind of investments and loans Athena founder and CEO Richard O’Brien specialized in when he worked as a managing director of GE Capital Real Estate in the late 1990s and early 2000s. O’Brien also previously served as CFO and executive vice president of FelCor Lodging Trust, a real estate investment trust.

“Our philosophy is to obtain premium returns for value-added opportunities where focused and experienced management provide a competitive advantage,” O’Brien said. “We target acquisitions that allow us to create value from below-market occupancy or rents, and property in need of capital or more professional management.”

Silver Springs RV Park was the 21st property acquisition for Athena Real Estate since O’Brien founded the firm in 2004. The company still owns the 20 properties and operates the facilities through its property management arm.

“We like the idea of holding onto properties for the long term, rather than a quick flip,” O’Brien said. “Commercial real estate tends to grow in value over time.”

The majority of the properties owned by Athena are in Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina. O’Brien said the firm targets the Southeast because of its growing population, especially with baby boomers, and affordable cost of living.

“Population growth leads to economic growth,” said O’Brien, who employs about 20 people at the firm’s Danbury headquarters.

Athena Real Estate does not own properties in Connecticut because O’Brien said he hasn’t found the “right property at the right time.” He said he would acquire self-storage, multifamily or unanchored retail property in Connecticut if he found the right opportunity.

Silver Spring RV Park is popular among retirees in the winter and families in the summer, O’Brien said. The property includes a clubhouse and outdoor recreational facilities including a swimming pool, horseshoe pits, bocce ball court and shuffleboard surface.

“We remain in the hunt to buy high-quality RV parks and resorts across the United States,” O’Brien said. “We have acquired three properties in the last six months and we’re under contract on another. I am a disciplined investor and deploy capital as the circumstances present themselves.”

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Athena targets RV parks, O’Brien said, because it is a growing trend that he expects to continue with baby boomers retiring and younger professionals purchasing large RVs and demanding quality amenities and services at the parks. Many parks, he added, are closing for different uses, therefore limiting supply.

cbosak@hearstmediact.com; 203-731-3338

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