The possible transfer to a new owner from Northern California from one based in Australia, as reported by the Sacramento Bee, looks like a great move, and based on the accomplishments of the possible new owner, we can be cautiously optimistic.
“Sacramento’s Downtown Plaza may soon get a new owner. Will it get a new look, too?
“JMA Ventures, an investment firm that’s built exclusive timeshares in San Francisco and owns ski resorts in Tahoe, is under contract to buy the struggling shopping mall in the heart of downtown, say sources who are not authorized to speak publicly.
“City leaders cheered the prospect, having long since soured on the current owner, Westfield Group. Still, the potential sale prompts big questions.
“Westfield, a huge international shopping center owner and builder, struggled in a tough economy to make the plaza work. In contrast, San Francisco- and Tahoe-based JMA Ventures has a slim retail résumé but brings a knack for stylish revamps of under-performing properties.
“The company recently bought Homewood Mountain Resort ski area in Tahoe, where it plans a $500 million makeover with condominiums and chalets. JMA teamed with Fairmont Hotels to develop upscale vacation residences in San Francisco’s historic Ghirardelli Square. And it plans to build a rustic riverside hotel in Truckee.
“They specialize in turning things into high-end hospitality, residential or leisure,” said Garrick Brown of the Cassidy Turley commercial real estate brokerage. “I wouldn’t be shocked if they are thinking of adding a high-end hotel somewhere on that property.”
“In a tight retail market and tough economy, any buyer will have to be well-financed, creative, patient and connected in the retail world, downtown developers and retail real estate brokers said.
“JMA, which is privately held, does not list shopping centers in its portfolio of properties on its website. The company previously developed and marketed retail portions of Ghirardelli Square but lost control of those properties in 2010 to its lender, according to the San Francisco Business Times.
“Last year, according to published reports, it pulled out of a $70 million deal to buy Santa Clara’s Great America amusement park – near the site of a new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers.
“JMA and Westfield declined comment this week.
“Downtown Plaza has been losing customers, tenants and luster for years. Sales revenue for the 18-year-old center plummeted from $82 million in 2004 to $35 million last year, Westfield financial reports show. That doesn’t count the two Macy’s stores, which are managed and owned separately.”