Despite that real estate is an essential business during the current COVID-19 public health emergency, commercial real estate agents and developers are having a harder time as tenants wait to see when the environment will improve.
CBRE is a national real estate services company headquartered in Los Angeles, and they have a strong presence in Amador County. LGM Construction is a company you may not be as familiar with. This real estate development firm manages commercial properties and develops commercial land they own in Amador County and beyond.
You’ve likely seen CBRE signs around the county in storefront windows and in front of large buildings advertising commercial properties for sale or lease. One of the names you may have seen on those signs is Rick Martinez, who is a senior vice president in retail services for the Sacramento metropolitan area, which includes Amador County.
Martinez has been with CBRE for 33 years selling and leasing retail shopping centers. He has represented the gamut of clients: landlords, tenants, as well as retail property buyers and sellers. To become a Senior Vice President, Martinez said, involves “a lot of hard work, as it is an earned title based on success, not on years of service.”
Martinez described his job duties plainly. “I represent retail property owners in marketing their shopping centers for lease or sale,” he said. “I also represent retail tenants, helping them find the perfect location, as well as investors interested in buying retail properties.” Martinez added that he spends about 70 percent of his time working on leasing and 30 percent on property sales.
Martinez previously leased shopping centers on Prospect Drive in Martell before he sold them in 2018. Today, Martinez manages the Amador Shopping Plaza in Martell that has strong anchor tenants in Dollar Tree, Save Mart, and Big 5 Sporting Goods. Martinez said that “lease rates are competitive and the area benefits from tourist traffic,” which explains why the shopping center has few vacant storefronts.
Ron Regan is a major developer and property owner in Amador County and beyond, even though you may not have heard of him.
Regan started out as a home builder in Laguna Beach. As his business there soured in 1974, Regan’s father, who was a mechanical engineer at the Rancho Seco power plant, bought several lots within the Mace Meadows neighborhood in Pioneer. So, Regan moved to Amador County to help his father build homes on those lots.
Since then, Regan built up his empire of 11 companies including LGM Construction. (LGM is short for Laguna Gold Mortgage.) He’s also a property owner and manager, including ownership of five assisted living facilities including Oak Manor Senior Retirement Home and Amador Residential Care, which are both located in Jackson.
Regan said that commercial activity is on “the wait and see side.” He owns and manages three large properties, though one is currently being sold.
Northwest Corner of Highway 49 and Jackson Gate Road
Before the public health emergency, Regan was in talks with Kwik Serv for a gas station and convenience store as well as a Circle K convenience store, but both deals fell through. The 3.94-acre property, shown in the photo at the top of this article, is now back on the market for sale or as a build-to-suit property.
While Regan waits for more interest, he’s looking to have Amador County abandon Depot Road because it has no value. Removing Depot Road would help Regan in his efforts to build on that property. However, another road-related issue that gives potential buyers pause is that they will have to pay to widen Jackson Gate Road around the property and build an accelerator lane on northbound Highway 49.
Ideally, Regan would like to see a hotel and two fast-food restaurants built on the site, but he is entertaining all offers.
Former Amador County Courthouse
In 2014, Regan and fellow developer Stan Lukowicz purchased the old Amador County Courthouse at 108 Court Street in Jackson through Regan’s RTR Investments firm. The old courthouse annex at 42 Summit Street is now Immanuel Lutheran Church.
Two houses used as courthouse annexes on Court Street have been removed, one by demolition and the other as a firefighter training exercise, to leave a two-acre parcel of empty land and a parking lot behind the old courthouse.
Regan and Lukowicz planned to build housing within the parcel on six lots and use the courthouse as a community space. However, the two owners disagreed about building affordable housing on the land. (Regan was in favor.)
So, Regan and Lukowicz put the property up for sale, and the property in escrow to a 501(c)(3) non-profit company that Regan refused to name as the sale process is ongoing as of this writing. Regan is optimistic about a non-profit organization buying the property because “they can reach out and secure funding and grants” to develop this big project the right way.
The Martell Plaza shopping and office center at 12275 Martell Road is a multi-colored building on a small hill overlooking both Martell Road and Highway 88. RTR Investments manages the center, albeit with partners other than Lukowicz.
Martell Plaza was built in 2009 and has 75 percent occupancy. The occupancy numbers have been boosted by recent leases signed by attorney Wes Sage and local electrical company Short Circuit Electric. However, Regan said, “we don’t have an anchor tenant.”
Realism and Optimism
Both Martinez and Regan are clear-eyed about what’s happening in the market now. “Amador and other foothill communities generally follow the same trends as larger cities like Sacramento
For commercial real estate, retail has been on the front lines of COVID-19, whereas other sectors, like industrial, are seeing less negative disruption.”
Regan agreed, and noted that “we’re seeing more interest in our industrial aspect in Martell.” However, Regan said the market for restaurants, bars, and hotels will continue to be slow. “I think right now, for example, with a hotel, how many people are building a hotel with all the money they’re losing today? How do you build a restaurant? How do you build a bar?”
Martinez emphasized that “information is key,” and so he regularly updates retail clients with the most up-to-date information possible. That includes, he said, “insights from other areas of the country and globe where the effects of the pandemic hit sooner or played out differently.”
Regan’s work with owners and renters has continued unabated, and he continues to see activity in areas unaffected by the pandemic. For example, Regan noted that at the office complex he manages at 601 Court Street, he just rented a 3,000-square-foot office to local attorney David Foyil.
“Personally,” Martinez said, “I am seeing quite a bit of activity in the retail market locally, which is very encouraging.”
Regan thinks we’ll start to see improvement in the middle of 2021, but he’s still keeping busy this year. “I think there’s demand. I see the demand.”
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