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Five Questions for: Shopoff Realty Investments President Bill Shopoff

Bill Shopoff

In The DI Wire’s latest installment of “Five Questions for…” the editorial team interviewed Bill Shopoff – founder, president, and chief executive officer of Shopoff Realty Investments. With more than 45 years of real estate investment experience – including expertise in the acquisition, development, and sale of new and redeveloped residential and commercial properties across the nation, as well as partnership structure, debt placement, venture capital and investment underwriting – the CEO discussed “retail therapy,” everything from how spaces are chosen, to community impact, to what Shopoff Realty Investments has in the works.

Shopoff Realty Investments is an Irvine, Calif.-based real estate firm with a 32-year history of value-add and opportunistic investing, focusing on proactively generating appreciation through development projects, the repositioning of commercial income-producing properties, and the entitlement of land assets.

The DI Wire: What exactly is “retail therapy,” and how did the idea for transforming distressed retail spaces into residential areas come about?

Bill Shopoff: Retail therapy is looking at retail spaces and reimagining them for other uses. It is no secret that we have an over-supply of retail properties and an under-supply of other product types like housing and even logistics. Our goal with retail therapy is to rework these properties into uses that actually serve the communities they are located in, determining an appropriate amount of retail (if any) based on demand.

DIW: What are your biggest takeaways from the three projects you have managed so far (e.g., unexpected lessons, how you’ve overcome challenges, etc.)?

BS: We often have a lot of community opposition to these projects. People are understandably wary of change and concerned about traffic and other impacts a new housing community may bring. We’ve found that getting the city staff and neighbors involved early and often makes a real difference, and it helps guide our design to ensure that we are leaving a positive impact on each community we work in.

DIW: Can you share any specific examples of how your projects have positively impacted the surrounding communities? Have you seen any economic or social benefits emerge from these developments?

BS: We often use the term “blight to bright” to describe the work we do. Often, old neighborhood retail centers are rundown and mostly vacant, and a real blight on the community. We take these properties and make them vibrant spaces that better serve the surrounding community, often with much needed housing, increased tax dollars, jobs, etc.

DIW: How do you select the retail spaces suitable for this transformation? What specific characteristics are you searching for?

BS: There are several factors including parcel size, existing leases, location and access, as well as overall desirability of the community. We then determine if we can work within the framework that the community has set forth to make the changes we deem necessary. We are looking for sites, generally 10 acres and larger, located on major roadways in order to provide good access and visibility. Additionally, we consider schools, neighborhood amenities, and surrounding land uses to find the optimal sites for our projects.

DIW: What are your future plans for this type of development? Do you have any specific projects in the pipeline that you’re excited about?

BS: We are working on several projects currently, including:

  • Westminster Mall: With two portions of the Orange County, Calif., mall acquired – a former Sears and a current Macy’s store – we have plans to develop approximately 1,065 apartments, 100 townhomes, a 175-key hotel, a food hall, a 2.5-acre park, and some limited retail. We plan to rename this future community “Bolsa Pacific at Westminster.”
  • Pleasanton Nordstrom: A former Nordstrom department store in Pleasanton, Calif., is being reimagined for a variety of potential uses including housing and life sciences.
  • Santa Barbara Nordstrom: Another former Nordstrom department store in Santa Barbara, Calif., is nestled in the bustling state street area. We are currently contemplating a conversion/retrofit for this building into housing – either apartments or condominiums.

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