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Sentinel staff report–
Bearpaw, a global footwear company based in Citrus Heights, is expanding its footprint in town with its real estate division recently acquiring two more commercial plazas along Auburn Boulevard. The latest move brings Bearpaw’s total up to seven commercial properties owned along the Boulevard — part of the company’s plans to be part of the revitalization of the boulevard.
“I believe in the Auburn corridor. I think it’s gonna come back,” said Bearpaw founder and CEO Tom Romeo in a phone interview last week. “It’s been blight for a long time and it needs some TLC.”
Romeo told The Sentinel on Friday that the latest purchases were made through Bearpaw Equities, the real estate branch of parent company Bearpaw Holdings. Purchases included Linden Plaza, located at 8500 Auburn Blvd. across from where a Studio Movie Grill is planned for the old Kmart building, and a commercial plaza located across from Bible Baptist Church at 7616-7628 Auburn Blvd.
He said Linden Plaza is fully leased and home to Golden Donuts, a bike shop, and several other businesses. The other plaza is home to Auburn Dental, a real estate office, and several other business offices. Purchase prices were not disclosed publicly.
Romeo said there are no current upgrades planned for the dental office plaza, but said he’ll likely do some remodeling and facade improvements at Linden Plaza after Studio Movie Grill opens and the City completes extensive roadway improvements planned along the boulevard, known as “Phase 2” of the Auburn Boulevard Complete Streets Revitalization Project.
Phase 1 was completed in 2014 and included undergrounding utility wires, new street lights, several hundred new street trees, and nearly 10,000 feet of bike lanes and sidewalks, from Sylvan Corners to Rusch Park. Phase 2 is slated to begin in 2020 and will continue the face-lift on the boulevard all the way to the Roseville border, with an estimated project cost of $20 million.
“[T]he City’s putting the money out there for the roadwork. I think that’s a huge step in the right direction,” he said. “And with this new movement with Studio Movie Grill and Big Lots, I think that’s gonna help a lot with the revitalization of that corridor.”
Romeo also expects the new 210,000-square-foot Kaiser building being constructed just outside the city limits will also bring a boost to the boulevard.
“I’m hoping that with Kaiser going right there, I think a lot of people are gonna be coming down Auburn from Riverside,” he said. “I think that is gonna help out a lot.”
In recent years, Bearpaw Equities has also picked up other properties along Auburn Boulevard, including a commercial center at Pratt Avenue that is currently being remodeled, the Goodwill shopping plaza at Sylvan Corners, and a majority of the Grand Oaks Shopping Center — part of what Romeo called “a good investment for the future.”
The company also owns Bearpaw’s commercial campus at Sylvan Corners, which is undergoing extensive remodel and a second-floor addition at the company’s outlet store. Bearpaw Village, a 42-unit townhome project located on a 2.5-acre vacant parcel behind Bearpaw’s corporate offices, is also planned to begin construction next year.
Asked about plans for Grand Oaks, Romeo said he will likely wait until roadway improvements are completed on Auburn Boulevard before firming up plans — although he’s considering mixed-use as a possibility.
“We’ll get very creative with that project.”
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