The Shops at Fletcher Hills Center, a 36,750-square-foot retail center in El Cajon, California, anchored by 99 Cents Only, recently sold for $7.8 million. The transaction, by most standards in the commercial real estate world, could be described as textbook except for one interesting fact: four alumni graduating in different years from the real estate program at the University of San Diego (USD) School of Business had a hand in successfully closing the transaction.
The property, comprising three retail buildings on approximately 2.86 acres, is situated on Fletcher Parkway and is 98 percent leased to a diverse tenant mix including Coldwell Banker and Baskin Robbins. It’s in a high-traffic location with over 31,000 cars per day and good frontage. The loan for the transaction was made with a local credit union at 65 percent LTV, fixed for 10 years, with no prepay. It features a stabilized rent roll and strong historical occupancy.
Alfred Atallah, principal attorney with San Diego–based Atallah Law Group and broker at Atallah Group, a real estate brokerage company, who obtained both a BBA in 2000 and his JD in 2003 from USD; Shaun Moothart, a vice president at Newport Beach, California–based CBRE Capital Markets’ Debt & Structured Finance, with a BBA from USD obtained in 2006; Chris Carter, a 2012 USD grad with a Master of Science in Real Estate, who is director of acquisitions and leasing with San Diego–based SENTRE; and Danielle Priore, a 2017 USD graduate with a BBA, who works with Moothart in the Newport Beach office as a financial analyst on CBRE’s Debt and Structured Finance Team, each played a significant role in the transaction.
Atallah represented the buyer both as a real estate broker in the acquisition itself and separately in a legal-advisory capacity as the buyer’s attorney. “For this particular transaction, both buyer and seller were able to benefit from the utilization of multiple skill sets that can be traced back to USD’s business and law schools,” Atallah tells SoCal Real Estate. “The USD connection was able to provide a foundation for a successful transaction for all parties involved.”
Moothart and Priore worked closely with the buyer and seller throughout the transaction. They were engaged by the buyer to arrange financing for the transaction. “The trust and relationship that was developed early on with all parties involved was a big reason for why we were able to get this financing transaction done as smoothly and efficiently as it was,” Moothart tell us. “The USD connection only helped to reinforce the trust they had in us to deliver upon exactly what we said we were going to. Throughout each challenge in the transaction, we all worked diligently and collaboratively together to get this one to the finish line with an excellent result for all involved. I have a feeling this is the first of many deals to come.”
Carter advised the seller in the transaction. He tells us, “SENTRE is pleased to have successfully repositioned The Shops at Fletcher Hills Center, which resulted in an improved and stabilized rent roll and 98 percent occupancy prior to bringing the asset to market.”
Real estate students at USD (either undergraduate or graduate) graduate from the University of San Diego School of Business. All four alumni credit USD’s School of Business real estate program with providing the skill set involved with the transaction and assisting them in arriving at where they are now in their respective careers.
“I graduated a year ago with a degree in both real estate and finance from USD’s School of Business,” says Priore. “USD sets itself apart with the real estate school, from offering opportunities such as the NAIOP University Challenge or the mentorship program, which allowed me to shadow many top-tier real estate organizations and professionals. It is how I found out I wanted to be part of CBRE’s Debt and Structured Finance Group.”
The program also played an instrumental role in bringing Priore to Moothart’s team at CBRE. Moothart explains, “While serving on the USD Alumni Board, I met Danielle at an event exclusively for top 100 graduating students to meet with board members who may be able to help with providing career opportunities or at the very least offer up some advice as they begin their career post-graduation. These types of joint alumni and student networking functions, which USD encourages, provide a mutually beneficial opportunity for students to meet with employers and for those employers to identify and recruit top talent.”
Atallah adds that the Fletcher Hills transaction was a “serendipitous circumstance that came upon all of us.” He points out that having the USD connection provided an additional level of credibility and trust for all parties involved. “That definitely helped. We had a local San Diego buyer with previously established lending and banking relationships and a tight closing timeline. There was little margin for error, and our common USD background definitely helped in recommending Shaun and Danielle’s team, for example. With any transaction of this type, the parties will ultimately face challenges at one point or another. Fortunately, all sides of this deal were able to work proactively and creatively to address such challenges and bring this transaction to a successful closing. It was satisfying to know that the buyer, seller, and lender all were touched by USD in some way.”
Carter says, “Closing commercial real estate transactions takes a lot of work from all parties involved, and to share the common bond (in this case, a USD connection) helped facilitate a smooth process by providing each party the confidence that all were working in good faith toward a win-win outcome.”
Atallah also credits the curriculum at USD’s School of Business real estate program. “I vividly recall the quality and experience of my professors, who were able to instill not only the skills and tools necessary to work in the field, but also the practical and subjective aspects that enable one to succeed whether as a principal or advisor. There was a lot of USD involved in this transaction, from lending to legal to the transactional and brokerage side. It’s a great institution, and I know it’s improved even more since I was there and is valued in both the real estate and business community.”
Another key puzzle piece in bringing together the four alumni for this transaction is the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate (BMC), the supporting arm for all real estate students at USD’s School of Business. The center serves as a gateway for students into the real estate industry, helping them to build their future in real estate. The mission of the BMC is to help recruit, educate, and mentor real estate students with the goal of facilitating their career pursuits in a socially responsible manner and with a global perspective. this is actualized through student support of mentorships, internships, career-assessment tools, one-on-one career coaching, networking opportunities through the Center’s events and conferences, and more.
Priore says the visibility between everyone who works at the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate (BMC), the supporting arm for all real estate students at USD’s School of Business, is a boon for young real estate students and graduates. “It’s easy to reach out to [director of communications and marketing] Kimberly [Malasky] to run an idea by her, and [executive director] Stath [Karras] also stays involved through the NAIOP Challenge and helps us meet new people. Stath helps connect people and finds a common thread to bring you together. All of the people at the BMC are like that.”
While the BMC was not in existence when Atallah graduated from USD in 2000, he says as an alum he’s definitely been aware of what the organization is doing. “I see their announcements for conferences, events, and continuing-education courses. Although the San Diego real estate market is not as large as other major metropolitan markets, the BMC has helped position San Diego as a national leader in the real estate industry by providing these valuable resources.”
Atallah also praises the school’s certificate program. “I think the certificate program offers an opportunity for an individual to strengthen their knowledge in various areas of the real estate industry. It provides the extra tools for those who want to get involved in real estate or improve their current position in the marketplace.”
For more information on the following USD School of Business programs and organizations, click on the following links:
• USD Real Estate Alumni Association
• Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate’s Upcoming Events
• Undergraduate real estate program at the University of San Diego School of Business
• The Real Estate Finance, Investments and Development Certificate program, a joint effort between the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate and Professional and Continuing Education at USD.