Decron Properties, an L.A. real estate and management firm that made a $30.3 million wager on a struggling shopping center in the San Gabriel Valley nearly two decades ago, has seen its bet pay off.

The company just sold the El Monte Shopping and Automotive Center last month to San Francisco’s Merlone Geier Partners for a whopping $84.5 million.

But the 473,000-square-foot retail center off the 10 freeway looked far different when it traded hands last month than it did when Decron bought it in 1998.

Today, Penske Motor Group’s Longo Lexus and Toyota dealerships – among the highest-volume dealerships in the country – are the center’s primary anchors. But that was not the plan Decron had in mind when it bought the property, said Chief Executive David Nagel.

“There was always an auto element in that the purchase included a portion of the Longo dealerships, but it was always separate from the rest of the center,” Nagel said.

At the time, HomeBase Inc., a now-shuttered home improvement store, anchored the property. Another large space was vacant, Nagel said, until Decron inked a deal with Kmart shortly after it bought the center.

“It was the first time a national department store had elected to go to the city of El Monte,” he said. “It was very exciting at the time.”

But after Sears Holdings Corp. merged with Kmart, the El Monte store was converted into a Sears store, which Nagel said was far less successful. Around the same time, HomeBase got out of the home improvement business, leaving a large hole in the property.

That’s when Decron decided to intensify its focus on the center’s auto element.

“The idea came up as a result of an issue,” Nagel said. “Longo was this extremely successful anchor to the level where we almost couldn’t control the parking. We constantly had overfill because of all the people visiting Longo and parking in our retail center.”

So Decron opted to allow Penske to use the former HomeBase location for its auto body shop and collision repair center.

“We decided to embrace them by allowing them to expand further,” Nagel said.

Decron also replaced an old gas station with Union Bank and Jamba Juice, he said, noting that it added even more value to the property.

“We felt we created as much value as we could,” he said. “That’s why we decided to sell.”

Hollywood Ending

In one of the most lucrative deals to be inked in Hollywood recently, L.A.’s Beantown Productions received $7 million for a creative office building on Melrose Avenue last month.

Beverly Hills real estate investment firm Langdon Street Capital paid about $674 a square foot for the 10,390-square-foot office building at 5707 Melrose in an all-cash transaction.

“The $7 million closing price absolutely surpassed expectations,” said Andrew Riley, an associate broker at CBRE Group Inc. who represented Beantown alongside Rob Waller and Patrick Amos. “On a price-per-square-foot basis, this was among the top-five sales in Hollywood for office buildings larger than 10,000 square feet.”

Beantown, an independent company focused on TV advertising, marketing and postproduction, first bought the building in 2004 for about $3.2 million, or $307 a square foot, according to real estate information firm CoStar Group Inc.

The Hollywood production company was the most recent tenant, said Amos, a vice president at downtown L.A.’s CBRE. But by the time it sold the building last month – after transforming it into creative office space – Beantown had already moved out.

Langdon, which was represented by CBRE’s Matthew Perlmutter, plans to further renovate the space in hopes of appealing to technology, media and entertainment companies looking for creative space, Amos said.

Upgrades Pay Off

Coastline Real Estate Advisors Inc., a boutique real estate firm in El Segundo, has sold the Biarritz apartment complex in Santa Monica for $13 million.

Mitra Ghanadian, a private investor in Brentwood, bought the 22-unit Class-C complex at 316 San Vicente Blvd. for nearly $591,000 a unit, according to CoStar. That’s well above the average sale price – about $435,000 a unit – others paid for similar properties in Santa Monica within the past year.

But Coastline, which acquired the property for $9 million in 2013, had upgraded 10 of the units with marble countertops, stainless-steel appliances, French oak-stained hardwood flooring, new European-style ventless washers and dryers, and other amenities, according to Calabasas brokerage Marcus & Millichap Inc., which represented the buyer and seller.

“Most of the multifamily buildings nearby are under long-term ownership and haven’t been renovated,” said Ron Harris, who brokered the deal with Marcus & Millichap’s Paul Darrow and Michael DiSimone. “The Biarritz has 10 apartments that have been upgraded to achieve rents on par with units closer to the beach on Ocean Avenue.”

Staff reporter Cale Ottens can be reached at cottens@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 221.

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