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TORRANCE, CA-Two recently closed deals here and in Montecito have generated activity in the generally sluggish Los Angeles area retail market. Retail REIT Kimco has refinanced its 266,847-square-foot Torrance Promenade for $27.5 million and, in a separate deal, J.S. Rosenfield has acquired the ground lease for the 40,000-square-foot Coast Village Road Shopping Center in Montecito for a repositioning.

According to director Tina Derderian of Holliday Fenoglio Fowler, who arranged the new loan for Kimco, the new financing is a five-year, 7.25% fixed-rate loan with an offshore pension fund. Torrance Promenade is a retail power center at 19800 to 20100 Hawthorne Blvd., two miles south of the 405 Freeway, with tenants that include Trader Joe’s, Office Depot, Marshalls, Sam Ash Megastore, Ross Dress for Less, Loehman’s, Tuesday Morning and Party City. In addition, a Sears Outlet, the center’s largest tenant, recently opened. Current occupancy is 85%.

Derderian says that the center historically has maintained consistently high sales and occupancy rates. She notes that the center benefits from its location along the area’s main retail corridor near affluent Southern California cities including Torrance, Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach.

In the Montecito deal, an investment group led by Santa Monica-based J.S. Rosenfield & Co. has acquired a 30-year ground lease on the 40,000-square-foot Coast Village Road Shopping Center from Pacific Capital Bank NA, with plans to convert the 45-year-old center into a country mart, according to James Rosenfield.

The Coast Village Road center sits on four acres at the northern end of Coast Village Road, the main retail street in the coastal community near Santa Barbara. It is anchored by a Von’s market that is not part of the ground lease, and Santa Barbara Bank and Trust. The center, which is 50% occupied, also includes small restaurants, local retailers and service providers.

Rosenfield describes the center as “one of the few intimate retail environments in the US sustained largely by longtime family businesses.” He says it is “an ideal location for the country mart model, which focuses on exceptional public spaces, essential neighborhood services and small independently owned and operated merchants.”

The investment group plans to spend $1 million to preserve and renovate the property. Planned improvements include replacing the existing roofing, new paint, appropriate landscaping and public eating areas. New architectural elements such as signage, lighting, awnings, canopies and benches will also be added. Improvements are expected to be completed by year’s end.

Rosenfield acknowledges that the acquisition comes at a difficult economic time but believes that the country mart model, while not exempt from the downturn, has done well in weathering it. “This will be our fourth country mart, and sales at our other projects are strong relative to other retail centers in the region,” he says. Part of the success is that country marts are located near upscale residential areas with strong demographics and loyal customer bases, Rosenfield explains.

This is the second major retail acquisition for J.S. Rosenfield & Co. this year. In January, the firm bought Larkspur Landing Shopping Center, a 173,000-square-foot retail center in Northern California’s Marin County from Inland Western Retail Real Estate Trust Inc. for $65 million. It is believed to be the largest retaildeal in California this year.

J.S. Rosenfield & Co.’s other properties include the Brentwood Country Mart in Los Angeles, Trancas Country Market in Malibu and a host of retail buildings including the historic Aero Theater in Santa Monica. Rosenfield was represented by Steven Lurie of Greenberg Glusker and Greg Bartholomew of Pacifica Commercial Realty. Pacific Capital Bank represented itself.

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