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Coming up: Big retail, 20 screens
Sacramento Business Journal - September 13, 2002
by Mark Anderson
Century Theatres Inc. is planning a massive double feature — movies and retail — in a large new center at Highway 50 and Bradshaw Road.
Century wants to develop Bradshaw Landing, a 20-screen movie complex and retail center at Highway 50 and Bradshaw Road. It would mean tearing down one of the area's last two drive-ins, Century's Sacramento 6, perhaps as soon as next spring.
The center would include a big-box store, four large restaurants, a bookstore and other retailers, plus a modern movie theater with stadium seating. Plans call for 360,000 square feet of new buildings on 40 acres.
The company won't say what the development will cost. When it proposed a smaller center at the same site five years ago, it was said to be a $30 million project. It delayed that project because of market conditions, nearby construction and other ventures.
"The drive-in is not the highest and best use for that land. It is a freeway location right off an offramp. This center is a great project, and it is finally moving," said Paul Hahn, economic development director for Sacramento County. "It will be a good catalyst for redevelopment of Bradshaw Road and Folsom Boulevard."
The center will also produce sales tax for the county, Hahn said. "And we need it."
Main hurdle is probably traffic: "We are still negotiating with a number of tenants and we won't know what we will be building until we know the tenant mix," said Mike Plymesser, head of development with San Rafael-based Century Theatres.
The development requires an environmental report, and that work is being done now. The notice of preparation was made public last month, with comments due by the end of this month. The full environmental document could be started in a couple of months and then could take four to six months to get approvals.
The main issues facing the project likely will have to do with traffic.
The drive-in doesn't create any traffic during the day, and its showtimes are after dark — when most commute traffic is long gone. When Bradshaw Landing is built, the theaters will run films all day long, and there will be a mix of other businesses.
There is now a traffic signal at Oates Drive and Bradshaw, which has double left-turn lanes into the area. What happens at that intersection will depend on the findings of a traffic survey being performed by the county, said Rajiv Parikh, senior vice president of development for Syufy Enterprises Inc., the San Rafael-based company that develops theaters operated by Century Theatres, which is a Syufy subsidiary.
A light-rail station also serves the site.
The new plans are up substantially from the 200,000-square-foot development on 30 acres that Century proposed in 1997. That plan envisioned 25 screens and 110,000 square feet of retail.
The theater company has been buying land around the drive-in and massaging the site plan for five years, which has allowed the state Franchise Tax Board time to complete its 1 million-square-foot office next door.
Films would flicker through April: Bradshaw Landing is just outside the proposed city limit of Rancho Cordova, but it will serve the area with entertainment, retail, and chances for upscale restaurants "that we definitely need in the area," said Curt Haven, executive director of the Rancho Cordova Chamber of Commerce.
"I've been part of that since the beginning, working with Syufy," he said. "We are 100 percent behind the project. It is nothing but positives."
Century plans to operate the drive-in through April, when the company hopes to have the permits to begin construction of Bradshaw Landing. Total construction should take just over a year, Parikh said.
Century operates about half of the region's movie screens, and should gain market share as it replaces its Sacramento 6 drive-in with the 20 screens, and swaps out its nine-screen Century Cinedome at Interstate 80 and Greenback Lane with a new 16-screen theater there.
Work on the latter is under way. The foundation was poured during the last month and the walls were being raised this week. The new Century Theatre at Greenback will open in March, and the old theater, which is still showing films, will be demolished when the new theater opens. The old theater site will be used for parking.
Founded in 1941 by Ray Syufy, the company has grown from a single movie theater in Vallejo to 850 screens in 11 states. The company plans to add 250 screens over the next three years.
Century's new theaters all feature stadium seating, rocking seats, THX sound systems and digital sound.
Cycling up: Century's two largest local competitors, Regal Cinemas and United Artists Theatres, merged earlier this year after going through separate bankruptcy reorganizations over the past four years.
"You had a variety of the larger players in the industry reorganize after a long refurbishment cycle," said Chris Dixon, entertainment analyst with UBS PaineWebber in New York. The expense of building newer and modern theaters saddled some large companies with debt they couldn't service while waiting for the market to absorb all the new capacity.
A couple of strong movie years and more efficient operations have turned the corner for many of the larger companies, Dixon said, adding that Syufy has "done a tremendous job," as have other regional independent movie operators.
"The industry has gone through its growing pains and it has reorganized itself," Plymesser said. "We never had any problems. We've always been profitable, even through the hard times."
Built in the mid-1970s, Sacramento 6 drive-in is one of the top three performing drive-ins Century operates. The company operates seven multi-screen drive-ins, with locations in San Jose, two in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Sparks, Nev., and one in Concord.
It ran the 49er drive-in on Marysville Boulevard off Interstate 80 until closing it just over two years ago.
"We'd love to figure out what to do there," Plymesser said of the Marysville Boulevard location. For now, the company is letting the drive-in lie fallow, serving that area with its theaters on Greenback Lane and conceding business to the Regal Natomas Marketplace at Truxel Road and Interstate 80.
The only other drive-in in Greater Sacramento is the Sunrise on Greenback Lane east of Sunrise, although there's also a drive-in in Marysville.
"As good as a project as this is, I'm going to miss the Sacramento 6 drive-in," Hahn said. "I actually go to that drive-in."
Century most likely will phase out the rest of its drive-in theaters over the next five years, Plymesser said.
"A lot of people are nostalgic about drive-ins," he said, "but they are all slower than they used to be."
It's showtime in capital for Syufy's development arm
SyWest buying land, making plans for shopping centers, offices, housing
Sacramento Business Journal - April 7, 2006
by Kelly Johnson
SyWest Development isn't well known like its parent company, but that will likely change.
The Bay Area developer is one of several subsidiaries of Syufy Enterprises, owner of the Century Theatres chain. SyWest has maintained a low profile, but the retail development industry is beginning to take notice as the developer buys land and details major projects, primarily shopping centers but also industrial, office and attached housing.
SyWest is working on its first three projects in Greater Sacramento -- in Sacramento, Roseville and Elk Grove. They're among more than a dozen SyWest is planning in California. The developer also is pursuing projects in Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and Texas.
Bill Vierra, SyWest president and chief operating officer, likes Sacramento for its long-term stability and growth, and anticipates building more projects here.
Sacramento would allow SyWest to diversify its Bay Area-heavy holdings. Vierra's also very familiar with the market, having lived and worked here from the mid '80s to the mid '90s as a retail commercial broker.
"I'm here every week," he said.
SyWest's largest local project is one that has been anticipated and repeatedly revised over many years -- the redevelopment of the drive-in theater at Highway 50 and Bradshaw Road into a 400,000-square-foot shopping center. Talks with various government agencies continue. A draft environmental impact report is almost complete.
In Roseville, SyWest has lined up Ethan Allen, La-Z-Boy and others to anchor a shopping center at Highway 65 and Blue Oaks Boulevard. Vierra hopes to break ground in May.
SyWest expects to break ground by early June on a much smaller project, a 4,500-square-foot retail building at Big Horn Boulevard and Monetta Drive.
SyWest isn't the size of a real estate investment trust, the type of entity for many large retail development and management companies. But SyWest is rapidly adding to its portfolio, thanks to capital from its parent company that allows SyWest to buy with cash.
"We're not a REIT by any stretch," Vierra said. "I would say we're extremely aggressive. We don't have a large or cumbersome corporate structure to contend with. We're extremely nimble."
SyWest buys existing centers and undeveloped land, and builds shopping centers, industrial space, offices and residential projects. Some are mixed-use developments.
"We're not married to any one format of real estate. It just needs to be good real estate," Vierra said. Retail, though, will continue to be SyWest's big focus.
SyWest buys and builds to keep. It wants to integrate into the community for the long term. It is selling space to Ethan Allen, La-Z-Boy and one other tenant at the planned Roseville center. SyWest won't sell any space at The Landing center. "Traditionally," Vierra said, "we've never sold real estate."
"For us, we don't have timing pressures, financial pressures," he added. "We buy and we hold. It allows us to be very patient. We can allow the market to dictate the highest and best use of the land."
Outside of Sacramento, SyWest is working on retail projects in Hayward, Salinas, Pleasant Hill, Concord, Fremont, Newark, San Jose, South San Francisco, Orange and Reno. The company is planning mixed-use developments in Napa and Daly City, an industrial park in Phoenix, and attached housing in Redwood City.
"They have a vast amount of real estate holdings," said Dan Gray, a partner of Gray & Reynolds Inc., a Bay Area development and management company that focuses on retail. SyWest is a "quality operation" with the capacity, expertise and finances to do any project. "They are a force to clearly monitor."
When Gray & Reynolds decided to sell an Oakland center, it went directly to SyWest. "We wanted it to be in good hands," Gray said.
SyWest seems extremely committed to growing its portfolio and has the capital behind its goals, said Steve Tyrrell, senior vice president and director of investment sales for the Buzz Oates Cos. in Sacramento. Tyrrell hopes to find an investment deal that he can work on with Vierra. The two worked together at retail brokerage Bishop Hawk in the 1990s.
"Bill's an extremely talented individual," said Tyrrell, who added Vierra is creative, hardworking, trustful and a class act.
"When I think of SyWest, I think of Bill," Tyrrell said. "To me, Bill makes that company."