A sign at the entrance to Belmar, which spans several blocks near Wadsworth Boulevard and Alameda Avenue. (Photos of Lucy Peterson)

Belmar has a new owner with plans to “increase the vibrancy” of the mall that serves as a de facto downtown Lakewood.

Seattle-based real estate investment firm Bridge33 Capital on June 28 bought the multi-block shopping and office district near the southeast corner of Wadsworth Boulevard and Alameda Avenue.

“We are going to bring Belmar back and make it the big property it was envisioned to be,” company co-founder and managing director Jahan Moslehi told BusinessDen in an exclusive interview.

Belmar opened in 2004 on the former site of the Villa Italia shopping center, which had closed several years earlier. Its largest retailers are Target, Nordstrom Rack, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Best Buy. There is also a Century Theaters with 16 screens.

Jack Hechinger, vice president of acquisitions at Bridge33, said the company paid $ 113 million, although some concessions on the seller’s side have effectively reduced that amount to around $ 110 million.

Belmar was sold by Belmar Commercial Owner LP, which is affiliated with Chicago-based Starwood Retail Partners and its Miami-based parent company, Starwood Capital Group. The entity bought it in 2015, paying between $ 250 million and $ 300 million, according to new electrical outlets at the time.

The entity entered the foreclosure process in October, according to the Jefferson County Public Trustee’s Office. At the time, the entity owed $ 108.8 million on a 2015 $ 111 million loan from Wells Fargo, according to records.

The sale is part of greater loss of properties by Starwood Retail. On its website, the company now lists seven retail centers among its holdings, up from 27 in August 2020.

Hechinger and Moslehi said the Bridge33 deal included approximately 1 million square feet of retail and office space.

The sale did not include two vacant lots in the area, as well as 171 apartments, which continue to be owned by Starwood. It also didn’t include Target’s retail store, which the Minneapolis-based retailer owns, and a Hyatt House hotel owned by Denver-based Continuum Partners, which originally developed Belmar.

Bridge33 owns and manages properties in 18 states, according to its website. It owns another Colorado interest, which it purchased in 2017: the 121,000 square foot Fairways Plaza shopping center at the corner of County Line Road and Colorado Boulevard in Centennial.

Moslehi said the company controls approximately 6 million square feet in total in its portfolio.

A street in the Belmar shopping and office district in Lakewood.

“Belmar is by far the biggest project we have purchased, and it is the center of attention of most of our senior managers,” he said.

Hechinger said about 750,000 square feet by 1 million square feet is retail, with the rest used as office space, although he noted that this can fluctuate.

The overall space is about 80 percent occupied, with a greater vacancy in the smaller units. This is important in part because smaller tenants tend to pay more per square foot of rent, and because they can also contribute more to a neighborhood’s sense of vibrancy, Hechinger said.

In 2015, when Starwood purchased the property, the Denver Business Journal describes the office part of the agreement 100 percent leased, and the commercial portion 96 percent leased.

Hechinger said Belmar has been “in decline for some time.” The pandemic has played a role, as have the bankruptcies of some national retailers. And the media coverage of the recent foreclosure proceeding hasn’t helped either.

The pair said the lower occupancy rate allowed the Bridge33 to enter at an attractive price – the cost of building something similar would be at least $ 300 per square foot, he estimated. – and gives the company “a little more of a clean slate”.

“Continuum, who is the developer, has built a fantastic project,” Moslehi said. “I don’t want to speak for them. But it was probably built a little ahead of its time, and it was probably oversized. But I think things are catching up.

Moslehi noted that the western suburbs of Denver are becoming increasingly wealthy and populous, and indicated that he was unwilling to concede the best tenants to markets like Cherry Creek and the southern suburbs.

The company hired JLL brokers Sam Zaitz, Adam Rubenstein, and Sarah Alfano to handle the leasing.

“Bridge33 is going to take on some of the best and most exciting tenants, be it restaurants or retail… and it’s going to build on itself,” Moslehi said, adding that he wanted to attract visitors “from everywhere”.

Moslehi said the company does not have immediate plans to build new structures on its operations, which include large surface parking lots. And he said the company is not looking to overturn the property after filling the vacant units.

“We are thinking very long term about this asset,” he said.