S.J. Collins Enterprises

New investor pumps $72.5M into Tech Center retail

The owners of Marketplace at Tech Center have secured another investor that will also double as the retail center's property manager.

Inland Real Estate Group announced Wednesday plans to invest and manage 210,000 square feet of the 250,000-square-foot shopping center.

John Lawson, president and CEO of Newport News-based W.M. Jordan, and development partner of the Marketplace retail center, confirmed Wednesday that Inland's real estate investment trust will make an initial investment of $72.5 million, with additional investment payments for the shopping center to come.

"We didn't sell anything," Lawson said of Marketplace at Tech Center.

Real estate investment trusts typically operate income-producing realty, such as shopping centers, apartment complexes and office buildings.

Headquartered in suburban Chicago, Inland Real Estate Group is one of the nation's largest commercial real estate and finance organizations, according to its website. The firm manages more than 29.6 million square feet of commercial real estate in 41 states and has a significant bank of real estate investment properties nationally.

Customers and existing tenants of the development will not be affected by the new investment.

Virginia Beach-based Divaris Real Estate, and S.J. Collins will continue to lease property at the center.

Marketplace at Tech Center is a 250,000-square-foot retail component of the Tech Center at Oyster Point development, a massive mixed-use development that's under construction on 143 acres at the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Oyster Point Road.

Much of the investment will be used to restructure and pay down debt on the shopping center, which cost W.M. Jordan and Georgia-based S.J. Collins Enterprises more than $100 million to develop.

As Inland makes additional investments, Lawson said the firm could eventually take over added management duties for the outstanding square footage remaining in the 250,000 square foot retail plaza — including roughly 5 percent of the center that awaits new tenants.

Lawson said Inland's investment will only encompass the retail center and will be excluded from construction now underway on the apartments and office building. He added the next phase — a 100-acre research park — will also not see a dime of Inland's investment money.

"From day one we started this project, we knew we were going to need to find someone to manage this property," Lawson said. "That's all this is … we will still be majority owner in this project."

Meanwhile, Jeff Garrison of S.J. Collins Enterprises — a partner involved in the development of Marketplace at Tech Center — said his firm is awaiting two new leases for tenants, as business growth and interest grow.

"This development has really solidified Newport News as a place for class-A retailers," Garrison said. "We plan to make more announcements soon."