Lewis Operating Corp. finds deals in downtrodden real-estate market

     The real-estate meltdown’s negative effects haven’t bypassed Upland-based Lewis Operating Corp., one of the largest real-estate companies in Southern California.
     Still, the Inland Empire’s iconic developer and real-estate manager announced on Tuesday that it shelved out about $57 million for almost 700 acres of land throughout California and Nevada since December.
     “We’re one of the only companies that’s actually been buying deals,” said Randall Lewis, executive vice president, about lots that’ve dropped significantly in price since the downturn.
     It might be finding deals, but Lewis Operating Corp. isn’t doing the same amount of business it saw in 2003 and 2004. The company has had layoffs.
     “The sheer number of transactions is down… more than half,” Lewis said about land contracts. “We’ll continue to be selective. But we think, if anything, there will probably be more opportunities in the next six months than the last six months.”
     Overall, he thinks the commercial real-estate industry’s downturn isn’t changing anytime soon.
     But the niche market for new homes could be bottoming out by the end of 2008, he said.
     As far as the resale residential market, “it’s probably sometime in 2009,” Lewis said.
     He joins an ever-increasing group of real-estate and finance professionals who are pushing off their bets that the entire residential market will bottom out late this year and instead pegging the time frame in 2009, 2010, or even 2011.
     The company’s recent purchases include 36 acres of commercial land in Adelanto slated for a Target-anchored shopping center, 21 acres in Mira Loma which will sport a mixed-use retail-residential project, and 30 acres in Chino for upcoming housing projects in The Preserve at Chino, a master-planned community.
     More than 500 acres of residential land was bought in the Sacramento area for homes, parks, retail shops and an elementary school, and 90 acres purchased in North Las Vegas for homes.
     –matthew.wrye@inlandnewspapers.com

     Look below to read Lewis Operating Corp.’s news release on recent land acquisitions:

LEWIS OPERATING CORP. ANNOUNCES LAND ACQUISITIONS

TOTALING NEARLY $57 MILLION

UPLAND, CA (July 15, 2008) – Lewis Operating Corp. announced today that the company has completed the acquisition of nearly 700 acres of new commercial and residential land in California and Nevada since December 31, 2007. The purchases totaling nearly $57 million represent 11 different transactions.

The acquisitions include:

Southern California:

* SWC of Highway 395 and Mojave Drive, Adelanto, California – 36 acres of commercial land that will be developed into a Target-anchored shopping center (Adelanto Towne Center)

* SEC of Hamner Ave. and Limonite Ave., Mira Loma, California – 21 acres of residential and commercial land planned to be developed into a mixed-use project including approximately 70,000 square feet of retail and 200 residences

* Hellman Ave. south of Pine Ave., Chino, California – 30 acres of residential land that will become part of the The Preserve at Chino Lewis-developed master planned community

Northern California:

*Lincoln, California - 506 acres of residential land that is planned to be developed into a master planned community that will include approximately 2,000 residences, parks, an elementary school and retail uses

Nevada:

*Walnut Ave. and Tropical Ave., North Las Vegas, Nevada - A combination of 507 raw and improved residential lots on 90 acres of land

According to Randall Lewis, executive vice president of Lewis Operating Corp., “Our shopping center business continues to be strong. We have over 20 new centers totaling more than 6 million square feet in development including Adelanto Towne Center. In addition to the acquisition of the land, we’ve recently completed the entitlement process for Adelanto Towne Center”.

Lewis added that “In regards to the residential land acquisitions, the current real estate environment has created some opportunistic situations and we have been able to capitalize on those opportunities to increase our apartment and single family residential land holdings. When the housing market improves we will be well positioned to provide new home sites to builders in a timely fashion. Developing real estate is our core business and we’ve always had a “long-term” perspective and understand the cyclical nature of the business”.

Lewis Operating Corp. is a member of the Lewis Group of Companies. Founded in 1955, the Upland, California based Lewis Group of Companies is one of the nation’s largest privately held real estate organizations engaged in the acquisition, ownership, development and management of residential and commercial real estate throughout California and Nevada. The Lewis Group of Companies has developed more than fourteen million square feet of retail, office and industrial space, and more than 65,000 single family homes and apartments, many of which are part of Lewis-developed master planned communities. For more information about the Lewis Group of Companies visit www.lewisop.com.

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