EMERYVILLE -- The Public Market Emeryville, a prominent retail and office center in the East Bay, has been bought for about $54 million by a group of realty investors, an indication the Bay Area's retail sector is doing well.

The 270,000-square-foot complex, located on Shellmound Street near the Interstate 80 and Powell Street interchange in Emeryville, was bought by San Francisco-based City Center Realty Partners and New York City-based Angelo Gordon.

Over time, the new owners intend to add another 800,000 square feet that will include retail and offices. At present, Public Market Emeryville consists of stores, restaurants and offices.

Terms of the sale weren't officially disclosed. However, people with knowledge of the transaction and the market estimated that Public Market Emeryville was bought for a price somewhere in the range of $52 million to $60 million.

The purchase of the center came after an extensive renovation engineered by TMG Partners and Rockwood Capital, the group that sold the retail and office complex.

"Our renovation of the Public Market has created a strong platform for continued innovative development of the property with an infusion of new capital and enthusiasm for a dynamic Emeryville," said Michael Covarrubias, TMG's chief executive officer.


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One of the biggest challenges the center faced was the abrupt exit of one of its prime retailer, Borders Books. The bookstore imploded during the recession and vacated numerous store sites, including Emeryville.

To fill the space, TMG found robust replacements in Urban Outfitters and Guitar Center.

"Emeryville is a thriving city," said Mark Stefan, an executive with City Center Realty Partners. "Public Market is a great place to expand a unique mixed use community into a model sustainable infill project."

The purchase points to a strong retail market in the Bay Area, which enjoys a stronger job market than the nation overall.

"There absolutely is confidence in core retail markets," said Solomon Ets-Hokin, a senior vice president with Colliers International, a commercial realty brokerage. "Prices are good and there is unprecedented demand for good retail property. And Emeryville is such a great retail node."

Brokers believe that plenty of cash is sitting on the sidelines, waiting to buy top-notch retail projects.

"Emeryville is clearly one of those markets that will have the growth potential that investors want, that will provide a respectable return in this economy," said John Sechser, a senior vice president and primary retail agent for the Walnut Creek office of Transwestern, a realty firm.

In the East Bay, investors have a tentative deal to buy the Safeway-anchored Pleasanton Gateway retail center in Pleasanton, near the Alameda County Fairgrounds on Bernal Road. And downtown Pleasant Hill is going up for sale, with buyers starting to line up to grab that choice property.

"Pension funds, private opportunity investors, real estate investment advisors, all want infill retail that's in a market protected from a lot of competition," said Kevin Van Voorhis, a Colliers senior vice president.

Contact George Avalos at 925-977-8477. Follow him at twitter.com/george_avalos.