Nestled between Baldwin Hills Estates—one of the country’s wealthiest majority African American neighborhoods—and Crenshaw—the location where the classic film Boyz n the Hood is based—is Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. Situated on 43 acres in South Central Los Angeles, this 865,000-square-foot shopping mall may still be a diamond in the rough. However, Quintin E. Primo III considers it his crown jewel.
Acquired for approximately $136 million and followed by a nearly $30 million renovation, the mall also happens to be Capri’s largest retail property acquisition to date. A tour of the property—with its open, airy spaces; lush, green exterior; immaculately polished tiles; and sleek, modern look—shows that the money spent has had the desired effect. “This entire area was redone,” says Primo, chairman and CEO of Chicago-based Capri Capital Partners L.L.C. (No. 9 on the BE Asset Managers list with $3.60 billion in assets under management), while walking through the mall’s newly renovated food court. “We replaced the flooring and lighting, and opened up the space by relocating an escalator. In addition, higher quality food outlets were added with new tenants, and a children’s seating area was created,” says Primo, whose firm—through one of its funds—acquired the property in 2006.
Anchored by Sears, Macy’s, and the nation’s only three-story Walmart, the mall’s roughly 100 other retail stores and kiosks collectively employ nearly 1,000 people in a community that needs all the jobs it can get. “The Eighth District is the only community that has added jobs even with this most severe recession, and just last year we added 3,700 jobs to our community,” says Bernard C. Parks, a City of Los Angeles councilmember representing the Eighth District, where the mall is located. “And a large part of it was the jobs that were created in the Baldwin Hills shopping center with the addition of new businesses.”
As an institutional real estate investment management and development firm, Capri raises capital from such pension and retirement plans as the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association and Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois to create funds. Through these funds, Capri acquires or invests in multifamily and commercial properties. These are typically held for periods of five to 10 years before being sold or refinanced. During that period, Capri often oversees the renovation or market repositioning of these assets with the goal of increasing value. Investment returns are generated for clients (minus the firm’s management and incentive fees) through distribution of the properties’ ongoing cash flow, and net profit from the sales or refinancing of the properties.
In addition to being an astute businessman, Primo has been a musician for most of his life. He’s played in jazz bands and sits in on keyboard for his daughter’s rock band, and he is able to adapt, change, and go the unconventional route if the situation dictates, in both music and business. Case in point, he founded Carter Primo Chesterton, a real estate investment management firm, in 1992 and spent 12 years building it into a $7 billion entity—the largest African American firm of its kind at the time. But in February 2005, the Harvard Business School grad did the unexpected: He sold the firm’s $5.2 billion mortgage loan portfolio.
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