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Guardian of the Land


In 1960, California native Paul Garrett bought a piece of property in the southern tier of the state—Hemet, in Riverside County. For nearly half a century, farmer/rancher/investor Garrett tended the land, viewing it as the gateway to the San Jacinto Valley and envisioning the impact the acreage could one day have on the region he and his family called home.

Today, development of the 200 acres is under way, en route to becoming Garrett Ranch, a mixed-use urban village that will ultimately feature more than a million sq. ft. of retail space as well as office and residential components. It will also be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, incorporating meaningful, sustainable initiatives intended to honor the land and the man who has guarded the property for almost 50 years.

Chain Store Age talked with Stephen King, COO, and John Potts, executive VP/real estate, of Temecula, Calif.-based Garrett Group, about the Garrett Ranch project and about Paul Garrett’s namesake company’s vision for its future.

Long agricultural, “This is land whose time has come,” said John Potts. “It sits at the corner of Warren Road and Florida Avenue, two inordinately busy roads. It’s Main Street and Main Street.” A Main at Main location is supplemented by weighty demographics.

“The City of Hemet’s banks have higher deposits per capita than any in the nation,” continued Potts. “Although Hemet has been agrarian by nature, and populated through the years by ranchers and farmers, it is also a retirement community as well as a community that recently has begun to attract younger families. The demands of both have dictated a higher level of shopping experience,” he added.

That shopping experience will include a luxury cinema, a high-end 16-lane bowling alley, casual dining and department store and specialty retail in a Main Street setting that has managed to survive the conceptual incarnations of the original plan.

“We’ve been able to stay true to the Main Street concept,” said Steve King. “We have had to make some changes to the site plan to accommodate the needs of the retailers while still maintaining the desirable Main Street format.” Changes included reorienting the site from a north-south axis to more of an east-west axis “to provide key tenants the desired street visibility from Florida Avenue,” explained King.

Flower-filled gathering areas, water elements, a pedestrian-friendly setting that features contemporary architecture, and powerful, even record-setting, performance by existing retailers and restaurants in the area are some of the Garrett Ranch assets that have generated strong tenant interest, as the project nears its groundbreaking (September 2008) and completion date of 2010. But even as the mixed-use village that will be Garrett Ranch takes shape, it will never—say both King and Potts—deviate from Paul Garrett’s original vision.

“Our founder is a farmer/rancher by tradition and by heritage,” said Potts. “He has asked that we respect the land as we move forward.”

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