From dealership owner to commercial real estate developer, Michael Smythe has done it all. He and his family owned several car dealerships in California before they decided to sell to AutoNation in 2000. In 2002, he got involved in commercial real estate and is now the owner and developer of Blue Oaks Town Center in Rocklin, Calif. This 600,000-square-foot mixed-use development is home to a hotel, restaurants, entertainment and retail. We asked Michael FOUR questions about the challenges Blue Oaks Town Center has overcome and why he picked a law firm in Atlanta!

Michael SmytheHS:  How was Blue Oaks Town Center affected by the downturn?

MS:  The crash was devastating to the entire country, especially retailers. Two retailers in the development, Mervyns and Shoe Pavilion, declared bankruptcy and liquidated at the end of 2008. Mervyns vacated an 80,000-square-foot space and Shoe Pavilion left a 25,000-square-foot space. Fortunately, after dividing the spaces we only have 13,000 square feet vacant as a result of losing these two tenants. The replacements are a 16-screen multiplex cinema, laser tag facility and gym.

HS:  How did Hartman Simons help you through these challenging times?

MS:  We first engaged Hartman Simons on this project back in 2005. I have worked with Bob Simons and Jeremy Cohen and both are very hands-on and trusted  advisors. Cohen continually helps me find creative leasing solutions. 

HS:  What businesses are thriving?

MS:  It is interesting. There are three businesses that tend to do well during an economic downturn. 1) Cinemas 2) Value-orientated fitness clubs 3) Liquor stores. In Blue Oaks Town Center we were able to attract two of these business types to fill vacancies.

HS:  You are located on the West Coast. Why choose Atlanta-based Hartman Simons?

MS:  We needed a law team that could represent us well and understood what retailers wanted. We did not want to waste time on lease negotiations. Hartman Simons attorneys are focused on getting deals done instead of finding reasons why deals should not be completed.