Coastal is in the name, central Indiana is its game: California-based firm cultivating its local operations

Despite its name, Coastal Partners LLC is firmly entrenched in the heartland.

Most of its current projects are in central Indiana, as are about half its employees.

In August, the Sacramento-based firm hired Tom Ott to oversee its central Indiana operations and new development. Ott, a respected 10-year veteran of the local office of Los Angeles-based CB Richard Ellis, plans to continue his relationships in the local brokerage community to further Coastal Partners’ presence in the area.

Although the name Coastal Partners is less than a year old, the firm’s principals have been around Indiana for several years. Coastal Partners was founded last year after the principals of Sacramentobased Sierra Crest Equities LLC parted ways. Three of Sierra Crest’s four principals founded Coastal Partners.

Since then, Coastal Partners has been on a development tear locally. Its list of current projects include one-story office projects in Lawrence and west Carmel, an office/industrial flex project in Plainfield, an industrial redevelopment on the east side and, most recently, a planned retail center at Six Points Road and Ronald Reagan Parkway in Plainfield.

“Sierra Crest was more of a merchant builder,” said CEO Brett R. Baumgarten. “Under Coastal Partners, we’re trying to create a critical mass. The majority of projects we’ll build and hold onto.”

Thus the hiring of Ott and seven other employees in Indianapolis to manage properties and oversee day-to-day operations, Baumgarten said. The firm’s other current projects are a mixed-use development and a hotel in Roseville, Calif., and a distribution center in Fort Wayne.

Sierra Crest got its start developing build-to-suits for industrial/office users, and moved into speculative development with Sierra Business Center in Greenwood. In 2003, the firm jumped into the headlines with its purchase of Pan Am Plaza downtown. Although the $8 million price tag wasn’t among the largest deals of the year, it sent a message that the firm was in Indianapolis to stay.

Although the principals-Baumgarten, Brett Keeshin and Ronald N. Baumgarten-are based in Sacramento, Keeshin spends much of his time in Chicago and all three have Midwestern roots. As they started their firm, the three looked to markets traditionally considered second- and third-tier and often overlooked by large national development companies and institutional investors. Indianapolis, Brett Baumgarten said, is in many ways similar to Sacramento, making the push here a natural choice.

In the Indianapolis area, Coastal Partners has quickly gained a reputation as an entrepreneurial development company that will consider a wide variety of projects.

“Their primary appetite is for valueadded real estate investments, whether it’s ground up like Sierra Gateway Park [in Plainfield] or a redevelopment project,” said Andrew Morris, managing director of the industrial advisory group at locally based Meridian Real Estate. “They’re also willing to take risks.”

Meridian is working with Coastal Partners on the Coastal Commerce Center, a 600,000-square-foot building on East 30th Street it purchased from Germany-based Bertelsmann AG. A Bertelsmann subsidiary continues to maintain a small office in the building, but the bulk is being redeveloped to accommodate multiple users.

At Sierra Gateway Park, work is wrapping up on the first of two planned buildings, a 100,000-square-foot flex building. The building’s first occupant will be Plainfield-based Banning Engineering, which will move its 16,000-square-foot headquarters to the 40-acre park just off the new interchange of Six Points Road and Ronald Reagan Parkway.

Marketing is just kicking off for 17 acres of retail adjacent to Sierra Gateway Park. The Linder Co. is aiming to attract a hotel to the intersection, followed by other retail, said Craig Ramsay, a Linder broker.

With the planned extension of Ronald Reagan Parkway to U.S. 40 and the construction of the new midfield terminal at Indianapolis International Airport, the market for retail services at the interchange is in the early stages of growth, but the site is well-positioned to take advantage of the growth when it comes, Ramsay said.

Downtown, Coastal Partners has nearly finished renovations to Pan Am Plaza, which included addition of a fitness center and remodeling of many of the building’s common spaces. The 138,000-square-foot building is 100-percent leased, up slightly from the 97-percent occupancy when Sierra Crest bought the building, Ott said.

Indiana Sports Corp., which had previously owned the building, still maintains its offices in Pan Am Plaza, as do several amateur-sports-related not-for-profits that lease from ISC.

Going forward, Ott’s job will be to oversee development of Coastal Partners’ myriad local projects and seek out new ones in office, industrial and retail development, he said.

The company’s willingness to seek out projects based on opportunity, rather than sector, was one of the key points that lured him from CBRE to the development firm, Ott said.

“I’ve represented these guys and worked with them from a brokerage standpoint for six or seven years,” he said. “This was an opportunity for me to become more involved in the development and acquisition side of real estate. … It’s an opportunity to be a part of a very entrepreneurial company.”

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