Joint Venture Buys Pair of Retail Properties in San Francisco’s Union Square Neighborhood for $30MM

Whittier Trust Company, San Francisco, Union Square, Aralon Properties, 838 Market Exchange LLC, Ward Family Trust, Westfield San Francisco Centre, Oakley, Bloomingdales, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom Rack

By Catherine Sweeney

After becoming the owner of two retail assets in San Francisco’s Union Square neighborhood in  2021, The Whittier Trust Company has sold off the pair for a combined $30 million, or about $553 per square foot. According to public records, the property was acquired by a joint venture affiliated with Aralon Properties, the Ward Family Trust and 838 Market Exchange, LLC – a limited liability company linked to Michael Woods. 

The properties are located at 838 Market Street and 842 Market Street, and contain a 39,903 square-foot retail building as well as a 14,300-square-foot building, respectively. While the ground floor retail portion of the property at 838 Main Street remains available for lease, 842 Market Street is occupied by eyewear brand Oakley. 

Prior to the transaction, the property was owned by Reno-based Whittier Trust Company, which was the court-appointed sole successor trustee for the property in 2021, public records show.  The court appointment took place following the death of the property’s previous owner Edward Litke, who died in 2016. Litke had owned the property since 1995. 

The retail assets are located in a prime retail hub in San Francisco, with neighbors like the Westfield San Francisco Centre and major nationwide retailers, including Bloomingdales, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters and Nordstrom Rack, among many others. The highly walkable location is also in close proximity to several BART train stations, including 5th & Market Street and Powell Street. 

Union Square alone makes up 4.8 million square feet of San Francisco’s retail inventory, according to a first quarter retail market report from Cushman & Wakefield. Rental rates for space in Union Square on average run retailers about $495 per square foot per month, which has gone largely unchanged year-over-year. While rates remained mostly unchanged, vacancies in the area have increased by several basis points to 14.4 percent from 13.6 percent a year ago. 

Despite these figures, Cushman & Wakefield expects retail in the area to make a strong comeback as new leases are signed. During the first quarter of 2022, IT’SUGAR, a specialty candy retailer, signed a short-term lease for a 21,500 square-foot space at a former Forever 21 storefront at 2 Stockton Street. Saatva, a luxury mattress brand, also opened a 6,000 square-foot storefront at 128 Post Street, which was previously occupied by Eddie Bauer. 

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