Meet Arrowhead Village’s New Owner: Jay Kerner

Mountain residents and small business owners may be pleased to hear that the Lake Arrowhead Village is now under new management. New changes and improvements to the property are being planned for the future. The Village closed escrow in Dec. of 2019. It was purchased by U.S. Realty Partners, a Los Angeles-based, privately held, real estate investment company that specializes in acquiring, managing, developing and redeveloping retail properties in the western United States. The company focuses primarily on grocery-anchored retail properties and works by purchasing shopping centers, refurbishing them, and injecting life where things may have stagnated. This is done by drawing in new retailers, building upon existing assets and by refurbishing pre-existing assets. The company’s current portfolio includes 15 retail properties totaling over two-million square feet.

President and CEO of U.S. Realty Partners, Jay Kerner, is quite pleased about his company acquiring Lake Arrowhead Village. He brings over thirty years of experience owning, managing, and operating grocery-anchored retail properties to the mountain and is currently assessing ways that the Village can be refurbished to attract new tenants.

According to his biography on U.S. Realty Partners website, Kerner is a graduate of UCLA with a degree in Business and Economics. He is a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers and has served as a speaker at past events. In addition, he is a licensed California Real Estate Broker, General Contractor, and FINRA member with Series 7, 24, 27, 63 and 79 licenses. He was formerly Regional Director of Capital and Counties, U.S.A., a privately held real estate investment trust with 2.5 million square feet of retail, office, multi-family and mixed-use properties organized as a subsidiary of Capital Shopping Centres Group, London (a publicly-traded FTSE 100 company; CSCG.L). In addition to his duties overseeing acquisitions, dispositions, financing, and operations, he was a key executive involved in the sale of the company to Equity One (NYSE; EQY) in 2011 for more than $600 million. Before that, he was Senior Director of Acquisitions for Federal Realty Investment Trust, a public REIT with more than 19 million square feet of high-quality mixed-use and retail properties in the best markets in the U.S. (NYSE: FRT). 

Kerner was also President of Kerner Management and Investments, a regional shopping center operator and developer, for more than 10 years. Over his career, he has been personally involved in more than one billion in commercial real estate projects. Kerner is also the author of Chasing Yield; an Individual Investor’s Guide to Passive Commercial Real Estate Investments. 

“We have some broad-brush ideas of what we want to achieve here,” Kerner said. “And the devil is always in the details. So as far as specifics of what exactly we’re going to do, we’re still working through a lot of those things. We’re looking at some different ideas. We are bringing on some consultants to help us in that regard with respect to marketing, ...leasing, ...changes we may make to the common areas to improve them.”

“It’s really early on. I mean we just closed on the property in December and you know it takes a little while to get up and running,” Kerner said. “We’re getting out arms around things.”

Kerner said that at the top of his list is to cure the deferred maintenance around the property so that existing tenants can operate in a higher quality establishment while making the property more appealing to new tenants who might want to come on board.

“There’s a lot of wood rot. There’s stucco that’s deteriorating on certain buildings. There’s roofs that are aging and need to be repaired or replaced in general. So there’s maintenance things like that, that are the long-term capital nature that we’ll be working through systematically to improve,” Kerner said. “And that goes for the common areas as well.”

“We want the Village to be a place that people feel like somebody cares, that we’re paying attention and that we’re improving it for everyone’s benefit so that it’ll be an attractive place. A nice place to be,” Kerner said.

Kerner also said that high on his list of proprieties is the goal of ‘bringing some excitement’ to the Lake Arrowhead Village so that residents of Lake Arrowhead, Crestline, and Running Springs can all benefit from the property. He aims to steer away from relying wholly on the current setup which segregates the upper village into “residents” and the lower village into “tourists.”

When the purchased the Lahaina Cannery Mall, U.S. Realty Partners approached the tight-knit island community for ideas on how to make the only indoor shopping mall on Maui accessible and convenient to locals while benefiting from the daily influx of tourists.

“There’s got to be a balance between the interests of the locals and taking care of the community and also to bring tourists in because, you know, the tourists bring in the necessity for jobs and keep the businesses thriving,” Kerner said. “We want to get a really good balance where the community feels good about the property.”

Beyond the concerts and programs that have been the tradition at the village for some time now, Kerner and his team are currently looking into new entertaining and interesting programs that will attract residents from Lake Arrowhead and the surrounding communities during the weekdays to attract more local shoppers to the Village. The goal is to keep the property busy for retailers throughout the week rather than have them be wholly dependent on the tourists who come up during the weekend. Kerner said he would like to see Lake Arrowhead Village become a place where residents go for reasons other than buying groceries or filling out a prescription at the local pharmacy. He said he would like to see more events filled with “energy and liveliness.”

“A couple of weeks ago I was in Cabo for a brief trip and I went down to the art walk in San Jose,” Kerner said. “They have an event every Thursday night. I don’t remember the month it runs but it’s still (hosted) six to eight months of the year. It started off about eight years ago, one of the merchants was telling me, and you know that the downtown there was in disrepair and there was not a lot of business going on there at the time so the city actually invested some money in creating some nice common areas and then all the merchants started doing really well. They started having these events so now it’s a vibrant event they have every Thursday and the streets are just full of people.”

“There’s all these cute art shops both with inexpensive items as well as fine-art type galleries. There are little boutiques and it’s really interesting.” he added. “So it’s not necessarily that there’s a correlation between that and the Village but just the idea of having a mix of interesting things that people come out for.”

Kerner said that he go the idea of purchasing Lake Arrowhead Village after he visited a few years ago and was impressed with the natural beauty. He’s able to draw comparisons between his property on Maui and his newly acquired property in the mountains.

“We’re in the very early stages at the moment,” Kerner said. “We’re still working out what that looks like. (And are asking) what are the types of tenants that would attract locals to the property? So we are still assessing what we’re missing: what does the local community desire that’s not there today? That might activate the lower village for residents.”

Kerner said that he plans on actively participating in improving the Lake Arrowhead Village not only on a physical level but also by becoming engaged with the community to restore and renew the property so that locals and tourists can benefit from it.