Essays by John McNellis

California Flame-Out?

“Scotts Valley evacuated. Our Safeway center is shut down,” my partner texted last Friday. That meant four of our shopping centers in Northern California were threatened by wildfires. The CZU complex fire, the one endangering Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz, remains out of control as of this writing. Another…

A Vaccine for Retail?

Retail has the virus. Just as with people, different retailers are reacting to this infection very differently. Ailing merchants with comorbidities are suffering — or dying — while those without long-term illnesses are asymptomatic, even healthy. Excess capacity — too many stores — has been American…

Plagued Retail and the View from the Trenches

I have two options that are non-negotiable. I’m going bankrupt (chapter 7). COVID happened, and I cannot survive. I’d rather not go through bankruptcy, because it ruins my credit, but if I have no choice, I won’t think twice. The second option is to let you keep my deposit and take what I have in the…

The Post Plague Office

Real Estate in the Plague Year Last week, Mark Zuckerberg said he believes that half of Facebook’s employees will be working from home over the next 10 years. To that point, Facebook released the results of an internal employee poll: 50 percent plus want to get back to the office, while 40 percent would…

Death of the Elevator

Real Estate in the Plague Year Without the elevator…there could be no downtown skyscrapers or residential high-rises, and city life as we know it would be impossible…the elevator’s role in American history has been no less profound or transformative than that of the automobile…“If we didn’t have elevators…we…

Working the Recession

Recession: a period of temporary economic decline during which trade and industrial activity are reduced, generally identified by a fall in GDP in two successive quarters. GDP dropped 4.8 percent in the first quarter of this year—the biggest contraction since 2008—a fall that will resemble an infant’s…

Solving our Housing Crisis One Garage at a Time

To shelter-in-office (yes, mostly alone), I now walk through a couple miles’ worth of pleasant, leafy neighborhoods in Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto. These post-war neighborhoods vary a bit in quality and density but have common attributes: Their prices are ridiculous and the houses all have…

Our Retail Marshall Plan

Because we’ve been in the neighborhood shopping center business for decades, not only our tenants but also our competitors have begun asking us what, if anything, we’re going to do to help our small businesses in this plague year. As of today, March 17th, all of our tenants in the greater…

Your Real Estate Empire-Build it or Buy it?

What’s your strategy in allocating capital between buying finished projects and doing development deals, what percentage of each do you buy, someone asked me at a ULI conference. Flustered, I had to admit that not only didn’t we have a strategy, but we’d also given it so little thought…

Understating Your Net Worth

If you’re in real estate, if you’re developing or simply investing in property, you’re in the business of borrowing money. And if you’re a serial borrower, you have a chore to do every January: You must prepare your personal financial statement for your bankers. Unlike the reporting…


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