Citrus Heights Sentinel Logo

Bearpaw CEO forsees rebirth of Auburn Boulevard

Tom Romeo
Tom Romeo, CEO of Bearpaw, stands at Sylvan Corners, near his company’s headquarters. // CH Sentinel

By Thomas J. Sullivan–
Tom Romeo, CEO of Bearpaw, a global footwear company based in Citrus Heights, is bullish on Auburn Boulevard.

Completion of a new arched gateway over Auburn Boulevard, which will welcome drivers into the city of Citrus Heights, and the opening of the 210,000-square-foot Kaiser Hospital just across the Roseville city line, will bring new interest and traffic down the historic north-south corridor, he told The Sentinel in a phone interview last month.

Related: Citrus Heights moving forward with $22M plan to revitalize Auburn Blvd

“In three to five years, when the street improvements in Auburn Boulevard Phase 2 are done, and when the new Kaiser hospital facility is fully open, I believe you’ll see quite a bit of new traffic coming down Auburn Boulevard into Citrus Heights,” said Romeo.

Bearpaw’s real estate division, Bearpaw Equities, owns seven commercial properties along Auburn Boulevard. These include Linden Plaza, Pratt Station, most of the Grand Oaks Shopping Plaza and two plazas at Sylvan Corners — one with Bearpaw’s headquarters and the other where the retail Goodwill store is located.

Bearpaw’s retail store is also located at Sylvan Corners, but is closed for “hibernation” during the summer months and will reopen in the fall. Renovations to Bearpaw Plaza are continuing, and plans for a 42-unit townhouse development behind the plaza are moving forward, he said.

Linden Plaza, located at 8500 Auburn Blvd., next to the city’s planned gateway arch, will receive a renovation and new paint, Romeo said. The plaza is currently fully leased and is home to Golden Donuts, a bike shop, and several other businesses.

Related: Citrus Heights-based footwear company acquires Flip Flop Shops

“The scheduling of renovations at Linden Plaza has quite a bit to do with the completion of Studio Movie Grill across the street, the building of the arch, and the completion of Phase 2,” he said. “But they definitely will be done.”

“We’re also seeing some very real success in the properties which we manage along Auburn Boulevard,” Romeo said.

A new anchor tenant in Pratt Station, also owned by Bearpaw Equities, is The Empowerment Center by Single Mom Strong and EmpowerME Pre-School and Child Care which opened earlier this summer in leased space at 7525 Auburn Blvd.

Related: Single Mom Strong center celebrates grand opening in Citrus Heights

“They’re off to a great start,” said Romeo, noting the plaza has been repainted and a new lease with a tea and coffee shop has also just been signed for a 3,000-square-foot end cap at the center.

Bearpaw Equities also owns most of the Grand Oaks Shopping Center on Auburn Boulevard. The center, once a vital retail hub in the city’s early history has had its challenges in recent years in attracting new tenants.

“We do have a few new leases signed for the plaza,” Romeo said. “It’s remains about 75 percent occupied at this time, and the exterior is scheduled for a refresh.”

Romeo is looking forward to the city’s decision on what it will do with the former Sylvan school site across from the current Goodwill shopping plaza, which Bearpaw Equities acquired in 2017. Romeo said his plans are to continue with a “live-work theme” at Sylvan Corners and pursue mixed-use by adding residential above the existing Goodwill.

“There’s no doubt that Old Auburn Road and Auburn Boulevard will again become a very vital commercial center in coming years,” he said.

 “I truly believe in the Auburn corridor and its potential,” said Romeo. “The city has created a fresh, new vision for the boulevard which I believe will truly succeed.”

Like local news? Sign up for The Sentinel’s free email edition and get two emails a week with all local news and no spam, ever. (Click here)