MODESTO — A real estate company is investing more than $1.3 million to establish itself in downtown Modesto and to lure agents from the region's established realty firms.
Castle Real Estate is renovating the corner of J and 15th streets, converting the empty building into a multilevel complex with 36 offices.
That 75-year-old structure was home to Valley Sporting Goods for nearly five decades and most recently was used as a carpet store.
"It was a big, empty space, but we saw it as an opportunity," said Aly Vizcarra, one of Castle's five equity partners. "A lot of agents can picture themselves working there."
But Vizcarra said Castle doesn't want a lot of agents; it just wants to attract top sellers.
"I would love to have 40 agents all working hard and earning a good income," said Vizcarra, 34. "We're recruiting agents who understand what it takes to be successful."
He and Castle's other principles brothers Adrian and Rafael Castillo, Neftali Alberto and Dennis Lilly have experience working at the region's giant real estate firms.
Most of them spent years at PMZ Real Estate, which has more than 500 agents, and Vizcarra also worked at Century 21 M&M and Associates, which has more than 1,250 agents.
"When real estate companies grow," Lilly said, "management loses touch with agents and the dynamic changes."
Lilly, 57, joined Castle last summer, leaving PMZ after 14 years and bringing along "the Lilly group," including several members of his real estate-focused family.
"I saw the possibility of doing something fun and exciting here," Lilly explained. He said realty companies do not have to be big to be competitive. "In real estate, the company is the horse, but you bet on the jockey. It's all about the agent."
Castle has about 27 agents, most of them recent recruits from other firms. The company's Tully Road office is too small, so Lilly said many of the new agents must work from home until the downtown building opens next month.
15,000 square feet of room
Construction crews are scrambling to finish the complex. The building, purchased last year, cost $775,000, and Lilly said about $535,000 is being spent on renovations. That includes adding a mezzanine for additional offices.
When complete, there will be about 15,000 square feet of office space, plus a basement, on a lot of about a half-acre with private parking.
"We believe in downtown Modesto and the positive changes we're starting to see there," Lilly said. "This office is in a great spot where there's a lot of history."
Like many longtime Modestans, Lilly remembers shopping at Valley Sporting Goods, which was there from 1946 to 1993.
Vizcarra said the location holds "real promise," noting how several of the nearby financial institutions and restaurants are expanding.
"We strongly believe in investing in real estate and we're putting our money where our mouth is," Vizcarra said. "We can't give up on downtown. We can't give up on Modesto."
Castle Real Estate's building, at 1418 J St., is expected to open in mid-April. For more on the company, go to www.Castle-RE.com.
Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2196.