Alex Mehran, Jr. on Bishop Ranch by Sunset Development
- Aug 07, 2015
Sunset Development is an ambitious company that embarked on an even more ambitious adventure in late 1970s: turn a pear orchard into a vibrant employment community that also provides San Ramon with a downtown. Nearly four decades since the project kicked off, a number of Fortune 100 and 500 companies call Bishop Ranch home, and the developer is even exploring a residential component for the master-planned community.
Alex Mehran, Jr., the president and COO of Sunset Development, is taking over the family business. Formerly with Goldman Sachs, Mehran is now spearheading the company’s efforts of expanding the focus of development at Bishop Ranch, as well as complete the goal his forefathers set up to achieve for the 535-acre development. Alex Mehran, Jr. took some time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions regarding the community’s past, future, and most importantly, present.
CPE: How did the Bishop Ranch project come about and what motivated Sunset Development to carry out such an undertaking?
Mehran: My grandfather built homes in Livermore between 1951 and the mid 1970s. When my father joined the company in 1978 they sought new challenges and bought the Bishop Ranch property, which consisted of 585 acres. It was a huge challenge for a company of our size, but we saw great promise in a large, flat piece of land, next to interstate 680, served with the necessary utilities and in an area we were very familiar with. We started building low-rise specific office buildings and seeded the project with the relocation of Chevron and Pacific Bell from the city. Over the last three and a half decades it has grown to be a 10-million-square-foot community with Class A office, retail and hotel and a great list of companies.
CPE: Was this latest series of investments (including the City Center and Roundhouse developments) spurred on by the accelerated growth of the area?
Mehran: We have seen a steady influx of companies into Bishop Ranch over the last five to seven years, mainly driven by our quality, stability and amenities. Consequently, we have a renewed focus on innovating and reinforcing those components of our offering and the things you mention represent some of that. Bishop Ranch is evolving into a dynamic, 7 day a week place with retail amenities and in the near future, housing. The goal has always been to have a world-class community to live and work in.
CPE: What challenges do you expect as you continue your work on the Bishop Ranch master-planned community?
Mehran: It’s a continual challenge to keep improving the place we have built. Our acquisition of the 100-acre, 1.8-million-square-foot AT&T campus was a substantial challenge and has allowed us to add great new large office space to our portfolio along with two lakes and the Roundhouse Market and Conference Center to our list of amenities. Next up is the 300,000-square-foot City Center Bishop Ranch, which we will break ground on this summer. The cost of living and working in California continues to be our largest challenge, but for those that choose to do that, we think we provide the most valuable compromise for both the business and the employee.
CPE: What is your company’s outlook for the area’s economic climate in general and its real estate market in particular?
Mehran: More and more, companies and people are realizing the great quality of life out here in the Tri-Valley. Schools are the best in the Bay Area, you can buy more housing for your money and the natural and recreation environment is fantastic. From a business perspective, we see that our area is a tremendous value from each of those perspectives and a wonderful place to do business.
CPE: Do you feel any pressure regarding the continuation of your company’s legacy?
Mehran: It’s a privilege to lead an excellent company built on such a strong platform. Sure there is pressure to lead us into the future and build on the success but I enjoy it and we have a great team.
CPE: Finally, could you outline Sunset Development’s strategy for the coming years?
Mehran: Build ahead of where we are today by adding residential and world-class retail to round out our investments and improve the overall experience for Bishop ranch employees, residents and the surrounding communities.