By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
Birmingham Attorney Eric Guster continues to expand his real estate portfolio.
Guster, who has several projects underway in the Magic City, now has his sights set on 2.6 acres of vacant land not far from Bessemer’s downtown with plans to develop the property into a retail center, that includes space for “high-quality” retailers, food, offices and other businesses, he said.
It’s his largest project to date, he added.
The land, situated at 1720 13th Avenue North, is in a high-traffic corridor and about a mile from Bessemer City Hall. Guster closed on the site in August and estimated the development would take a more-than-$5 million investment.
For the project, which is still in pre-development, Guster said he is looking for five or six tenants to fill three or four buildings, though the project will be built to suit the tenants after they are identified. In all, the project will have between 10,000 and 20,000 square feet of retail space and the current site plan includes 146 parking spaces.
Given the size of the development, Guster said the construction could be done in phases, if necessary.
The attorney, who has a law office in Bessemer, said that city “is so top-heavy with meat-and-three restaurants that we’re trying to bring other food options to the area because when I’m at my office in Bessemer, it’s hard for me to find a place to eat that’s not a meat-and-three.”
In addition to more food options, Guster said additional high-quality retail would provide benefits to the city in the form of taxes and jobs. “Being able to add to the tax base … provide jobs for the residents fulfills a dream of mine and I’m excited to be in this position,” he said.
His project fills a number of essentials, he said. “The goal of mine, as a developer, is to fill those gaps and provide the opportunity for retailers to come into a new building and be in place long-term for the needs of the area,” he said.
While Guster could not provide a date for completion, he estimated that construction could begin fewer than six months after he has identified some tenants to fill space at the site.
From his experience as a developer and the relationship he has with his financial partners, he believes that the timetable from the start to finish of the development can be expedited.
In August, Guster shared plans for a new retail center coming to Birmingham’s Five Points West community with about 6,000 square feet of space for medical and other businesses.
The best part of real estate development, Guster said, is “taking a blank slate” and “building something nice.”
“[It] allows me to create something from nothing, and that’s what excites me,” Guster said.
His planned 2.6-acre development in Bessemer is Guster’s largest development so far and Guster said he’s excited that his banker of about five years, Robert Pless of ServisFirst, is on board with his plan.
“[Pless and ServisFirst have] been my go-to, for my real estate deals because…they are cautious. They are fast. They’re thorough, and they make sure that the deal is a good deal, and they give their thoughts on deals as well,” Guster said.