New owners buy Marineland Plaza for $7M as legacy investment

Marineland Village, the storied Kennewick shopping center known for its sea otter statue, marine theme and a landscape that once featured palm trees, has changed hands for the final time after 15 years.

Vancouver-based Inland Ocean LLC, consisting of Jane Schmid-Cook and her partner and former husband, Rod Cook, promises to bring stable ownership to a shopping center that had its share of distress in the 15 years since the original developer, the late Warren Luke, sold it.

Inland Ocean bought the Marineland Plaza complex at West Clearwater Avenue and North Edison Street in a $7 million deal that closed Oct. 28. The deal covers three buildings, including Shelby’s Floral,  adjacent the intersection.

The couple, who are divorced, partner on real estate investments as Inland Ocean LLC. They are based in Vancouver and Portland and view it as a long-term investment.

“We’re long-term relationship, community-based folks,” Schmid-Cook said.

Schmid-Cook said the duo learned about Marineland after they sold residential real estate they bought for investment purposes in the Great Recession. They were looking for suitable replacement properties for a 1031 exchange, a mechanism to defer capital gains on real estate investments.

The Northwest natives were drawn to the Tri-Cities for its Hanford-stabilized economy and the distinct cultures of the region.

“The Tri-City area is somewhere we’ve been interested in investing in. There’s tons of opportunity there,” she said.

Even though they were looking for a multifamily opportunity, they viewed Marineland shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic took off. The market chilled but their interest did not.

“The shopping center never left my mind. I was always interested,” she said.

When they were satisfied that the owner and tenants were collaborating to ensure everyone remained on financially steady ground, they made an offer. It was not on the market.

Photo by Wendy Culverwell

The seller was Clearwater Professional Suites, which acquired the property in late 2016 after it went into foreclosure. The locally-based group led by Manuel Chavallo replaced the façade, remodeled interiors,  upgraded parking lot lights to LED and released empty space.

Chavallo said the goal always was to rescue the centrally-located center and then flip or sell it. He is thrilled it was purchased by Northwest investors with a long-term view and interest in welfare of the tenants.

They closed the deal with a mix of cash and debt. Schmid-Cook declined to reveal the capitalization, or cap rate, a measure of the anticipated return on the investment. She described it as “healthy.”

Inland Ocean is retaining The Kenmore Team to manage Marineland Plaza. There is one vacancy.

Changes will be mostly invisible to customers and the businesses they visit – The Village Bistro, Fresh Out the Box, Touchstone Jewelers, Lemongrass and Marla June’s Clothing Co., to name a few.

“Nothing is going to change,” she said.

Schmid-Cook said tenants are mostly local businesses owned by local business owners.

“I like to work with people who are like that. My partner and I are like that. Your word is your word.”

She did not define “long-term.” However, she said she and her partner are in their 60s with adult children. The investment could be a legacy for them, she said.

Warren Luke bought the land for the development he called Marineland Village in 1986 and transformed it into a quirky ocean-themed development.

Luke, who died in July at age 83, sold it to California investors 2005. The otters remain but the palm trees are long gone.

By 2014, at least 14 storefronts were vacant, and the California investors lost it when their lender foreclosed.

Clearwater Professional Suites LLC bought it in a trustee’s auction with a winning bid of $3.4 million in December 2015.

Chavallo’s team updated the property, rechristened “Marineland Plaza,” with a new façade and other touches. Occupancy picked up almost immediately. Inca Mexican Restaurant is a prominent newcomer after relocating its Kennewick outlet in 2018.

Schmid-Cook praised the updates and pledged to be an attentive owner through monthly visits to Kennewick. Inland Ocean plans to upgrade the center’s parking lot in the spring, she said.

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