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Builder's hat trick.

Byline: Randi Bjornstad The Register-Guard

Eugene developer Steve Master likens commercial development to a puzzle - it's all about "putting pieces together to fit," he says - and with three commercial projects in the works along Coburg Road right now, he's doing as much jigsaw puzzle work as anyone.

"Coburg Road has the right demographic that both national and local retailers want," Master said. "So it kind of made sense for me to centralize my focus in that area. That way, if I can't put a business in one piece of property, I may be able to guide the tenant to another one."

All three of his projects - dubbed Coburg Station, Coburg Square and Uptown Plaza - should be ready for occupancy by next fall, Master says.

Construction is about to begin on the 1.7-acre Coburg Square at the northeast corner of Coburg and Willakenzie roads, where the primary tenant will be a Walgreen's drug that will lease a new 14,500 square-foot building on the property. Several small businesses formerly housed in old buildings have moved or closed; two others, a Goodwill donation center and a Dari Mart, will remain in the center.

Just northeast across Coburg Road, Master will develop Uptown Plaza, which will feature a 12,000 square-foot retail building that will house four to six small businesses, as well as a 3,200 square-foot building intended for a single tenant, on 2 acres of land. Master has a purchase option on the property, owned for many years by the Knutson Family Trust.

"I'm in negotiations with some national tenants for that project, as well as some local ones," Master said. "I expect to be able to break ground there between April 15 and May 1, and be move-in ready by October.

Besides food businesses - there are way more of them who would like space than can be accommodated by parking requirements, he said - he's considering other ideas, including clothing and pet-related businesses.

Meanwhile, he's pressing ahead with the largest of his three Coburg projects: Coburg Station.

Located at 440 Coburg Road, best known as the former location of G Williker's restaurant, the 2.5-acre parcel will become a shopping enclave with 30,000 square feet of retail space in three buildings, Master said.

The project will affect a Subway sandwich shop and an Oregon Liquor Control Commission retail outlet on the property, as well as the McAyeal's Wardrobe Cleaners.

"The dry cleaners goes away Feb. 1," Master said. "I'm not sure yet what will happen to OLCC or Subway. I plan to renovate the building they're in, and they might stay there or maybe move to one of the other (project) locations."

Mater declined to talk about the value of the individual projects but the three together will be worth about $20 million when completed.

The 40-year-old developer has not always been a commercial developer. After coming to Eugene from his native Baltimore in 1989, "for the weather," Master said, he first ran a smoothie cart, called Lulu's, at Eugene's Saturday Market.

"I went from there to real estate, buying, renovating and selling one house at a time, mostly in rural areas," he said. He got into building cell-phone towers after a company contacted him about building one on a piece of property he owned.

"So I started Master Towers and went into that business for a while," he said. "I guess I'm an entrepreneur - there's opportunity everywhere, you just have to put the formulas together."

The cell tower business got him interested in commercial development, and that led to his interest in retail development. "But I want to say, I have no cell towers planned for these properties," Master quipped.

These Coburg Road projects could well be his last in that vicinity, Master said.

"There's really no more property in that area," he said.

He's not sure where he will look next, although he just bought the Wheatley Building in downtown Eugene at 825 E. Park St., near Full City Coffee Roasters.

"I'm looking for tenants for that building," Master said. "It's a beautiful place on two floors - perfect for one or two (legal offices)."
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Title Annotation:Real Estate and Housing; A Eugene developer plans not one, not two, but three retail sites on Coburg Road
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 18, 2007
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