Jim Dillavou began his career as a real estate and finance attorney at the international law firm Latham & Watkins. He assumed a more hands-on role in retail real estate when he joined Regency Centers Corporation in 2007 as senior manager of investments, a role in which he managed ground-up development and the repositioning of retail community and neighborhood centers in southern California.
Two years later, in the wake of the financial crisis, Dillavou recognized the opportunity to enter the market as an active acquirer of retail properties. He cofounded Paragon Commercial Group with partners Mark Harrigan and Erwin Bucy. The investment firm began buying and later developing a portfolio of high-quality retail properties throughout California.
Specific to acquisitions, Paragon primarily targets value-add neighborhoods and communities ranging from $2 million to $250 million in total capitalization. On the development side, Paragon specializes in projects in infill locations and underserved retail trade areas, as well as repositioning functionally obsolete shopping centers.
“No longer is retail just a shopping trip,” says Dillavou. “It must be an experience. Everything from design, layout, amenities, merchandising, and entertainment needs to be balanced and incorporated into a successful retail project. … Most importantly, we need to create gathering places for community. This benefits both the retailers and the community, and is a recipe for the long-term success of a retail center.”
Dillavou is a leadership team member of ULI’s Small-Scale Development Council, a guest lecturer on retail development at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, and a member of the board of the Southern Methodist University Folsom Institute for Real Estate.