Monterey, CA, December 31, 2018 — The story of the 665 LLC building and how it became owned and operated by the doctors and practitioners who worked within its walls is one of perseverance, frustration and teamwork. And a lot of “wrestling.”
“We started a wrestling match. We had to wrestle with them. And kick and scratch and fight,” says Dr. David Morwood, one of the tenants, and now one of the owner-occupants of 665 Munras Ave., about the epic battle with a Florida-based equity fund that owned the building.
The story goes back at least a decade, maybe more. The property, owned by Paul Verga at the time, had been a car dealership, bank and, currently, a suite of medical offices, including Morwood’s, a plastic surgeon. Morwood, in fact, at 13 years, was the longest-running tenant in the building, which houses medical offices, including a surgery center, allergist, radiology suites, hearing aid center, among others.
But since Verga’s death in 2002 and the 2008 real estate crash, when the building went into foreclosure and eventually ended up in the hands of the Florida equity fund, the building had fallen into serious disrepair. Morwood’s office experienced leaks and a partially collapsed ceiling. His entreaties to the absentee landlords went unheeded.
“I was sick of the out-of-state landlords ignoring us, so the only solution was to get ownership from the equity fund,” says Morwood. “We had to figure out how to get control of this amazing building and not allow this gem to be tarnished.”
Unfortunately, the building wasn’t on the market and the owners didn’t want to sell. So Morwood had to come up with a strategy to gain ownership. And since he wasn’t an expert in real estate, he consulted several friends and acquaintances who were. Folks like former City Councilman and developer Carl Outzen, renowned property owner Mike Marotta, commercial real estate professionals John Mahoney and Patrick Stafford, attorneys Andy Swartz and Mark Myers, bankers Clay Larson and Steve Keller. Morwood recalled it takes a team to win the Super Bowl.
With this Dream Team of experts and community leaders, Morwood set out to form a coalition of other tenants, business leaders, bankers and local businesses in the neighborhood to join in the effort. He called his long-term associate Dr. David Awerbuck, ENT surgeon, to add some "heavyweight expertise" and experience to the group. Not only is Dr. Awerbuck an expert ENT surgeon, he has an MBA from the University of Southern California.
“We started to get a lot of support, everybody was rooting for us,” he says. “It’s a great neighborhood and we got support from everybody.”
So this coalition made an unsolicited offer to the equity fund, which is when all the “kicking, scratching, maneuvering, negotiating” and yes, wrestling, began. It was a long, arduous process, but the equity fund relented and agreed to sell the building to the coalition. “I think they started to feel the pressure,” he says.
The deal closed in July, with most of the tenants on board as owner-operators and the whole effort was named 665 LLC, although Morwood said it would be renamed something along the lines of the Munras Medical Complex.
“The greatest feeling in the world is walking into the building knowing that we own it!” says Morwood, “it’s not a disinterested party from 2,400 miles away. We are the landlords. We did it, with a lot of help from some very hard-working pros.”
The building only has one space open now, the allergist has expanded operations and the Revitalessence Medical Spa & Laser Center has opened a branch.
And Morwood accomplished one other goal: “We fixed the roof! Now when it rains we don't have to worry and wonder if the ceiling will cave in on us!"
The Monterey Chamber of Commerce will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception to celebrate local ownership of the 665 Munras building on Thursday, 17 Jan. 17, 2019, at 5:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend.
Marci Bracco Cain
Salinas, CA 93901