It takes guts to be an entrepreneur even during the best of times. Chris Loeffler, CEO and co-founder of Caliber, showed he’s got more than his fair share of chutzpah when he told his parents that he planned to quit his job to start a real estate company — in 2009. At the time, he was working as a senior associate in the audit and assurance practice for PwC in Phoenix, but he had always liked the idea of becoming an investor and saw an opportunity to pursue that path.
More than a decade later, Caliber is a thriving business helping shape the ever-expanding Valley. One of the places Caliber has its fingerprints all over is Downtown Mesa. Loeffler says the city had a vision of a vibrant downtown area so Mesa residents wouldn’t have to go to Scottsdale, Tempe or Phoenix for those types of amenities and experiences. Prior to Caliber’s involvement, the buildings in Downtown Mesa had different owners, which meant that they were poaching tenants from one another and pursuing their own individual goals.
“The reason why we were attracted to join was that our partner Bob Worsley had quietly organized the ability to purchase nine buildings at once so we could come in at scale and buy up about 30% of the square footage in Downtown Mesa in one single transaction,” he continues. “That allowed us to renovate all those buildings to a higher standard, which we felt would then lift the standards for everybody else.”
Since the buildings were in an opportunity zone, it gave Caliber more flexibility to spend years turning the downtown area around instead of being bound to a tight timetable, which Loeffler says was necessary because the buildings were vacant for a while as Caliber figured out the right mix of tenants to create a unique identity and not simply be a carbon copy of what other cities had done.
Loeffler adds that City of Mesa took a novel approach to revitalizing its downtown. Typically, someone like Loeffler will come in, buy some buildings and put together a plan to change the area. Afterwards, the city will step in to invest in infrastructure around the area.
“Instead, the City of Mesa put $100 million into their performing arts center. They transformed Pioneer Park. They brought in [Arizona State University], supported light rail, did all the sidewalks, curb cuts, streetlights — everything was done,” Loeffler says. “That opened the door for us to think about Mesa in ways we probably wouldn’t have, had we not seen that.”
Looking forward, Loeffler notes that there is turbulence in the market, but Arizona will manage it well.
“We have some market forces that are creating a floor for how far things will come down,” he concludes. “With interest rates going up, there should be an expectation that property values are going down. But there’s a floor because there’s so much success going on with attracting businesses — Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the Intel expansion, Virgin Galactic — and that’s attracting people from all over the country. If you’re trying to pick a place to invest, I would want to own as much Arizona real estate as I could.”