Gary Cohen, The Intrepid #CRE Sleuth

Award-winning San Francisco investment advisor Gary Cohen has a gift for unsnarling quirky puzzles in #CRE. His five-year quest to track down the owners of 500 Turk St. and acquire the property on behalf of his client, Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, is a prime example.

Through his work with TNDC, Gary is always on the lookout for potential sites for affordable housing development in San Francisco. The property at 500 Turk St. was perfect, but seemingly unattainable. It hadn’t been on the market in 50 years or more.

“Everyone in town had their eye on that property, but no one could figure out who owned it,” Gary said. An infamous tire repair shop, Kahn & Keville, had been there for decades, remaining virtually unchanged as the neighborhood modernized around it. It was clear that the current ownership was not aware of the potential of the property. An initial public records search revealed that it was held in a trust, but all the trustees had long since passed away. Gary’s interest was piqued.

“It was really a question of digging past the surface,” he said. “The rent had to be going somewhere . So, I decided to follow the money.”

For five years, Gary chipped away at the mystery, sifting through old records and circumventing dead ends until he found a 1953 trust document that led him to the former owner’s son. He’d inherited the property with his sisters, who also live out of state.

Once Gary managed to connect with the owner, it was a fairly uncomplicated transaction. His determined detective work paid off with a win for all the parties. TNDC got a great property for a new affordable housing project, and the owner transformed an under-performing asset and traded into a more conveniently-located East Coast property with a significantly enhanced return.

It’s like the saying goes, “Never stop trying. You’ll never know how close you were to succeeding…”