Jeff Eittreim, Central California Division manager for Woodbridge Pacific Group, discusses his development company’s decision to build Belcourt at Seven Oaks, an exclusive residential development in southwest Bakersfield, and why Bakersfield-based Valley Republic Bank was selected to provide financing. Mission Viejo-based Woodbridge Pacific Group has strong valley ties. Todd Cunningham, one of two founding partners, grew up in Bakersfield, graduating from East High, Bakersfield College and Cal Poly. The wife of Carl Neuss, the other founding partner, has family roots in Fresno. Eittreim; his wife, Lauren; their twin sons, Ryan and James, 5; and daughter, Grace, 2, moved to Bakersfield four years ago to open the company’s development office.

Why did WPG select southwest Bakersfield to develop Belcourt at Seven Oaks?

Seeing the value of the Seven Oaks-branded property, WPG jumped at the chance to be involved. The time and energy Bolthouse Properties has spent further developing the area’s master plan made it a no-brainer. Bolthouse is creating jobs in the Seven Oaks Business Park, offering retail amenities close by, and developing “connectivity” with trails throughout the area. The Seven Oaks region is Bakersfield’s premier growth area.

What is Belcourt at Seven Oaks’ development concept?

The West Ming Specific Plan offers an integrated approach to the region’s residential, commercial and retail space. Along with Bolthouse’s master planning efforts, WPG challenged its consultants to really dig in and research what Bakersfield home buyers wanted in their community. Belcourt at Seven Oaks (residential) was developed based on that research with a plan to support a live, work, play concept that is “walkable” and “rideable.” The community sits within an unprecedented trail system, with green belts connecting homes to work, shopping and relaxing public spaces for gathering and enjoying life. Soon the Belcourt Center Club, which will include a swimming pool, splash park, fully furnished gym and recreation-community building, will open.

There are six “product lines” at Belcourt on lots ranging from 5,000 to 34,000 square feet. Verdana (models open in March 2018), Tamarand (models open in Summer 2018), Mahogany and Patina are all designed and built by WPG; Westcott by John Balfanz (models in summer 2018); and the Sterling custom home lots developed by a list of approved builders on lots up to 34,000 square feet. Models opened last November at Patina and Mahogany. The sales of 60 homes are expected to close by the end of the year. Construction of several custom homes is underway.

Why did WPG select Valley Republic Bank for financing?

They handle all of our direct construction funding. Bruce Jay, Jack Smith, Phil McLaughlin and Janet Hepp are here for us. Their founding principles are apparent with every transaction. They work to support projects that make this community better. They’re hands on, easy to work with, and always helpful. They are big enough to handle our volume; hometown enough to really care.

Bruce Jay, the bank’s president and CEO, noted VRB continues to have record-setting performance. Highlights of Valley Republic Bank’s 2017 third quarter performance include: net income up 40 percent; net loans up 20 percent; deposits up 24 percent; total assets up 22 percent; basic earnings per share up 36 percent ($0.45 vs. $0.33) and book value per share up $1.39 ($15.49 vs. $14.10.)

How is Valley Republic Bank helping WPG?

When we started the financing process with national lenders, they didn’t have a pulse on the Bakersfield market, nor an understanding of the inherent value of the Seven Oaks property. They saw the declining price of oil and things got complicated. Valley Republic Bank stepped up with both the local market knowledge and lending capacity to support the construction financing volume we needed. We exceed our targeted sales volume every month. Our banking partner is part of the team that helps make that happen.

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