Jason Jaeger, principal of Jaeger Partners, stands in front of the El Centro building, which has reopened after an extensive renovation.
Jason Jaeger, principal of Jaeger Partners, stands in front of the El Centro building, which has reopened after an extensive renovation. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara’s historic El Centro Building is open for business. 

Built in 1927, the Spanish-style building was purchased in 2017 by a group of investors, who embarked on a multimillion-dollar renovation. 

The first floor will be occupied by a Board & Brush Creative Studio, and Sevtap Winery, which is currently in the valley, and the upper floors will have commercial tenants. The property managers have also partnered with the Lobero. For each office that is leased on the second floor for a two-year term, and is referred by the Lobero or an affiliate, Jaeger Partners will donate $2,000 to the Lobero. 

Prior to construction of the current building, the site, at 19-31 East Canon Perdido, was once home to Chinatown, according to Nicole Hernandez, Santa Barbara’s urban historian. Chinatown extended for about one-and-a-half blocks, with a focal point at 25 East Canon Perdido, the site of a Chinese temple. A Chinese Masonic temple was on the ground floor while the second floor contained a gambling concession, Walter Tompkins wrote in Santa Barbara Magazine, according to Hernandez. 

Santa Barbara was home to about 400 Chinese individuals who worked as laborers, vegetable growers, peddlers, laundrymen and domestic help, Tompkins wrote. 

“The area around the joss house also contained opium dens, brothels and crumbling adobes dating from the old Presidio Days,” Tompkins wrote. 

The renovation of the building is envisioned to breathe new energy into the downtown core, and offer smaller spaces, with private offices, which are in high demand. Jaeger Partners is marketing the building as attractive to accountants, attorneys and financial firms. The building upgrades included ductless heating and air conditioning, new hardwood floor updates and painting.

One of the tenants already in the building is Quarter Zero, owned by founder and CEO Josh Collins. 

“It’s one of the most unique buildings in the city of Santa Barbara,” Collins said. “We saw a a lot of different buildings and there were none just like this. In addition to the uniqueness of the building, the history, the improvements are unparalleled in terms of what they are investing to make sure the tenants are happy and safe.”

His company runs an immersive entrepreneurship program for high school students across the country. They help students identify problems in their community and come up with startups to solve those problems. They are using virtual reality hybrids. Quarter Zero has been in the building for a year-and-half, during the massive construction and renovation. 

Renovation of the historic El Centro Building took more than a year and a half.

Renovation of the historic El Centro Building took more than a year and a half. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

“The building itself is an amazing place,” Collins said. “All the improvements they have made for tenants have been amazing. We’re really excited for more groups to come in and make it more lively.”

Jason Jaeger, principal of Jaeger Partners, a commercial real estate and investment firm, said the building needed “major, major upgrades,” including modernized plumbing and compliance with the American Disabilities Act. After the acquisition, the firm brought the rents up to market-rate prices for the tenants. Despite the many upgrades, there’s a walk-in safe that is so large it could not be moved out of the building, so it’s now part of the decor. 

Jaeger said Sevtap Winery will provide a “great wine tasting room” to the public and also be open for the Lobero patrons. The second floor offices are all remodeled with a common area break room, two shared conference rooms, a waiting room, and each floor is elevator-served. He said 19 private offices remain on the second floor and the leasing has begun. The third floor is also available for a larger office tenant desiring anywhere from 1,658 and 4,557 square feet.

“To have this iconic property of Santa Barbara history restored to its glory is a benefit for the Santa Barbara community, since both locals and tourists will be able to visit this site on their Santa Barbara Historical corridor tour,” Jaeger said. “We invite everyone to relish in the fine architectural details that have been preserved, all without sacrificing the modern day conveniences a modern office requires.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.