Bob Shallit

Mining firm buys historic Ione-area property

The last piece of a vast and historic Amador County ranching property has been sold to a mining company that intends to put its headquarters there.

U.S. Mine Corp. of Cameron Park last week completed the purchase of about 3,300 acres of what was once the Howard Ranch, a picturesque property that was controlled until recently by descendants of Charles Howard, best known as the owner of the legendary racehorse named Seabiscuit.

Much of the Howard Ranch property, just west of the town of Ione, about 45 miles from Sacramento, was sold nine years ago to a group of San Francisco and El Dorado Hills investors. About 12,000 or so acres – the portion in Sacramento County next to the shuttered Rancho Seco nuclear power plant – is preserved as open space in perpetuity through a conservation easement held by The Nature Conservancy.

U.S. Mine has been negotiating for the past two years to acquire the remaining property, said A. Scott Dockter, the company’s CEO. The land has long been the site of mining operations for silica, used in glassmaking, and other minerals.

Dockter said his company plans to resume silica mining by the end of the year, then start up other mining operations while adding on to existing administrative buildings to create a headquarters site.

“This is a major undertaking. We expect to have in excess of 150 people there,” Dockter said of the entire operation.

This was one of the largest ranch holdings in Northern California. Now it’s all been sold off.

Ken Noack Jr., Newmark Cornish & Carey

Local broker Ken Noack Jr., who represented the sellers in the deal, said the original 30,000-acre property was part of a Mexican land grant and was owned by William Moffitt of the Moffitt Meat empire before being sold to Charles Howard in 1942.

“This was one of the largest ranch holdings in Northern California,” said Noack, senior managing director with Newmark Cornish & Carey. “Now it’s all been sold off. Time marches on.”

Sale pending for midtown offices?

Speaking of real estate deals, we’re hearing there’s a buyer for the Caltrans-occupied Farmers Market Plaza office complex at Alhambra Boulevard and R Street.

The three-building, 375,000-square-foot complex was put on the market earlier this year by Texas investors who paid about $75 million for it in 2006. The word on the street is that the pioneering transit-oriented property is now in escrow.

One company rumored to be among those interested in the buildings is Pappas Investments, the Sacramento company that’s planning to put a Whole Foods store and housing on the north side of L Street between 20th and 21st streets.

The comment from company principal John Pappas regarding Farmers Market: “I can’t talk about that right now.”

Radio station gets zapped

It wasn’t a great day for Sacramento’s K-ZAP, the new low-power radio station.

A “massive outage” experienced by the company that streams the station’s feed to the Internet and also to broadcast caused the station to go silent for about an hour Wednesday morning, said Dennis Newhall, one of K-ZAP’s founders.

Service returned. Then the station –which has DJs playing a mix of older and new music – went down again in the afternoon.

By late afternoon, K-Zap was airing again. “I don’t know why,” Newhall said of the second glitch. “Hopefully it won’t happen again.”

Imitation is not flattery

Doing business in China is a little different, as Sacramento exhibit-maker Troy Carlson is learning.

As we’ve reported, Carlson’s company – currently staging a “Tech Trek” exhibit at the State Fair – is taking its older “Hall of Heroes” show to Shanghai this fall. If all goes well, that exhibit will move on to Beijing and other cities in China next year.

Here’s the twist: After the deal was signed, Carlson’s agent warned him to keep a low profile when it comes to any “Heroes” marketing activities in China – at least until all bookings in that country are finalized.

The concern: Chinese entrepreneurs’ remarkable propensity for producing knockoffs of just about anything, including gala traveling exhibits.

If word leaked, Carlson was told, “by the time we got there, there would probably be a replica of Hall of Heroes somewhere in China.”