Fred Nicholas started in the real estate business in 1956 when he met Maurice O. Smith (Hap Smith) a real estate broker who was involved in minor real estate transactions in the west side of Los Angeles.
Hap Smith was referred to Nicholas as a real estate attorney at Loeb & Loeb. He needed a lawyer to prepare an option agreement for real property in Fremont, California. Hap Smith was unable to pay for the legal work and as a result Loeb & Loeb refused to accept him as a client.
Nicholas and Hap Smith became immediate friends and Nicholas prepared the option agreement on his free time without charge. Smith also was unable to raise the down payment for the option agreement and Nicholas raised the funds among his family and friends. Hap Smith invited Nicholas to become his partner and they formed a partnership known as The Hapsmith Company in 1956 because Nicholas was practicing law and did not want his name on the partnership.
The Hapsmith Company’s first project was the development of a community shopping center in Fremont California with the second Mervyns store ever built as the one anchor tenant and Sears as the other. The Center was a success and expanded into phase II. After many years of operation, the Center was exchanged for a 50% interest in a twin AMFAC tower office complex in downtown Honolulu, which The Hapsmith Company owned and operated for more than 10 years.
Other real estate projects followed in rapid order; Eastridge Shopping Center in San Jose; Tanforan Park in San Bruno, CA; Montebello Mart, CA; Brea-Imperial Shopping Center, Brea, CA; Norwood Shopping Center in Sacramento, CA; Union Bank Center, Los Angeles, CA; Weberstown Shopping Center in Stockton, CA; Stimson Business Center, Los Angeles, CA; Wilshire Rexford Building, Beverly Hills, CA; The SuperMall of the Great Northwest in Auburn, WA; the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington D.C. and the Culver Center, in Culver City, CA.
Hap Smith died in 1975, and Nicholas formed a corporation called The Hapsmith Company and continued to develop and own shopping centers, which the company has done since 1956.
“Colorful Debut For Tanforan Park”
“$10 Million Shop Unit to Be Built in Fremont,” Los Angeles Times, September 10, 1961, p. M11
“Good Industrial and Commercial Planning - A Key to City’s Growth,” Fremont News, February 4, 1962, p. 1
“Huge Center Planned by Southland Group,” Los Angeles Times, May 17, 1964, p. J22Bates, Bob. “Tanforan Center Approved,” Enterprise Journal, March 5, 1969, p. 1 MacDonald, Ken. “Problems Mount, but Development Continues,” San Francisco Chronicle, May 1974 “Shopping Center Under Study in UCLA Seminar,” Los Angeles Times, November 4, 1979, p. H17Ryon, Ruth. “Leading Urban Airport Center in the Making,” Los Angeles Times, November 15, 1981, p. H1 Gamarekian, Barbara. “Washington Culture Center Delayed,” The New York Times, July 21, 1990 Howard, Bob. “L.A. Developers Keep Active With Out-of-Town Projects; among largest is Hapsmith’s $800 million trade center,” Los Angeles Business Journal, April 25, 1994, pp. 25, 28Freed, James Ingo. “THE RONALD REAGAN BUILDING AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE CENTER: A Short Discussion of the Building,” Catalogue, May 5, 1998 “Dedication of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center,” Program, May 5, 1998 “PRESENTING The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center,” Brochure