James C. Dragon is a highly experienced commercial real estate developer and entrepreneur who has spent over 30 years in his career. He has been working in commercial real estate development since 2000, and his primary focus is in the Greater Boston, Massachusetts, area. He is the managing partner and owner of Central Plaza Realty and Development Company, a position he has held since 2003. One of his main areas of interest is commercial real estate development in Lowell, the third-largest city in Greater Boston and the fifth-largest city in the Bay State.
In 2000, the Dragons acquired the Central Plaza shopping center in Lowell, which was almost half vacant and needed repairs and reconstruction. The plaza was a 266,000-square-foot parcel with 94,000 square feet of commercial space. James Dragon worked with the City of Lowell to make the capital improvements needed to make the Central Plaza an appealing place to do business. The plaza was built in 1965 and served as a Stop & Shop grocery store until 1979. Two other entities owned the plaza between 1979 and 2000 when James C. Dragon and his wife took it over. The Dragons envisioned a shopping center that offered goods and services catering to nearby Lowell residents. James and Effie Dragon, along with property management support from their son William, a licensed commercial real estate agent, eventually developed a plaza that was 100% occupied and maintained that occupancy through the coronavirus pandemic. In 2021, the downtown Lowell property was sold for almost $11 million.
Other Central Plaza Realty successes include the following: In 2015, Discount Valley opened a 15,000-square-foot dollar store at Central Plaza, providing various goods conveniently and affordably for nearby Lowellians. In 2019, Vinfen, a health and human services organization, opened a location at Central Plaza. Vinfen provides community-based services in mental health, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and behavioural health. In the spring of 2021, a Foodland International store opened a 16,000-square-foot store at Central Plaza, bringing a supermarket to downtown Lowell that served the various cultural and ethnic groups in the area.
James C. Dragon was a co-trustee of Athenaeum Realty Trust between the late 1980s and early 1990s. The organization bought a 110,000-square-foot high-rise building in Lowell to be renovated, serving as the law school for Emerson College. Although Emerson College cancelled the project, it is clear that the commercial real estate bug had bitten Dragon long before the days of Central Plaza Realty.
James and Effie Dragon also owned a minority interest in the New Bedford Bay Sox. This baseball team played in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, a summer league for athletes who have attended one year of college and have at least one-year remaining eligibility. The Dragons owned a stake through their Sports Done Right, LLC. Originally founded in 1997, the team was known as the Torrington Twisters, named for the town in Connecticut. In 2008, the organization relocated to New Bedford, MA, and quickly gained a following in the local community. In 2010, James C. Dragon joined the Bay Sox ownership. Under their leadership, the team hired former Major League Baseball player Rick Miller to be the manager. The Bay Sox won four regular-season Division championships. The Dragons served as part owners of the Bay Sox until the team suspended operations in 2019.