By JOYZELLE DAVIS Staff Reporter As developers race to get the financing together for a host of major office projects in the hot Burbank Media District, J.H. Snyder Co. will apparently be first off the blocks after announcing it will break ground on its Burbank Media Center project next month. Snyder is partnering with Boston-based real estate investment trust Beacon Properties Corp. to build the six-story, 585,000-square-foot office center, located adjacent to the NBC studio lot. The Snyder Co. will design, construct and lease the $140 million project, and Beacon will provide the financing and own the building once it is completed. Beacon was acquired in September by Chicago-based Equity Office Properties Trust, and the merger is expected to be completed within about four months. The acquisition should not affect the Snyder project, said Alex McCallum, a spokesman for Beacon. This is Snyder’s first partnership with a REIT, and Beacon’s first development project outside of Boston. The Media Center is planned as a lowrise campus with a large atrium and balconies. The architectural firm McLarand, Vasquez & Partners, which worked with Snyder on the Water Garden office project in Santa Monica and the Wilshire Courtyard in Los Angeles, will design the project, which is scheduled for completion in summer 1999. Snyder has not signed any tenants, although the developers are in “active negotiations” for about 200,000 square feet of space, said Clifford Goldstein, a partner with the Snyder Co. Office vacancies are effectively non-existent in the Burbank Media District, which had a vacancy rate below 1 percent for the first half of 1997. Accordingly, the Media District gets the highest rents in the market an average of $26 per square foot annually, compared to the county average of $18 per square foot. Brokers representing the Burbank Media Center project are asking for rents from $34.30 to $37.20 per square foot. Drew Planting, director of Cushman & Wakefield California, said those prices are in line with the market. “The Media District is the most prestigious address in town,” he said. “It’s ground zero.” And after a five-year lull in development activity, ground zero is poised to see some churned earth. The Snyder project is only the first of several new projects about to break ground in Burbank. About 7 million square feet of commercial development have been entitled for the city over the past five years, said Robert Tageue, Burbank’s community development director. “Thanks to the studios, we had an enviable vacancy rate even during the recession,” said Rick Pruetz, a Burbank city planner. “And now that the economy has improved, everyone wants to build here.” Pruetz said he spends an increasing amount of time showing developers aerial maps of the city as they look for available land. When people are looking for sites in the Media District, Pruetz often suggests that they approach the owners of surface parking lots and offer to buy the land for redevelopment.