Calabasas Can Be Choosey About New Developments Real Estate by Shelly Garcia The new year is a time to count your blessings, and Calabasas has more than its share. Nestled between Agoura Hills, which is desperately trying to figure out a way to raise tax revenues for badly needed freeway improvements, and Los Angeles, where it often seems that every development, good or bad, is cause for a free-for-all between community residents, developers and the city, Calabasas has no such troubles. The city of only 20,000 people has a tidy sum of $26 million in the bank, putting it in the cat bird seat when it comes to what gets built in the city and where. The latest projects on the city’s drawing board tell the tale. Calabasas is currently in the throws of a mini-development boom, but it is one where the projects are handpicked, both for the needs of the community and the zoning that currently exists. And there is no shortage of takers. Consider the BMW dealership that will be relocating from Canoga Park to a spot along Calabasas Road. Along with a Mercedes-Benz store and an Acura showroom, Bob Smith BMW will create a small auto row that reflects the affluent community. Tim Smith, president and co-owner of Bob Smith BMW, jumped at the chance to locate in Calabasas. “Most of our customers are from the Woodland Hills, Calabasas, Agoura Hills and Hidden Hills area, so the accessibility for them is much greater in Calabasas,” said Smith. Indeed. Based on BMW’s car registration data, Smith says there are about 800 BMW owners in Calabasas alone. Add to that the freeway proximity, giving the dealership access to an even larger group of consumers. “A lot of dealerships out there have a freeway location, but not in the market they’re selling to,” said Smith. “This one really serves the market where it is located and that makes it very attractive.” Smith began working on acquiring the property in 1996. “It took me some time to negotiate a purchase,” said Smith, whose family has been in the car business since 1934. The BMW dealership has been located at Topanga Boulevard and Vanowen Street since 1973. But slowly its customer base had been moving west. “It became inconvenient for the majority of our customers to come to Canoga Park, and I needed to expand,” Smith said. The new facility under construction will have about 50,000 square feet of showroom space with a basement level and a rooftop storage facility. That’s twice the size of the Canoga Park facility with about 25,000 square feet. “It will make it possible to sell twice as many cars as we’re selling now,” said Smith. “Even more.” The project is currently winding its way through the city and the dealership will likely open for business in the first half of 2003. Smith concedes that the city’s guidelines are “strict” but he figures that is one of the things that makes locating a dealership there so attractive. “It fits very well with BMW,” he said. It’s much the same story at Westrust, a retail real estate investment developer, that has just completed construction on a neighborhood shopping center off Las Virgenes Road. “The demographics in the area are exceptional, and there was a need for a supermarket in the area,” said Charles Smith, president and a co-principal of the company along with Claudio Ponte and Ricardo Capretta. Creekside Center, a 76,000-square-foot center, will be anchored by an Albertson’s. The other retail tenants are Sharkey’s Mexican Grill, GNC, Starbucks, Quizno’s Subs, Creekside Cleaners, a sushi restaurant and a bath and body products boutique. A second level will house about 5,000 square feet of office space which has not yet been leased. Westrust, which has its offices in Calabasas, had been keeping an eye on the property for some time. The parcel was previously owned by General Motors Corp., but the Chevrolet dealership that once operated there had been closed and the property lay dormant for the past 10 years. “One of the keys is the housing stock in the area reached critical mass,” said Smith. “A lot of people had been looking at the site. Working through the city and having the relationship we had with the city would give us the opportunity to get it done.” Westrust had little difficulty moving the project through the city of Calabasas because it was already aware of the many architectural and other guidelines required. The center cost a little more to build, said Smith, but it is also able to command higher-than-average rentals because of the location, which has a track record based on the highly successful Commons at Calabasas center. “You look at what’s been done in the Commons and the kinds of tenants that want to be in a city like Calabasas, and it was justified,” Smith said. Locals have been traveling over three miles in either direction for a supermarket and the area is well populated with offices that could support restaurants. “There was a lot of demand,” said Smith of the retail tenants that came knocking to lease space in Creekside Center. The Albertson’s, a 58,000-square-foot store, will also include a bank, video store and pharmacy. Also approved for construction is a 70,000-square-foot office building under development by Woodland Construction. And another office building is currently winding its way through the approval process. News and Notes A 40,772-square-foot industrial building in the Valencia Commerce Center has been sold to American Hakko Products Inc., a toolmaker. The company will join Canyon Engineering Products, a maker of aerospace components, which is relocating to Valencia Commerce Center in October, and Oasis Corp., which moved to the center in September. Craig Peters and Doug Sonderegger, brokers with CB Richard Ellis, represented the buyer and the seller, Newhall Land and Farming Co., in the deal. Senior reporter Shelly Garcia can be reached at (818) 676-1750, ext. 14 or by e-mail at email@example.com.