Developer Moves to New Projects After Building Legacy REAL ESTATE By Shelly Garcia A news item about the sale of an office building in Agoura Hills got me thinking about the seller, Katell Investment Co. LLC, so I decided to check in with Jerry Katell. Among the most prominent developers in the San Fernando Valley for many years his name was dropped regularly Katell’s been missing from the real estate scene of late. Katell, who is 63, has always been something of a Renaissance man, so I half thought he might tell me he’s on to yet another grand real estate project. But it turns out with this sale Katell is getting out of the development game, although he plans to continue to do some real estate investing. He says he’s been planning this for a while, in part because it’s time, but also because times have changed. “When you start a new real estate project, you tell me one that takes less than five years,” he told me. “At this age, I wanted to do other things so that was a big part of it and a decision I made a long time ago. That has been the plan, but in addition to that, it’s so much harder to get through the approval process. To fight the neighborhood councils and the community councils. It’s such a battle to get anything done, I got a little worn out.” It is hard to imagine Jerry Katell getting worn out. In the course of a career that spans about three decades he has developed some 5 million square feet of projects, more than 2 million of that in the Valley. He still owns about 1 million square feet of property in the Valley alone. Katell developed Oaks Business Park, where a little company called Amgen had its first headquarters, and the Great Western campus that now houses the regional headquarters of Washington Mutual. He developed the Northridge Business Park, Valencia Technology Park, Nordhoff Industrial Complex, the Agoura Hills Business Park and the Disney Concert Hall, where, at Frank Gehry’s suggestion, Katell was married last year. Katell got plenty of local notoriety in the late 1990s when he pulled Warner Ridge, a controversial 21-acre development along DeSoto Avenue in Woodland Hills, out of the ashes of years of community opposition. Back then Warner Ridge was to have been a huge office complex, but even as Katell finally won approval for the project, the office market was softening, and he eventually sold the project to Legacy which has built an apartment community on the hill. It wasn’t the first project Katell walked away from. Another one that got away in Northern California is now Yahoo’s business campus. But at the time his wife Sharon was battling cancer, and Katell passed on the project. Sharon Katell lost the battle, and Katell mourned her death deeply, but with indefatigable zeal, he picked up the pieces and once again gripped life by the proverbial horns. Katell ran his first Los Angeles Marathon two years ago in four hours and 37 minutes placing in the top 22 percent of all runners and 49th in his age class. He took up acting a few years ago, appearing in several independent films and in “Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines”, although that portrayal ended up on the cutting room floor. Last year he remarried. The wedding ceremony that virtually opened the Disney Concert Hall was followed by a reception where his daughter Jennifer performed a Bach Prelude. “What a thrill that was,” Katell said. And he’s started producing films. With partner Michael Gruskoff (whose credits include “Young Frankenstein” and “Article 99”) and another partnership with the Henson Co., he’s planning to produce a live action and animation “Puss ‘n Boots” movie, and he’s got a contract with Paramount to produce a film about female pilots that will be directed by Martin Campbell, who directed “The Mask of Zorro” and “Vertical Limit,” among others. “I have my card that I hand out that says Katell Properties, and I have another one that says Katell Productions,” Katell said. “Being a producer is not that much different from being a developer. You have this project and you have to pull all these elements together.” The new red carpet of names in his vernacular clearly delights him, but Katell’s real enthusiasm is reserved for an entirely different project, L.A.’s Best, an organization that provides after school tutoring and activities to grade school kids. “I always liked real estate because to some extent I’m changing people’s lives, but here I’m really helping change children’s lives,” Katell said. “I tell everyone I believe that’s the best thing I do.” Katell’s always devoted a good portion of his time to philanthropic activities he is on the board of the Disney Concert Hall, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Urban Land Institute Foundation. But as chairman of L.A.’s Best for the past six years, he has shepherded the organization through impressive growth. In 21 schools when he took the helm of L.A.’s Best, the program is now in 119 schools servicing 20,000 kids a day with a $23 million budget. Against that backdrop, the deal that got me thinking about Katell again seems awfully small. The 65,823-square foot building at 30301 Agoura Road was sold to Pacifica Real Estate Group for $12.7 million, according to Tony Principe, a broker with Westcord Commercial Real Estate Services who represented the buyer. Katell, who wouldn’t confirm the price, was represented by David Corsello, Keith Green and Michael Foxworthy of GVA DAUM. Katell said he hadn’t even planned on selling the building, which was the last portion of a 33-acre business park he began developing in the mid-1980s. “Frankly, we got an unsolicited offer we couldn’t refuse,” he said.” But the accident of fate, and a sizzling real estate market, is also a kind of official end of a development career that spans three decades. Not too small after all. Time marches on some of the new names that I’ve been hearing lately around real estate circles are under 40. I wonder if, when it’s their turn, they will leave the same mark. Senior Reporter Shelly Garcia can be reached at (818) 316-3123.
Developer Moves to New Projects After Building Legacy