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Galpin Owner Makes Offer for Burbank Site

Galpin Owner Makes Offer for Burbank Site By JACQUELINE FOX Staff Reporter Bert Boeckmann, owner of Galpin Motors, says he’s revived his long-stalled plans to purchase a prime swath of property in Burbank owned by the Ford Motor Co. and bring a Galpin auto franchise to the city. Although Boeckmann remains tight-lipped about the specifics, he’s confirmed he has made a serious offer on the 8.14-acre parcel, formerly home to Zero Corp., which sits adjacent to the Golden State (5) Freeway off-ramp on Front Street. He said he planned to meet with Burbank city officials over the coming weeks to present his final proposal. “We have reached an agreement to acquire the property from Ford,” said Boeckmann, who owns the largest and most successful Ford dealership in the Valley and is Ford’s No. 1 franchisee. His company has more than 1,000 employees. “Right now we are in the process of evaluating specific plans for the property and we are considering bringing in an auto dealership to Burbank.” Burbank city officials say they have yet to view any details about Boeckmann’s plans but confirmed the two sides have met and that Boeckmann appears ready to once again pursue his plans for bringing the city its first major auto dealership. “We don’t have anything specific to say except that (Galpin’s attorneys) called us to a meeting a couple of months ago and told us they were going to be bringing us a proposal to purchase the property and put in an auto dealership,” said Sue Georgino, Burbank’s community development director. They told us that we’re serious and were going to be putting together a proposal for us over the next few weeks.” Carrie Owens, an asset manager for Ford, confirmed the company and Boeckmann have struck a deal but also declined to give specifics. Ford is said to have purchased the property for $12 million in the late 1990s with the intention of luring its star franchiser, Boeckmann, to the site. The city, anxious to get its hands on a large dealership with a proven track record, offered Boeckmann $12 million in tax and construction subsidies, along with its own adjacent 3.8 acre parcel, to help seal the deal. But Boeckmann balked in early 2000, leaving Ford with an empty parcel, a decaying building and a monthly maintenance bill of roughly $35,000. Boeckmann told the Business Journal in an interview in 2001 that he backed out of the deal because Ford reneged on a plan involving an initial public offering for his network of franchises that would have allowed Boeckmann to eventually buy out other investors. Land saga Ford officials have refused to comment on why that deal fell through but other Ford dealers in the Valley who have attempted to buy the property for their own expansion purposes, say Boeckmann has had Ford’s hand’s tied since. Bob Bruncatti, owner of Sunrise Ford in North Hollywood, told the Business Journal in 2001 that, included in the preliminary contract between Boeckmann and Ford on the Zero sale, is a clause barring Ford from ever selling to another Ford dealer without Boeckmann’s consent. Bruncatti once attempted to purchase the property for his own expansion purposes. Roughly two years ago, Ford officials approached Burbank’s then city manager, Robert “Bud” Ovrom. Ovrom told the Business Journal shortly afterward that Ford told him “there would never be a Ford dealership in Burbank,” and the company said it would consider possibly selling the land to a competing auto franchise. But Ford’s asking price for the land, a whopping $15.5 million or roughly $40 a square foot, was well above the roughly $15 per square foot automotive retailers are accustom to paying, and although there was interest, no one was able to cobble together that kind of funding. Gene Vaughn, owner of Guy Schmidt Automotive Group in Glendale, and Burbank’s only auto dealer, Fred Bell, owner of Fred Bell Chevrolet, approached the city with a plan to buy the property and bring in a joint dealership. But they were also asking for 10 percent rebates on sales taxes for the first 10 years to compensate for the high asking price. Burbank officials flatly refused, citing ordinances barring the use of subsidies and the so-called “siphoning” of auto dealers from nearby cities. Vaughn and Bell later withdrew their offer to purchase the land. Retail options Meanwhile, Burbank was also being pressured by a Century City developer to change the zoning code for the Zero Property from automotive to retail in order to make way for a Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, which Ovrom estimated would have generated roughly $200 million annually for the city. But the project also threatened to take away business from other retailers in the area, namely the city’s new Costco store at the Empire Center on Victory Boulevard. Ford officials had all but resigned themselves to holding out for a zone change, but have also let the property deteriorate in the process, to the point that Ovrom put the company on formal notice to clean it up or face stiff penalties. Those orders are still in place now, says Georgino, adding that Ford has begun to make some progress, an indication they have been preparing for a Boeckmann deal to come through. Ovrom’s departing wishes for Burbank when he left the city in early 2003 to head up the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency were for the city council to continue to hold out for an auto dealership. Burbank’s retail sales tax revenues are roughly three times the state average, but its auto sales tax revenues have remained at roughly 25 percent below the state average. By comparison, Glendale has 15 auto dealerships along its popular Brand Boulevard of Cars. “I think it would be absolutely wonderful if Boeckmann’s plans finally move forward,” said Ovrom when told about Boeckmann’s latest plans. “That is the one hole in Burbank’s retail base that I’d hoped to fill and I’d sure like to see it done.”

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