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Grocery Store Component Added to NoHo Commons

Grocery Store Component Added to NoHo Commons REAL ESTATE By Shelly Garcia J.H. Snyder Co. has been in the development game long enough to be pretty sure-footed about its decisions, but it’s always nice to get validated anyway. And that’s what happened last week when the developer of NoHo Commons, the ambitious 16-acre redevelopment project in North Hollywood, inked a deal that will bring Hows Market to the project. Hows, a venture founded by Roger Hughes, late of Hughes Family Markets, along with several of the senior executives of that grocery chain, will open a 32,000-foot market in NoHo Commons, part of a plan to combine about 700 housing units with stores and offices. The pioneering NoHo Commons development, thought to be the largest project of its kind attempted in Los Angeles, is also among the first attempts to build neighborhoods around mass transit and create an urban village within the city. “We looked very hard at North Hollywood, and the more involved we got, the more we were intrigued and liked it,” said Mark Oerum, one of the four Hows partners who oversees store operations. The owners of Hows, which also include Steve Strickler, who handles the financial side, and Dave Wolff, in charge of sales and marketing, have been building a chain of groceries for the past five years. They first heard about NoHo Commons at a meeting with the representatives of Local 770 of the food workers, and Oerum admits that they were not all that enthusiastic about the idea at first. North Hollywood is not a community known for the kinds of demographics that would support their markets, which occupy a place somewhere in between the giant supermarkets and pricey smaller chains like Gelson’s and Whole Foods. Hows, which currently operates four markets, in Granada Hills, Malibu, Pasadena and Torrance/Redondo Beach, has moved cautiously since it was forced to quickly close a store in Santa Clarita. The grocery, one of the markets divested when Kroger acquired Ralphs Grocery Company, shared an intersection with two other markets and had never been successful. But the principals took a drive through the area, and the more they saw of it, the more they warmed to the idea. “We saw what changes had been happening. The red line terminates there, Toluca Lake (nearby), the influence from Universal Studios coming down,” Oerum said. “The more we looked at it, the more we liked it.” Hows specializes in fresh meats, seafood and produce, buying directly from the wholesale markets and delivering directly to the individual stores. Although the selections tend to be the kinds of cuts found at the service counters of upscale markets, the prices are not. Recently the stores were selling fresh salmon fillets on special for $2.99 a pound and prime spencer steaks for $5.99 a pound. Hows’ existing four stores were all operating as groceries when the company acquired them, and the NoHo location will be its first opportunity to build a store from ground up, designed in a way that reflects its marketing approach and the upscale market it hopes to attract. “We’re looking to do it upscale,” said Oerum. “We recently toured Northern California and we collected a lot of ideas we want to incorporate. I think it’s going to be a showplace.” J.H. Snyder broke ground on NoHo Commons last month and expects to have the first units ready for occupancy by fall of 2005 with a completion date of Spring 2006, said Cliff Goldstein, a partner at the development company. The date of Hows opening hinges on that schedule, but Oerum said he expects the store to be ready for business in late 2004 or early 2005. Encino Bargain How’s this for a deal: a magazine publisher just leased office space in Encino for $1.11 a square foot. The unusual, 5,000-square-foot deal at 16130 Ventura Blvd., was actually a sub-sublet, leased from a company that in turn was subleasing it from Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Stacy Vierheilig, a broker with Charles Dunn Co., who represented the new tenant, Music Connection Magazine, said the space had been on the market for about five months when her clients took a look at it. The sublessor, Time Financial Services Inc., which had about two-and a-half years to go on the sublease when it made a move to larger quarters in Warner Center, was asking $1.40, but decided a bird in the hand was worth the discount. “They were ready to move in right away which meant their rent stream would start right away,” said David Solomon, vice president at CB Richard Ellis, who represented Time Financial. “On the surface it looks like an aggressive deal, but from the sublessor’s standpoint there was almost no transaction cost other than broker’s commission they took the space in ‘as is’ condition, there was no down time and a deal that might have achieved a higher rent would have been from a tenant that would have needed more time to occupy and required more work on the space.” New Resource Available A group of commercial brokers has banded together to create an online database for Southern California real estate. The Commercial Real Estate Exchange, which began to compile the database about five months ago, unveiled the program last week. The Web site, www.c-rex.org, offers listings in every category of commercial real estate, but it is geared specifically to the local area, said Alan Kassan, executive vice president at Beitler Commercial Realty who is chairing the Commercial Real Estate Exchange committee. “Nobody covers local markets for apartments, for retail, for neighborhood industrial buildings and commercial land,” Kassan said. “All of that stuff gets lost in the shuffle.” A number of databases exist for brokers, but they operate on a national basis. Kassan, along with a group of area brokers received a grant from the Southland Regional Association of Realtors to create the database and begin to build an association for commercial real estate executives that would eventually be incorporated as a standalone entity for the community. Senior Reporter Shelly Garcia can be reached at (818) 316-3123 or by e-mail at sgarcia@sfvbj.com.

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