Upscale Roy’s Restaurant Plans Woodland Hills Location REAL ESTATE By Shelly Garcia It may not be the biggest real estate story of the year, but it’s likely to stir up just as much excitement. Roy’s restaurant has just inked a deal to open the first of four Los Angeles area eateries in Woodland Hills. Roy’s, a posh and pricey dining spot, is well known both to those who have vacationed in Hawaii and those who follow the celebrity chef circuit. Its founder and chef Roy Yamaguchi, who appears nationally on PBS, has won a mouthful of awards including mention in Conde Nast Traveler’s Top 50 restaurants. He’s also been featured in “My Country, My Kitchen,” a TV Food Network program, and he has published two cookbooks. Yamaguchi actually began his career in Los Angeles, worked at Michael’s in Santa Monica, and for a time in 1984 operated his own restaurant here, 385 North, before opening his first Roy’s in Honolulu in 1988. Roy’s Hawaiian fusion cuisine, featuring such dishes as Hawaiian Style Misoyaki Butterfish (miso seared butterfish with Chinese five spice butter sauce) and Roy’s Classic Roasted Macadamia Nut Mahi Mahi, is now served at 30 restaurants in some 21 states, but the company’s inroads in Southern California so far have been limited to the Orange County, San Diego and Palm Springs areas. Thanks to some additional investment capital from Outback Steakhouse Inc., which has financial partnerships with several restaurants, Roy’s is now expanding in the Los Angeles area. The company inked a deal for about 7,000 square feet at 6355 Topanga Canyon, said Brian Forster of TOLD Partners, who represented the landlords, Topanga & Victory; Partners LP and TOIBB Enterprises. The 10-year lease is valued at $2 million. Roy’s was represented by Irwin Hyman of NAI Capital Commercial. “We think Woodland Hills is a terrific market,” said Mark Running, Roy’s president. “We believe the Valley knows us already. You have a lot of people who do weekends in the desert and have experienced Roy’s there. The demographics are strong in the Valley.” The restaurant will seat about 200 including patio seating. Forster, who is himself a big fan “It’ll be the best thing to hit Woodland Hills,” he said said the company looked both in the Conejo and the West Valley area before deciding on the location.” “They were thinking of going to Conejo Valley,” Forster said. “But people in the Valley don’t want to drive to Westlake Village. People in Westlake Village will drive to the Valley.” Roy’s, which will open late in the third quarter of the year or early in the fourth quarter, is open for dinner only. The tab averages about $45 per person. Company officials said they have been scouring the area for all four locations, and the Woodland Hills deal was the first one to close. They are close to signing a lease in Pasadena and hope to complete deals on the West side (perhaps Beverly Hills or Santa Monica) and South Bay soon. The company is also considering a downtown L.A. location. Vacancies, Rents Down The first quarter real estate market numbers are out, and there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that vacancy rates for greater San Fernando Valley office space are continuing to decline and absorption is back in positive territory. The bad news is landlords are paying a price to keep it that way. Rental rates for the first quarter of the year dipped to an average of $2.02 per square foot, down by a penny or two from the fourth quarter last year, according to the just-released data from Cushman & Wakefield. “The drop in the rates may be a reaction to the weak leasing figures of year-end 2003, as landlords use lower rates in an attempt to attract new tenants and ignite more activity,” the report said. Overall, the region’s vacancy rate was 12.5 percent for the quarter, the report revealed. Conejo Valley continued to be among the toughest submarkets, with Thousand Oaks registering a 13.1 percent vacancy rate with negative absorption 156,320 more square feet were vacated than were leased in the period. In Agoura Hills, where the vacancy rate was 23.5 percent, absorption remained in positive territory, just barely, at 14,598 square feet. Among the strongest office markets, Sherman Oaks posted a 9.2 percent vacancy rate with positive absorption of 31,584 square feet. A CB Richard Ellis report also released last week showed the overall vacancy for the greater Valley area at 10.8 percent. CB uses a building count of 232 while Cushman & Wakefield’s report surveys 360. Big Box Deal Developers of the former theater site at Van Nuys Boulevard and Millbank Avenue in Sherman Oaks struck a deal that will put a big box store on the property. Best Buy Co. Inc. will be constructing a 56,000-square-foot store on the property, the former site of AMC Theatres, which closed down last year. The store, which will contain about 45,000 square feet of usable space, will be constructed on two stories, one street level and one below street level, said Ira Handelman, a land use, government and community relations consultant who is working with the developers. Handelman said the project is in full compliance with the Ventura Boulevard Specific Plan, which governs the property, and requires no variances to move forward. The retailer will also build a parking structure, with two levels above ground and one below ground. Meetings have already begun with city officials and the community, which had initially expressed a great deal of concern over the idea of a big box development. Handelman said he expects to win the community’s support. “We designed the project to respect the Sherman Oaks community and to do that we set out to comply completely with the Ventura Boulevard Specific Plan,” he said. Senior reporter Shelly Garcia can be reached at (818) 316-3123 or by e-mail at email@example.com.