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Thursday, Sep 21, 2023

Valley column

JOYZELLE DAVIS California State University, Northridge is in negotiations to develop a biotechnology campus and sound stages on 65 acres of property that the school has been trying for almost a decade to convert into revenue-generating uses. Entrepreneur Alfred Mann, owner of several biotechnical companies, has proposed building a research and development campus on 28 acres of the university’s north campus property, said Frank Wein, director of north campus development for CSUN. The planned project, which could be as large as 600,000 square feet, would serve as the new headquarters for Mann’s three Sylmar-based companies Advanced Bionics Corp., MiniMed Inc. and MRG Inc. A development agreement isn’t expected to be signed until the middle of this month, but Mann and the university are in discussions to build four two-story buildings for his biotechnology firms, as well as a 40,000-square-foot conference center that Mann would donate to the university, Wein said. CSUN is currently in negotiations with an entertainment company to build sound stages and post-production facilities on another portion of 12 to 18 acres of north campus land. Wein declined to disclose the company’s name and said those discussions lag the Mann talks by about two months. Both of the potential developments would be financed by the private-sector parties, who would sign long-term ground leases with the university. Both Mann and the entertainment company would integrate internship and work/study programs into their operations to complement the university’s curriculum, Wein said. CSUN is in the process of preparing a master environmental impact report for the entire 353-acre campus, which takes into account the two north campus proposals. The EIR also takes into account proposed physical improvements to the entire university, such as a loop road, coordinated signage to give the university a uniform idenity, and landscaping, Wein said. The full north campus plan, including details on both the Mann proposal and entertainment-related proposal, will be presented to the university’s board of trustees in May, when the EIR is expected to be complete. The university has been considering developing the north section of its campus since the late 1980s, but the one-two punch of the recession and the 1994 Northridge quake stalled all prospects until recently. Earlier this year, the university had considered a 20-acre upscale retail development but dropped that plan because market studies showed it would not be profitable, Wein said. Community groups also strongly opposed the project. Burbank shifts The 1935 N. Buena Vista St. building in Burbank, located near Empire Avenue, was recently sold to a new owner with one of the building’s two major tenants expanding and the other moving out. In late October, Lowe Enterprises Inc. purchased the 130,000-square-foot building from Warner Bros., one of the building’s major tenants. Once that sale closed, Warner Bros. negotiated a 12-year lease to occupy the entire building, according to Rick Newman, president of Lowe. Warner plans to move two or three of its divisions into the office and renovate the 41-year-old building to give it a “backlot feel” with more light and open floor space, Newman said. Meanwhile, the building’s other tenant, French computer software firm Dassault Systems S.A., just signed a lease in Woodland Hills. The firm had been searching for a new headquarters for almost a year because it wanted a “more prestigious corporate environment” than the former Lockheed industrial building, according to Duane Cody of Cushman & Wakefeld Inc. Cody and Ron Wade represented Dassault in the deal. The software firm will be leaving Burbank to take the 50,000-square-foot space at The Trillium office tower that Amwest Insurance vacated when it moved to its build-to-suit office in Calabasas last spring. Dassault signed a $12 million, 10-year lease for three floors at The Trillium. The firm chose the Warner Center building in part because it wanted better access to the high-tech labor pool that lives along the Ventura (101) Freeway corridor, Cody said. The Dassault lease means The Trillium is now 99 percent leased, according to Tom Festa of Grubb & Ellis Co., who represented the landlord in the deal along with Jim Lindvall. That will change, however, when health maintenance organization CareAmerica Health Plans leaves its 250,000 square feet of space in September to move to its built-to-suit facility in West Hills. Sold, finally After almost five years on the market, the Exxon Building in Thousand Oaks has finally been sold. Lincoln Properties purchased the 165,000-square-foot building for $16.7 million. Exxon will continue to occupy about 50,000 square feet. Lincoln plans to renovate the building to Class A status and lease out the remaining 115,000 square feet to various tenants. The building had languished on the market because Lincoln was “the first buyer to have the insight that the building could be leased out to multiple tenants,” said Tom Festa, an associate vice president at Grubb & Ellis who represented Lincoln in the sale. Once the office is renovated, it will be one of the largest blocks of contiguous Class A space in the Thousand Oaks office market, Fest said. Exxon constructed the Hillcrest Drive building as a build-to-suit for itself in 1983. Since then, the oil company has spread its operations among several other locations but never subleased its empty space. Glendale mall Phoenix-based Vestar Development Co. closed on its purchase of the eight-acre Glendale Fashion Center at the end of December. Vestar is the third ownership group in the past three years that has tried to revive the 300,000-square-foot shopping center, which was built in the 1960s and damaged in the Northridge quake. Vestar plans to demolish all the buildings on the site and build a 265,000-square-foot, two-level vertical shopping center. The project, slated to break ground in the first quarter of this year, is already 95 percent leased, according to Tim Genske and Hamo Rostamian of CB Commercial Real Estate Group, who represented the seller, Chicago-based real estate firm Balcor, in the transaction. Redevelopment plan The city of Burbank recently issued a request for proposals for another redevelopment project in its downtown district. The request was sent out to exisiting property owners and tenants at the four-acre site at the corner of Magnolia Boulevard and First Street, adjacent to the popular retail district along San Fernando Boulevard. The city would like to convert the parking lot and handful of retail and office spaces into an entertainment-retail project. The property owners and tenants which include an AMC Theatre and an Elks Club have the first right to redevelop the property. If the city does not like any of their proposals, it will extend the request to the development community at large, according to a city planning department spokesman.

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