VENTU/overview/28inches/1stjc/mark2nd

By WADE DANIELS

Contributing Reporter

Higher vacancy rates and lower prices in Ventura County's industrial and office real estate continued to attract companies from the San Fernando Valley in the first quarter of 1997.

The area also saw increased interest from investors.

"Investors big and small, including (Real Estate Investment Trusts) and small private investors, are coming here. We've got buyers like we've never seen before," said Mike Crocker, a partner at Camarillo's Crocker Dimeo Realty.

Santa Barbara-based Pacifica Real Estate Group is one investor active in the area, purchasing six office buildings over the past two and one half years in Westlake Village, one of them during the first quarter (a 65,000 square foot office building).

"In our opinion (Westlake Village) is one of the best markets we have seen in a long time." said David Brown, executive vice president for Pacifica. "It has a high level of interest from corporate America because executives can live in areas nearby and it is also located where it can draw from a very wide labor pool."

At about 12 percent, Ventura County's office vacancy rate is at its lowest level since 1988, said Madalyn Seyer, research director for Grubb & Ellis Co. in Sherman Oaks. The Conejo Valley (including communities such as the Thousand Oaks and Agoura Hills), which is attracting the most interest with its proximity to L.A.'s San Fernando Valley, was slightly lower at 11.3 percent vacancy.

Keifer said that investors are attracted to Ventura County by rising rental rates for office space in the county's eastern areas, including Thousand Oaks.

Industrial space in the Conejo Valley also has been scarce compared to the rest of the county, with Simi Valley and Moorpark's vacancy rates at 5.5 percent vacancy, compared to an overall rate of 7.5 percent.

Seyer stressed that the industrial market in the Conejo Valley can move in quick leaps these days because 77 percent of its 14.7 million square feet of industrial space is concentrated in four large buildings.

With the Ventura industrial market so tight, plans for speculative development projects increased in the first quarter.

"The pace of development became faster," said Bram White, an industrial real estate broker at the Camarillo office of Daum Commercial Real Estate Services.

"We had two buildings in Oxnard that were 98,000 square feet and 64,000 square feet that we leased even before they were finished, and having completed those we're commencing with a new project of 70,000 square feet and more in Moorpark," he said.

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