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Leasing and sales activity is on a brisk pace in Los Angeles, with several key deals going down before and after the holidays.

Big L.A. law firm Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton renewed its commitment to downtown L.A.'s 333 S. Hope St. tower, signing a 10-year lease for just under 133,000 square feet of offices.

The new lease term commences Jan. 1, 2000 the day after the firm's existing lease expires. Sheppard Mullin will rearrange its occupancy slightly at the 55-story tower, taking floors 41, 42, 43, 47 and 48.

Downtown real estate sources estimated that the Sheppard Mullin deal including a substantial allowance for improving the offices is likely valued at more than $40 million.

Julien J. Studley Inc. negotiated for the law firm; Cushman & Wakefield Inc. for property owner Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

Late last year, the Studley firm also helped Nossamun Guther Knox & Elliott renew and expand its lease at the nearby Union Bank Plaza, 445 S. Figueroa St.

Nossamun Guther has agreed to expand from about 24,000 to just over 28,000 square feet for another 10 years with the new arrangement taking effect two years before the firm's previous lease was set to expire. CommonWealth Partners represented the 40-story tower's owner, Equitable-Nissei Figueroa Co.

Big bottle-maker headed for Montebello

Containers Northwest Corp., a major West Coast plastic bottle maker, has agreed to establish its L.A. area headquarters at a 163,679-square-foot facility in Montebello.

About 100 will be employed at the concrete tilt-up building at 2110 Yates Ave. once tenant improvements are completed.

Tumwater, Wash.-based CNC, founded in 1991 by independent Northwest U.S. Pepsi bottlers, signed a 15-year lease with the Erwin and Essie Appel Trust, the property owner.

The lease transaction is valued at more than $11 million while CNC will invest another $6 million to $8 million in additional capital improvements, according to The Seeley Co., which represented the tenant in the negotiations along with Picor Commercial Real Estate Services in Tucson. CB Commercial Real Estate Group represented the Appel trust.

CNC initially just produced bottles for carbonated soft drinks, but has diversified into stock and custom containers for a variety of industries, including bottled water, juice and other beverage markets. The company also maintains major facilities in Tracy and Tucson.

Park Place sells again

Over in Culver City's Fox Hills district, the 16-building commercial center known as Park Place has traded hands for the third time in three years.

After taking the 160,000-square-foot property back in 1994 in lieu of some $20 million in mortgage debt, Providian Life & Health sold the complex to a Canadian group headed by M.R. Investments for about $10 million in August of 1995.

Park Place was about 70 percent leased at that time. Early this month, the Canadian group sold the property now 90 percent leased to a venture between two Orange County-based real estate firms: Koll Co. affiliate KB Realty Advisors and The Muller Co.

Steve Solomon, one of the Seeley Co. brokers who has been overseeing Park Place's leasing activities and helped negotiate the sale transaction, said the new owners paid nearly $13 million for the cluster of office buildings at 6001-6095 Bristol Parkway.

Muller Co. principal Steve Muller noted that the KB/Muller venture plans to renovate the project and sell individual two-story, 1980-vintage office buildings to users or investors.

He added that the Protection One security firm, which occupies two 16,000-square-foot buildings, is Park Place's biggest current tenant.

Interestingly, it was Koll that owned the property in the late 1970s and originally envisioned the 16-parcel development.

Highridge/Summit buys Westminster Center

El Segundo-based Highridge Partners' aggressive Summit Commercial Properties division just closed the biggest of its recent opportunistic California "grocery-anchored" shopping center acquisitions.

A Summit affiliate paid seller S & P; Co. more than $50 million for the 365,000-square-foot Westminster Center at Golden West Street and Westminster Boulevard in northwest Orange County.

Along with a high-volume Lucky supermarket, anchor tenants include Home Depot, Thrifty and at 10-screen Edwards Cinemas movie house.

But Highridge Managing Partner John Long and Summit President Jack Mahoney noted that Westminster Center's one substantial vacancy was a key attraction creating a "value-enhancement" opportunity.

The center, originally completed in the mid-1960s and renovated in the early-1990s, had recently lost a 30,000-square-foot tenant, Office Max. With a more hands-on leasing and management approach, the Highridge/Summit team expects to substantially improve the center's occupancy and cash flow and of course, market value.

Bob Manarino, who is affiliated with Hopkins Real Estate Group, helped broker the Westminster Center sale.

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