For months, the talk around town was that developer Rob Maguire was courting super-broker Drew Planting to head leasing efforts for the mammoth Playa Vista development.

Last week, the rumors were confirmed, and in Maguire's favor: Planting announced he would leave his post as director at Cushman & Wakefield Inc. to spearhead one of the biggest leasing jobs in the country.

Or the world, for that matter.

Planting will be responsible for marketing 3.6 million square feet of commercial space at Playa Vista, which has been mired down in financing problems and other muck since it was first announced in 1995.

A Cal Berkeley grad, the 38-year-old Planting began at Cushman after graduate school at Oxford University. He acknowledged that he's taking on a high-profile project, but as he put it, "Carpe diem." Seize the day. Planting begins work this Thursday, and he plans to hit the ground running.

"First, there are some basic issues that we must address, then we'll work on the more profound issues," he said, though he declined to elaborate.

Maguire Partners is responsible for the development and leasing of the commercial portion of the project with the exception of the DreamWorks SKG, which wants to build its studio at the site. But neither DreamWorks nor any other prospective tenants have signed on the dotted line.

Maguire said that the addition of Planting will "accelerate the hell out of" the marketing effort at Playa Vista. Maguire said 1.5 million square feet are in active negotiations and he expects to have announcements of some anchor tenants this spring.

Planting, who becomes the sixth partner at Maguire's firm, brings with him a strong record of representing entertainment and high-tech firms, the targeted tenants at Playa Vista.

"We wanted someone with the capability and record of doing big transactions," Maguire said, adding that he expects to be adding "more people on the caliber of Drew soon."

Lincoln won't stop

Just weeks after announcing its 50-acre development project at Taylor Yard and plans to build a film studio in Santa Clarita, Lincoln Property Co. isn't taking a breather.

Much of the Dallas-based company's L.A. activity as of late has been in the San Fernando Valley. The firm will close on a 128,000-square-foot building in Westlake Village this week. It also has a 20-acre industrial park in Van Nuys and a 377-acre former aerospace campus in Valencia under contract.

Most of those deals are poised to capitalize on the Valley's burgeoning entertainment industry, said Bill Shubin, a partner at Lincoln.

The Taylor Yard is located just north of downtown L.A., but Lincoln plans to market the site as an overflow area for the tight Burbank and Glendale office and industrial corridor. Lincoln plans to build a high-end industrial park, similar to the corporate centers in South Orange County, which will house ancillary services to the entertainment studios.

Shubin said Lincoln looks for properties that will meet the needs for what he sees as the three drivers of the region's economy: entertainment, freight distribution at the L.A. International Airport, and cargo shipping at the ports of L.A. and Long Beach.

Of all those markets, finding properties in the South Bay industrial market is the most problematic, Shubin said, noting that "there aren't a lot of value-enhancement opportunities there. Unlike pension fund companies that look for stable returns, privately held Lincoln looks for "value" properties, meaning that it can turn neglected buildings into cash-generators through renovations and stepped-up leasing campaigns.

Lincoln is in the midst of renovating some of its earlier purchases. It is demolishing the inside of the Exxon building in Thousand Oaks, which it bought last fall with the intention of converting it into premium office space. Lincoln also bought the former Sizzler corporate headquarters in Marina del Rey, which it is marketing as the Marina Corporate Center, and it also has two recent office purchases in Culver City that it now leasing.

Lincoln also has a 127,000-square-foot speculative air freight distribution center under construction in Hawthorne.

Then there are the pending deals. Lincoln paid about $10 million to buy the former IBM building in Westlake Village, located at 2625 Townsgate Road. The building is fully subleased by the Rocketdyne division of Boeing Co.

Later this month, Lincoln will close on its Van Nuys industrial, which consists of 255,000 square feet of existing buildings and enough excess land to build several more. The property, which is across from the Anheuser Busch brewery, is about 80 percent leased to ITT. Lincoln plans to renovate and expand the project, Shubin said.

Lincoln's most ambitious L.A. project to date is in Valencia, where it plans to turn the former Lockheed Martin Corp. facility into a possible film studio. About 420,000 square feet of clear-space hangars, plus a commissary, sit on the site. Shubin is showing the site to several major studios to gauge their interest in striking a joint-venture development deal or long-term lease for a studio project.

Although Shubin thinks that the site would make a great studio, he said Lincoln will develop the land into an industrial park if no studios are interested. Lincoln plans to close on its $24 million purchase this spring.

New digs

Oaktree Capital Management LLC just signed a 10-year, 75,000-square-foot lease at the Wells Fargo Center in downtown. The pension fund advisory firm is relocating from 550 S. Hope and more than doubling its space. Oaktree will move into the 27th through 29th floors in the north tower of the Grand Avenue office by the end of the year, according to Tony Morales, vice president of leasing at Maguire Partners. Steve Bay, senior vice president at Julien J. Studley Inc., was the lead tenant broker and Clay Hammerstein assisted.

Westward ho

Arden Realty Inc. will no longer be known as the Beverly Hills-based REIT. The firm is heading further west on Wilshire Boulevard, relocating to the World Savings Center in Brentwood. Arden plans to move into the 18,000-square-foot fourth floor in mid-April. The fast-growing REIT is almost doubling its space from its current home at 9100 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills. Arden owns both buildings.

Arden is setting aside a bit of extra office space to continue expanding its operations. It just got a $677 million infusion from a successful secondary offering earlier this month, which the REIT plans to use to close its acquisition this Monday (March 2) of the 5.2 million-square-foot LBA office and R & D;/industrial portfolio.

Joyzelle Davis covers the real estate industry for the Los Angeles Business Journal.

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