Douglas Emmett Realty Advisors is adding to its portfolio of top-class Westside apartment properties with purchases in Santa Monica and Brentwood.

The firm is in escrow to acquire the 532-unit Santa Monica Shores for around $95 million. The property consists of two 17-story towers and some commercial space located on Neilson Way, close to the beach.

"It's irreplaceable real estate and a fabulous location," said Tony Azzi, a Westside apartment broker and senior investment associate at Marcus & Millichap, who was not involved in the deal. "Eventually, they will make a lot of money. They'll be looking at future appreciation and long-term hold. You can get premium rents."

The property has some vacant units that can be renovated and command market rents, since "vacancy decontrol" went into effect at the beginning of the year. Azzi said two-bedroom apartments in the building will likely rent for around $2,500 a month.

The seller is Santa Monica Shore Limited Partnership, a local investment group that bought the property in 1971. Ron Pelleg, a broker with Pacific Equities Group representing the partnership, would say only that the property is in escrow, but declined further comment until the sale closes in mid-May.

In Brentwood, Douglas Emmett recently acquired an 111-unit complex at 555 Barrington Ave. It was sold by the Japanese firm Haseko for about $30 million, sources said. The 10-year-old building includes a pool and is considered by many as the most luxurious apartment house in Brentwood. Eastdil Realty represented the seller.

Douglas Emmett, the largest owner of class-A office space on the Westside, also owns about 2,000 apartment units in institutional-quality buildings, including Pacific Plaza on Ocean Boulevard, a 300-unit high-rise, and Barrington Plaza, a 712-unit complex on Wilshire Boulevard in West Los Angeles.

Doney leaves Cushman

The broker shuffle of recent months continued last week, as Todd Doney, a top-producing broker at Cushman Realty Corp., joined Insignia/ESG.

"When opportunities get extremely good, you have to look at them," Doney said. "It was a combination of many things. They made a significant commitment on their part. The Insignia/ESG brand name is so strong on the East Coast and New York, yet it's not a household name on the West Coast. I felt this was an excellent opportunity to get involved in the early stages with a world-class company in building brand recognition in the West."

Doney's hire is the latest in New York-based Insignia's expansion push in L.A. The plan is to build a brokerage operation equal in size to its operations in New York, London, Chicago and Washington, D.C. Doney joins two other top brokers who moved from Julien J. Studley late last fall, Stephen Bay and Clay Hammerstein.

Doney got into the business in 1986. He has leased and consulted on 11 million square feet for Walt Disney Co., Pacific Bell, McDonnell Douglas, Wells Fargo Bank and AT & T.; He has also represented a number of institutional owners in lease and sales deals.

Doney, who will be an executive managing director, said he will continue to work with landlords, tenants and in investment sales.

First tenant for new building

Continental Grand Plaza II in El Segundo has signed up its first tenant, Regus Business Centres, which will occupy an entire floor (40,000 square feet) under a 10-year lease.

London-based Regus is an executive-suite firm, providing fully furnished offices and secretarial support to Fortune 500 companies looking to establish satellite outlets. The space at Continental Grand Plaza will be used for this purpose, as well as a floor and a half that Regus recently leased at the newly completed Glendale Plaza office tower.

Continental Grand Plaza II is a 237,000-square-foot class-A office building being developed by Summit Commercial and Mack-Cali Realty Corp. Summit expects the building to be more than 60 percent leased by its opening in mid-June. Grafton Tanquary, John Ayoob and Bill Bloodgood of CB Richard Ellis are directing leasing.

Pasadena retailer expands

Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena plans to open a second location by August on South Lake Street.

The new store, called Vroman's Museum Collection, will be housed in a 10,000-square-foot space that used to house a Super Crown bookstore. It will be an expanded version of the museum-shop section in Vroman's Colorado Boulevard store, with design books, gift items, some furniture and artwork.

Joel Sheldon, president and majority owner of Vroman's, said he chose South Lake because "it's a good niche market" and has "a lot of potential and future to it." Forest City Development plans a retail complex across the street, surrounding the Macy's department store.

Big deal, big promotion

Stevenson Real Estate Services in Glendale had lots of news last week. David Maron joined Robert Stevenson and Tony Maniscalchi as a principal in the firm. Maron previously was with Maron Commercial Inc., and before that with CB Commercial (now called CB Richard Ellis).

And Tony and Mike Maniscalchi represented Molding Corp. of America in the purchase of a 100,000-square-foot industrial building and adjacent 37,000-square-foot parcel of land on Sheldon Street in Sun Valley for $6.1 million. John Hancock Mutual Life Mutual Life Insurance Co. was the seller.

Historic property bought

The Hertz Group purchased the historic Standard Oil Building in downtown L.A. for $4.5 million.

The building's previous owners spent $10 million for a complete renovation. The Hertz Group, which owns several historic properties in L.A., plans to lease the vacant space on the ground floor to the owners of Cicada restaurant, which is in the Hertz-owned Oviatt Building. The owners plan to create a new restaurant called the Tuscany Steakhouse, whose opening will coincide with the opening of the nearby Staples Center this fall.

Standard Oil built the 100,000-square-foot structure at the corner of Hope Street and Olympic Boulevard in 1926. The building is 96 percent occupied, mostly by architects, design and media firms.

John Alle of John Alle Co. represented the seller, Tanioka Gakuen (a Japanese non-profit education company), and Wolfgang Kupka of Vista Realty Advisors represented the buyer.

News & notes

The Abbey Co. based in Garden Grove made its fourth property purchase of the year with its acquisition of a five-story building in the City of Commerce from John Hancock for $7 million. The 66,000-square-foot building is on Eastern Avenue and is 86 percent leased, with such tenants as Bank of America and CB Richard Ellis. Kevin Shannon of the Seeley Co. represented both sides in the deal.

Media Center at Raleigh Studios Manhattan Beach, a 60,000-square-foot, class-A office building, is nearing the final phase of construction, said Mark Rosenthal, chief operating officer with Raleigh Enterprises. The new, four-story building is scheduled to open mid-year, surrounded by existing sound stages that house such shows as David E. Kelley Productions' "Ally McBeal" and "The Practice." The office building has yet to sign any tenants.

Staff Reporter Elizabeth Hayes can be reached at 323-549-5225 ext. 229.

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