Another void left by the decline of the aerospace industry is a big step closer to being filled.

The Burbank City Council recently gave its final approval to a project proposed by Zelman Development Co., which is expected to soon close escrow on a 103-acre site in Burbank owned by Lockheed Martin Corp. The property is bordered by Buena Vista Street, Empire Avenue, Victory Place and Victory Boulevard.

Zelman plans to break ground on a massive retail and office complex called the Burbank Empire Center by early November.

No comparable development site in size or location exists in Burbank, where office space is in high demand.

As planned, the retail component will total 750,000 square feet and include major tenants like Target and Costco, each taking up about 150,000 square feet. Lowe's Home Improvement will occupy another 135,000 square feet.

The retail project will also feature three restaurants: Home Town Buffet, Roadhouse Grill, and TGI Friday's. Other tenants will include a Sears Great Indoors store.

The office space will be housed in four or five low-rise buildings in a campus setting, with roughly 500,000 square feet at final buildout, said Paul Stockwell, corporate managing director for Julien J. Studley Inc.

The pace of leasing activity will determine how quickly the office buildings go up.

Bill Boyd, a broker with Grubb & Ellis Co. who operates in the Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena areas, said the market should quickly gobble up the space.

"Every project in Burbank and in the Tri-Cities market has started construction without any pre-leasing," Boyd said. "The need for office space in Burbank has been critical for years. Vacancy continues to remain under 5 percent for existing office space."

The site was previously used by Lockheed to build commercial and military aircraft from the 1920s until it shuttered its operations in 1991, setting the stage for years of environmental cleanup and lengthy reviews.

Bullish on Burbank

Robert Flaxman of Crown Realty & Development said the strong Burbank commercial real estate market has his firm looking to make more buys there.

Since 1998, the company has bought up seven parcels on San Fernando Road totaling 30 acres near downtown. About a third of that has been developed, including the conversion of an industrial building for the West Coast headquarters of Black Entertainment Television, as well as a shopping center anchored by a Ralphs supermarket.

"We're going to continue to buy property as it becomes available on South San Fernando Road," Flaxman said. "We believe long-term in the Burbank market."


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