Coming one step closer to filling in the final piece of its downtown development, Glendale's Redevelopment Agency voted 4-0 last week to enter into negotiations with Caruso Affiliated Holdings for the coveted Glendale Town Center, shutting out the other remaining candidate, J.H. Snyder Co.

The redevelopment agency, on the recommendation of the Department of Development Services, gave Caruso exclusive negotiating rights for the 15-acre infill development, which has an estimated buildout value of more than $150 million.

Tucked adjacent to the Gallerias I and II and seen as the finishing touch on downtown Glendale, the property has been the subject of numerous failed development attempts, including a plan by Galleria developer Donahue Schriber.

The redevelopment agency wants a unique mixed-use project around public space that has a distinctive Glendale identity. The mixed uses are to include ground-level retail with residential above and, potentially, a layer of office space sandwiched between. The project area is bounded by the Galleria complex on the north, Colorado Street to the south, Central Avenue to the east and Brand Boulevard to the west.

Jeanne Armstrong, Glendale's director of development services, said Snyder and Caruso were the survivors of a pool of 15 developers that had lobbied for the job. A third finalist, a partnership of Atlanta-based real estate investment trusts Post Properties Inc. and Cousins Properties Inc., dropped out of the competition in January.

Caruso Affiliated Holdings' President Rick Caruso said the next step is hammering out a development agreement and holding at least a dozen public meetings to get community input on the direction of the project.

In a four-point recommendation, the city's evaluation team explained that Caruso and Snyder were both qualified to deliver the town center, but picked Caruso because of his experience with similar projects in Calabasas, Encino and Westlake Village. The team also liked Caruso's relationship with Boston architectural firm Elkus/Manfredi Architects Ltd., which had submitted a proposal to create open space first and build the other uses around it. Caruso and Elkus/Manfredi also have teamed up for Caruso's The Grove at Farmers Market project, as well as for a 23-acre town center at the monstrous Playa Vista development in West L.A.

Multifamily residential developer Legacy Partners Residential Inc. has been tapped to design and build the residential component of the Glendale town center.

Caruso said the project will cost more than $150 million and construction could start by fall 2002. Buildout would take at least another year, he said, meaning Glendale won't see its crown jewel until late 2003 at the earliest.

Leasing Activity

Torrance-based nonprofit Harbor Regional Center has renewed and expanded its lease at Del Amo Business Plaza at 21231 and 21307 Hawthorne Blvd.

The new, $29.6 million lease will keep Harbor Regional Center at the location for the next 15 years. Harbor Regional Center is a private corporation that provides services for people with developmental disabilities.

In downtown Los Angeles, Monterrey, Mexico-based furniture and electronics retailer FAMSA signed up for 15 years at the corner of Broadway and Washington Boulevard.

Sandy Sigal, president of NewMark Merrill Cos., which owns the building at 1810 S. Broadway, said the overall lease and improvements will total $11.4 million.

The retailer has agreed to take the entire 49,000-square-foot building, which has been vacant since May 2000. NewMark Merrill began discussions with FAMSA, which had considered a handful of other downtown sites, in August.

The company has 250 stores and plans to open 14 stores around Southern California.

Investment Deals

Individual investor Mitchell Weiss has spent $5.2 million to buy 2.5 acres and the a 30,000-square-foot Office Depot store on which it sits, at Harbor Gateway Center.

Office Depot Inc. has a 15-year lease on the building, which is located at 19100 Harborgate Way in Los Angeles.

The seller is Vestar Development Co., the Phoenix-based developer that built the Harbor Gateway Center and has been selling it off in pieces. First to go was a 20-acre site bought by AutoNation USA, and a 2.5-acre parcel bought by Extended Stay America Inc.

Vestar is hanging on to portions of the Harbor Gateway Center that contain miscellaneous retail operations, according to Bill Bauman, a senior vice president with Colliers Seeley International Inc., which represented the developer in its sales. Stan McElroy of CB Richard Ellis represented Weiss.

In other sales action, Legacy Partners Commercial Inc., in partnership with ING Realty, purchased a 99,214-square-foot building in Universal City for an undisclosed price.

The partnership bought the fully leased building at 3330 Cahuenga Blvd. from the California Credit Union. The credit union will retain its 19,470-square-foot office space in the building. The building's other major tenant is Panasonic.

The deal was brokered by John Minervini of Cushman & Wakefield of California Inc.'s Los Angeles office.

Another sale, this one in West Hollywood, involved local investor Amiri Family Trust paying $1.5 million for a retail center at 7515-7533 Sunset Blvd.

The 11,957-square-foot shopping center, which is 100-percent leased, was sold by the Kojaian family on behalf of the Agopian Family Trust, also of West Hollywood.

The transaction was done through Grubb & Ellis Co.'s West L.A. office, with Tom Lagos representing the buyer and Ken McLeod representing the seller.

In development news, Sacramento-based Panatonni Development Co. has begun construction on a 101,255-square-foot building on a 4.5-acre parcel in the Valencia Commerce Center.

Including land costs, the project will cost Panatonni $6 million, according to Bryan Bowman, spokesman for CB Richard Ellis, which facilitated the land buy.

The new building on Avenue Williams in Gateway III of the Commerce Center is scheduled to open in October. Bowman said no leases have been signed. The project is designed for manufacturing and distribution uses and has 5,207 square feet of finished office space and 180 parking spaces.

Staff reporter Christopher Keough can be reached by phone at (323) 549-5225 ext. 235 or by e-mail at ckeough@labusinessjournal.com.

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