L.A.'s retail market is in store for below-average vacancy rates and strong rent growth, according to a forecast from Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Brokerage Co.

Vacancy is expected to decline by 10 basis points to 4.9 percent due to strong growth in population and retail sales, and asking rents will climb to $25.26 per square foot annually, a 4 percent increase compared with 2004.

Builders are expected to add 2.2 million square feet, up slightly from 2004 but well below levels from 2000 to 2003. Mixed-use will likely be the most popular type of development in 2005, with 10 projects slated for completion for a total of 500,000 square feet.

The report indicated risk-tolerant investors may want to look in the greater downtown area, given the growing number of luxury apartments and condos.

Los Angeles slipped a notch in Marcus & Millichap's rankings of 41 retail markets to ninth place, surpassed by New York. The rankings are based on a series of 12-month forward-looking supply and demand indicators.

Peninsula Spa Gets Facelift

The Peninsula Beverly Hills is about to embark on a $5 million renovation of its spa.

As part of the project, a relaxation room and couple's treatment room will be added. Also, the gym will be moved, existing exercise machines will be replaced and the spa will expand its retail space. A fire pit will also be constructed outside the fifth floor spa near the swimming pool.

Construction is set to begin in April as part of a plan to expand the 3,600-square-foot spa by about 20 percent. Interior designer Darrell Schmitt is overseeing renovations.

Schmitt is also overseeing the redecoration of the hotel's guest rooms, villas and suites, which began last year. Besides a new color scheme and furnishings, rooms are being outfitted with flat-panel TVs and high-speed Internet access.

The Peninsula has earned the AAA Five-Diamond and Mobil Five-Star ratings for 11 consecutive years

Barn Burner

Hospitality Management Services, which owns and operates El Cholo Caf & #233; and Dona Rosa Bakery & Taqueria, both in Pasadena, has signed a deal with the E-Central Credit Union to open and operate a Texas-style barbeque restaurant called Barn Burner Barbeque at 1000 S. Fair Oaks Ave. in Pasadena.

The restaurant, slated to open by June 1, will feature smoked baby-back ribs, tri-tip steak, rib-eye, whole chickens, creamed corn, coleslaw and bread from Dona Rosa.

To develop the menu, Chef Aleccio Leon, who hails from Mexico, made several trips to Texas. Though not a partner in the business, Reid Ryan, son of Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan and a Texas native, also helped with the recipes, according to Managing Partner Blair Salisbury, who is also great-grandson of the original El Cholo founders Alejandro and Rosa Borquez.

Salisbury assembled a team of 25 individual investors, many of whom are involved with El Cholo, to fund Barn Burner Barbeque.

The restaurant, which will be two doors down from El Cholo, will occupy a roughly 5,000-square-foot building that previously housed Antique Barn. Resembling a barn, few changes will be made to the exterior of the building, which is owned by E-Central Credit Union, Salisbury said.

As for the interior, Salisbury said it would be "pretty down-home Texas," with communal seating for 350 people, an outdoor barbecue and an arcade for children.

Of Note

Sizzler USA Real Property Inc. in Sherman Oaks has sold and leased back seven California restaurant locations ranging in size from 4,445 to 6,000 square feet. CRIC Capital, a Boston-based investment firm, acquired the portfolio. The Los Angeles County restaurants included in the sale were at 7131 Van Nuys Blvd. in Van Nuys, 831 E. Manchester Blvd. in Inglewood, 2516 Colorado Blvd. in Eagle Rock and 1323 N. Highland Ave. in Hollywood. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Grubb & Ellis Co. represented the seller and buyer

IHOP Corp. in Glendale has secured development agreements for its franchisees to build 56 new restaurants over the next seven years in California, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee

The Beverly Hills Residence Inn has completed a $3.5 million renovation. Changes include updating its studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom suites. The hotel also renovated its breakfast area, exercise facility, hearthroom, guestroom corridors and lobby, adding an Express Market and cocktail bar. The South Beverly Drive hotel is owned by Sunstone Beverly Hills LLC, whose in-house design and construction department managed the renovation. The Beverly Hills Residence Inn also named Michael D'Amodio general manager, replacing Pamela Reisman. He was previously GM of Kor Group's Four Points by Sheraton in Santa Monica.

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