In one of the highest prices paid per square foot for land in Santa Monica, NMS Properties Inc. has purchased Santa Monica Studios for $27 million and plans to build a mixed-use development there.

The purchase price for the 3.3-acre site on Olympic Boulevard breaks down to $189 per square foot of land and $359 per square foot of building. The deal closed March 26.

The parcel, which includes multiple addresses on Olympic Boulevard and other streets, is just west of Centinela Avenue and is bounded by Nebraska Avenue to the north. It was sold by Molasky Pacific, a Las Vegas company.

The property includes eight one-story buildings that house entertainment industry companies and artists and a portion of the campus of the private New Roads School. All tenants have two years or less remaining on their leases, said Lyn Fields of Madison Partners, who represented both sides of the deal.

"The big key to this piece is there aren't any large pieces of land left for development around, plus you've got the Olympic Boulevard exposure," Fields said.

NMS, a Westwood apartment developer, plans to entitle the property for a mixed-use development that would include a residential component and some commercial space, said NMS President Neil Shekhter.

"I always search for properties in Santa Monica. I think it's a great rental market, from young people to the elderly. It's a great place to live, work, and shop. It's the best area of Los Angeles," Shekhter said.

Current tenants could go on month-to-month leases after their long term leases expire as Shekhter determines the timetable for development of the property. He expects the entitlement process will take two to four years.

Randall Reel, a senior vice president at Molasky Pacific, said that his company assembled the parcel in 2004 but it no longer fits into his firm's development plan. "I think we created some value by creating the single ownership of the whole thing," he said.

New Roads School, which spans elementary through high school grades, had expressed interest in buying the parcel but did not move forward with the purchase, Reel said. The school did not return calls seeking comment.

Bob Safai of Madison Partners also represented both sides of the deal.

Downtown Move

Architecture firm NBBJ is moving to downtown Los Angeles from its Westside offices.

The Seattle-based global firm, which designed Staples Center, has signed a seven-year lease for 8,892 square feet of space in the Pacific Center, located at 523 W. Sixth St. The lease is valued in excess of $1.6 million.

Like several other West L.A. businesses to announce a downtown move in recent weeks, including Century City law firm Foley & Lardner LLP, NBBJ is moving to what it calls a revitalized downtown.

"We had a lot of debate about it," said Jonathan Ward, a partner at NBBJ. "We decided there are a lot of interesting things happening downtown with L.A. Live and the housing boom and there is an amazing stock of buildings downtown that is going to be developed. We wanted to be in the middle of that."

Ward said his firm will move into its new space in June on the third floor of the Pacific Center, which was built in 1921 as the headquarters of the Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Co. The move represents an expansion for the firm, which has had offices in Marina del Rey and Westwood since 1998.

Lisa St. John, managing director at Jones Lang LaSalle Inc., said that downtown is still a "value opportunity" when compared to West L.A., which has a much tighter office market.

"We ultimately chose downtown because they found a building they liked," said St. John, who represented NBBJ in the deal. "They didn't just want a plain vanilla building; they wanted something with some architectural interest."

Jones Lang LaSalle's Jim Walker also represented the architecture firm and building owner Alliance Commercial Partners LLC was represented by Rich Grande and Gibran Begum of Cushman & Wakefield Inc.

Staff reporter Daniel Miller can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 263, or .

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