In the largest lease deal in Los Angeles County so far this year, Western Asset Management Co. has decided to stay at its downtown Pasadena headquarters.

The investment management firm signed an early renewal at 385 E. Colorado Blvd. for roughly 180,000 square feet with landlord WAR Partners LLC, sources told the Business Journal.

The deal is a reduction from the 194,000 square feet Western Asset had grown to occupy since moving into the 257,000-square-foot building when it was built in 2003.

The length and value of the new deal are not clear. However, the original lease was slated to expire in 2014 and the company was paying a base rent of about $4.6 million a year, according to filings of its parent, Legg Mason Inc.

Western Asset, ranked No. 2 on the Business Journal’s list of money management firms last year with assets of more than $176 billion, had been searching for new space in downtown Los Angeles last year. But, it ultimately decided to stay at its Pasadena property, where it has building-top signage and is next to the Paseo Colorado shopping center.

Bill Boyd, senior managing director of the Glendale office at Charles Dunn Co., said Western Asset’s decision to stay put will be a boost to the city after it lost law firm Christy Parker & Hale LLP to Glendale last year.

“It shows Pasadena can maintain significant tenancies,” Boyd said. “The market was watching to see what Western Asset would do and sure enough the building was competitive enough to allow the tenant to stay.”

Doug Marlow, executive vice president of CBRE Group Inc., represented Western Asset. Worthe Real Estate Group’s Phil Lindholm represented the landlord. Neither returned calls for comment.

Hot Rods

The Marina del Rey warehouse where Carroll Shelby built his famous Cobra racing cars traded hands last month – and, in a sign of the times, will be converted into creative offices.

Raymond E & Lynn Weston Trust of Los Angeles bought the 12,500-square-foot building at 1042 Princeton Drive for $3 million from the Guez Family Partnership in Santa Monica. Weston also bought a neighboring 22,500-square-foot warehouse and office building at 1038-1040 Princeton Drive for $3.5 million in January from Laguna Hills investor Jim Prause. Both sold at market rate.

The buyer plans to turn the properties, vacant for several years, into a creative office campus for tech and entertainment firms flocking to the lower Westside area.

In the early 1960s, Shelby used the space for his Shelby-American headquarters, where he built the Cobras, the model that in 1965 became the first U.S.-manufactured car to beat a Ferrari in a championship race. He eventually moved his growing business into larger space near Los Angeles International Airport.

The buyer is renovating the larger building at 1038 Princeton and expects to have it ready for occupancy this summer. An Internet toy sales company is negotiating a short-term lease at the smaller building at 1042 Princeton, which would be renovated in the future.

Lee & Associates West Los Angeles broker James Wilson represented the buyer; colleague Patrick Ayau represented the sellers.

South L.A. Sales

After more than four years in escrow, a developer finally closed a $3.5 million deal this month to buy five South L.A. buildings.

Preservation Partners Management Group Inc., a Torrance low-income affordable-housing developer, had been working since 2008 to buy four apartment properties from PI Properties, an Arcadia investment company that owned them for at least a decade.

But as the economy bottomed out, the only way Preservation Partners said it believed it could make the deal pencil out was to entitle and purchase a fifth nearby property, a vacant retail space owned by a private owner named Allison Anderson. That stretched out the length of the deal, and the original investor backed out. The buyer since secured investment from Union Bank, which contributed $2.6 million in equity financing.

Preservation Partners intends to redevelop the vacant retail building at 10339 Western Ave. and the apartment property at 10311-10333 S. Western into 63 affordable residences. The other buildings, at 1100 S. Berendo St., 3909 Denker Ave. and 5311 Ruthelen St., will be updated affordable residences with a total of 60 units.

The company intends to spend about $65,000 per unit. The Los Angeles Housing Department has provided a $2 million loan for the construction.

“At the end of the day, what’s most important is preserving affordable housing for residents,” said Preservation Partners Chief Financial Officer Jon LaLanne.

Brent Sprenkle of Hendricks & Partners Inc. and Tim Steuernol of NAI Capital represented Preservation Partners. Ramu Sunkara and Kanna Sunkara of Sunkara Investments Inc. represented PI. Barbara Calhoun of the Service Co. Realty Group represented Anderson.

Staff reporter Jacquelyn Ryan can be reached at jryan@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 228.

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