Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group has chosen Pasadena for the first U.S. branch of its movie licensing and distribution arm, Alibaba Pictures.

Alibaba Group, one of the most valuable tech companies in the world, signed a lease for the top floor of the newly constructed Playhouse Plaza in Pasadena. It is taking 22,000 square feet at the five-story, 155,000-square-foot Class A office building at 680 E. Colorado Blvd.

Sources say the 10-year lease is valued at just over $10 million.

That comes out to about $3.80 a foot a month – a high rent to pay considering that only one employee works in the space, at least for now. More will follow.

Alibaba’s L.A. movie effort is in its early stages, and the lone Pasadena employee will focus on making contacts in Hollywood that will help the firm license and distribute American content, said Bob Christie, Alibaba’s vice president of international media relations.

“At this point, it’s all relationship building,” he said.

The $75 million Playhouse Plaza was developed by downtown L.A. IDS Real Estate Group and was designed to appeal to tech and finance companies, said Todd Doney of downtown’s CBRE Group Inc., who represented IDS in the lease transaction. The building was completed in April.

Other tenants at the property include San Francisco co-working company Epic Spaces, which leases 9,500 square feet, and San Francisco investment firm Charles Schwab, which leases 9,300 square feet.

Doney and Steve Nelson of CBRE represented IDS along with IDS’ internal brokers Dave Saeta and Rob Fuelling.

Christie said Alibaba was attracted to Pasadena, in part, because of its proximity to major Chinese enclaves like Monterey Park and the San Gabriel Valley.

Alibaba raised $25 billion in its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange last year and has a market cap of more than $200 billion. The firm has 250 employees in the United States and 35,000 worldwide.

Cal State DTLA

Cal State Los Angeles is opening a campus in downtown Los Angeles.

The 24,000-student university signed a 10-year lease late last month for 21,000 square feet at 801 S. Grand Ave. in the Financial District.

Monthly asking rent at the 207,000-square-foot Class A office building, owned by Hollywood developer CIM Group, is about $2.67 a square foot, according to CoStar Group Inc. That figure values the university’s lease at about $6.7 million.

The building is 85 percent leased by tenants that include Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles and the headquarters of financial services firm Finance One.

The university’s new campus, which will offer undergraduate, graduate, professional development and certificate programs, will open in 2016.

It sits in an area undergoing a residential development boom, with thousands of apartments under construction or in the pipeline. Eighth & Grand, a 700-unit apartment complex at 770 S. Grand, anchored by a Whole Foods, is across the street from the new campus.

“We will bring the resources of Cal State L.A. to students downtown, where they work and live,” said university President William A. Covino.

The 175-acre main campus of Cal State Los Angeles is four miles east of downtown, at 5151 State University Drive in University Hills.

Lisa St. John and Peter Best of L.A. Realty Partners as well as John McAniff and Tim Miller of Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.’s downtown office represented CIM in the lease deal. Will Adams at CBRE represented Cal State Los Angeles.

Real Shorts

Verifi, an electronic payments firm, has cut a deal with Equity Office Properties Trust to expand its presence at 5670 Wilshire Blvd. on the Miracle Mile. The firm will gain visibility at the 445,000-square-foot Class A office building, which serves as its headquarters, expanding from 22,000 square feet on lower floors to 29,000 square feet on the top two floors. The company also will receive signage on the building’s façade. The five-year deal is worth roughly $7 million, according to industry sources. Andrew McDonald of Cushman & Wakefield represented the landlord in the lease negotiations. Seth Wellisch of Cresa Los Angeles represented Verifi. … JumpStart, which makes learning games for kids, has signed a sublease with LivingSocial and will move its headquarters to the Pacific Center in Torrance. It will take 19,000 square feet at the 300,000-square-foot Class A office building at 21250 Hawthorne Blvd. Verifi chose a new location within the same city because the economics and quality of space were too good to refuse, said Dave Toomey of Cresa Los Angeles, who represented JumpStart in the back deal. Brian Davies and Grant La Spada of Cresa also represented JumpStart. Eric Adams of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank represented LivingSocial. LivingSocial announced last year that it was closing its Torrance facility entirely, laying off 400 employees and reducing its total workforce by roughly 20 percent.

Staff reporter Hannah Miet can be reached at or (323) 549-5225, ext. 228.

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