Toyota Campus: Real estate firm Sares Regis plans to redevelop the 2 million square feet of office and industrial land in Torrance.

Toyota Campus: Real estate firm Sares Regis plans to redevelop the 2 million square feet of office and industrial land in Torrance. Photo by JLL/Jeff Atkison

Sares-Regis Group Inc. is starting to take the wraps off its plans to redevelop Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.’s former North American headquarters in Torrance.

The Irvine-based commercial real estate developer and investor paid a reported $270 million in October for the sprawling – and now largely vacant – 117-acre campus alongside the 405 Freeway in the heart of the South Bay.

The deal was one of the largest commercial property transactions seen in Southern California last year, and gives Sares-Regis one of the larger chunks of developable property in the region.

Toyota put the property up for sale after announcing in 2014 that it would move its U.S. headquarters to Plano, Texas from Torrance. The Tokyo-based automaker had run its U.S. operations from Torrance since the late 1960s.

The move was completed last year.

The property Sares-Regis bought has a mix of about 20 older offices and industrial buildings totaling close to 2 million square feet, plus excess land.

A redevelopment had been anticipated since the sale, though no specifics were announced at the time of last year’s transaction.

Among other uses, the site has been pitched as a potential L.A.-area home to Amazon.com Inc. for its second headquarters search, a multicity competition that continues.

Sares-Regis executives have said that the campus, when ultimately redeveloped, could hold upwards of 4,000 employees.

Roughly 3,000 Toyota workers had been working at the site prior to the Plano relocation.

Douglas Park echoes

Industrial product, not an Amazon office, is the first piece of development at the site, according to Larry Lukanish, senior vice president of Sares-Regis’ commercial division.

A three-building industrial development totaling nearly 450,000 square feet will break ground this summer, Lukanish told the Orange County Business Journal last month at the company’s headquarters.

The project will be the intersection of Van Ness Avenue and Toyota Way, on a parcel of land Toyota used for excess parking.

The three buildings will include a small amount of high-end offices alongside core warehouse and distribution space, and should look much like the product the company developed at its Douglas Park development in Long Beach, also along the 405 freeway.

The Douglas Park buildings have been snapped up by a variety of area businesses to serve as their headquarters and main distribution and manufacturing facilities.

Sares-Regis has overseen development of much of the 220-acre Douglas Park project since buying the land from Boeing Co. in a series of transactions starting in 2011.

The rest of the development has yet to be planned and will “move forward as the market dictates,” according to Sares-Regis.

Office sales

The pipeline for industrial development in Torrance appears to be limited to one project totaling about 500,000 square feet, which was in the works at the start of the year, according to area brokerage data.

Torrance has a base of about 25 million square feet worth of industrial space, and the market is tight, like much of the rest of the region. The vacancy rate in Torrance was under 2 percent at the end of the first quarter, according to local brokerage data.

“It’s a great industrial neighborhood,” Lukanish said.

The developer hasn’t selected a brokerage team to market the planned industrial buildings, which will take nine months or so to construct and be available for lease, Lukanish said last month.

“We plan to keep these as a long-term hold,” he said.

Two of the largest office buildings on the campus aren’t part of Sares-Regis’ long-term plans.

An eight-story building previously used by Toyota as its main office, as well as a smaller office called Gramercy Plaza are on the sales block and will likely sell this summer.

A multi-acre site that sits alongside the 405 Freeway at Western Avenue that could hold a retail development is also being marketed for sale.

A large parts and distribution center in the middle of massive campus was not sold as part of the 2017 transaction, and is now the only building there largely used by Toyota. The company’s name has been scrubbed off of its other former properties at the campus.

Mark Mueller is a staff reporter for the Orange County Business Journal.

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