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Owner of BP Plaza Shortens List of Bidders for Property

Owner of BP Plaza Shortens List of Bidders for Property

Real Estate

by Danny King

Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., owner of the 1.4 million square foot BP Plaza, has narrowed the list of bidders for the property.

As of last week, the original list of 17 bidders for the 55-story building at 333 S. Hope St. had been cut to fewer than 10. It has been on the market for three months.

“The short list only includes people whose original offer was $255 million or more,” said one source familiar with the process. The source expects the property to sell between $260 million and $270 million, adding, “They want to pick a buyer by the end of this month.”

Among the bidders to make the cut were JP Morgan Real Estate Investment Fund, Maguire Partners and Thomas Properties Group, according to sources familiar with the process.

MetLife officials would not comment and the property’s listing brokers, Cushman & Wakefield Inc.’s David Hasbrook and Richard Plummer, did not return calls.

Other bidders include Equity Office Properties and McCarthy Cook & Co., the sources said.

“We have made an offer,” said Tony Morales, partner with Maguire Partners. “We continue to believe downtown will remain strong and will be a coveted environment because of the restrictions on building high-rise properties there.”

Officials from JP Morgan, which owns Century Plaza Towers and Santa Monica’s Water Garden and is being represented by Trammell Crow Co., would not comment. But one source speculated that the company could benefit from Trammell Crow’s recent hiring of ex-Cushman managing director Bradley Cox, who has an extensive relationship dealing with MetLife.

A new owner is likely to invest between $5 million and $10 million in cosmetic improvements to the lobby and common areas of the 27-year-old building. “It’s not like Arco Plaza, where it’s been under-managed,” said a source. “MetLife has never been stupid about letting buildings get under-maintained.”

As MetLife prepares the property for sale, it has signed law firm Thelen Reid & Priest LLP to a 12-year, 56,000-square-foot lease. The deal, which will take the firm out of its 53,000-square-foot offices at Wells Fargo Tower North and into the 29th and 30th floors at BP in December, is worth more than $20 million.

“They liked the (Wells Fargo) building,” said Stephen Walbridge, executive vice president at Lincoln Property Co., who, with CRESA Partners’ Kathy Porter, represented the tenant. “But they wanted a new space and it was impractical to redo the existing offices.”

The deal completes a swap of law offices. Thelen Reid will take space vacated by Dewey Ballantine LLP, which moved to the Wells Fargo Tower North building, at 333 S. Grand Ave., last year.

Thelen Reid had looked at a number of downtown buildings for replacement space for its 20-plus-year-old offices, but settled on BP Plaza due to its Bunker Hill locale and a tenant improvement allowance Walbridge termed “significant.”

Cushman & Wakefield’s John McAniff represented MetLife on the lease deal.

Loft Ambitions

Downtown Long Beach’s 475,000-square-foot CityPlace project has its first residential developer in place. Long Beach-based Urban Pacific Partners LLC bought two Elm Street parcels totaling 1.5 acres for $2 million, and will be developing 72 for-sale loft units on the sites. Urban Pacific will break ground on the lofts, which will range from 1,100 to 3,000 square feet and will sell for between $250,000 and $450,000.

The loft development will be the third to be built either at or within a block of CityPlace, which is being developed on the site of the old Long Beach Plaza shopping center. Borg Development Corp. is expected to finish a 39-unit project in the old Walker Building at 4th Street and Pine Avenue during the third quarter of the year, while New Urban West Inc. will begin redeveloping the old Masonic Temple site at 8th and Locust streets into 80 lofts later this year.

“We expect to sell these at a very brisk pace,” said Scott Choppin, co-managing partner at Urban Pacific. “If you look at the pace of the Walker units, they sold all of their units in six to seven months, so we expect to have a similar sales rate.”

Urban Pacific will also be the lead developer in CityPlace’s other two residential components, a 221-unit luxury apartment complex on which it will close next month, and an undisclosed third development.

Roland Chavez and Lisa Whang of O’Donnell/Atkins Co. represented both the buyer and the seller, Developers Diversified Realty, on the deal.

Small Victory

Brentwood-based Lowe Enterprises Inc. beat out eight nationally recognized developers to receive the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties’ (NAIOP) Developer of the Year award for 2002.

“We’re very honored to get the award,” said Michael Lowe, vice president at Lowe Enterprises, who credited the company’s recent work on projects like Palm Desert’s The Reserve residential community and Howard Hughes Center (it served as development and construction manager for the 815,000 square feet of office buildings at the Arden Realty Group-owned project) for the accolade.

Past winners of the award, which has been given out by the Herndon, Va.-based NAIOP since 1979, include Irvine Co., Koll Co. and Trammell Crow Co.

Industry Industry

One West L.A. investment group has headed east to begin its buying spree of industrial properties.

Rexford Industrial LLC purchased two buildings in City of Industry totaling 177,000 square feet for $8 million. The deal was the first step in Rexford’s plan to buy $200 million of industrial property throughout Southern California over the next two years.

“They’re slightly older buildings in an ‘A’ location, so they’re probably not the target of institutional investors,” said Trammell Crow Co. Principal Phil Lombardo, who, with Trammell Crow’s Rick Putnam and Jeff Cole, represented both the buyer and the seller, Lend Lease Real Estate Investments, on the deal. The buildings, at 1100 and 1115 John Reed Court, are more than 20 years old.

Staff reporter Danny King can be reached at (323) 549-5225 ext. 230, or at

dking@labusinessjournal.com.

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