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It took nearly a decade to assemble the site, navigate entitlement gauntlets, complete development plans, and secure tenant and financial commitments, but developers Bob Flaxman and Jamie Sohacheski finally have their Venice Crossroads retail center under way.

The local economy hit its peak and its valley since 1988, when Sohacheski purchased the landmark Globe A-1 pasta factory property at the busy intersection of Venice and Culver boulevards near the Los Angeles/Culver City border.

But now that the Westside is rebounding, the 155,000-square-foot project on a 6.5-acre triangular site is already 85 percent preleased.

Anchors include a 52,500-square-foot Lucky supermarket, a 36,000-square-foot Office Max/Tri Max (office supply, office furniture, copy center combo) and an 18,000-square-foot Sav-On drug store. Those anchors will be joined by Starbucks, Hollywood Video, a Togos sandwich shop and possibly a Micro Center computer superstore and a Noah’s bagel shop.

The Office Max is slated to be open by early April, with the Lucky and Sav-On to follow by September.

The well-known Armstrong Home & Garden Place now in the 40-year-old Globe A-1 building after recently moving from its Pico location is liquidating its inventory and won’t be a part of Venice Crossroads’ future.

Flaxman, who became a partner with Sohacheski’s Beverly Hills- and Newport Beach-based Crown Realty & Development Inc. in 1989, said the Venice Crossroads project has been an enlightening but occasionally frustrating experience.

“It took four years just to convince the six other property owners to sell” the balance of the project site, he explained.

Flaxman added that a substantial amount of materials recycled from several older industrial and retail structures that once occupied the property will be used in the new project.

“We’re recycling just about everything we can wood, concrete, metal,” he continued, adding that the Office Max and Sav-On stores will occupy the bulk of the to-be-renovated Globe A-1 building that the Armstrong nursery is now in the process of vacating.

The Crown Realty team including lead designer Janek Tabencki Dombrowa of JTD Architects worked closely with Los Angeles and Culver City planning officials to get the plans approved, Flaxman said. L.A. Councilman Nate Holden’s chief deputy, Louis White, has been especially supportive, Flaxman added.

One key feature that helped satisfy planners is the traffic signal the developers are installing at the intersection of Venice and Culver boulevards. In fact, traffic coming northeast on Culver which ends at Venice will be able to proceed through the new stoplight right into Venice Crossroads’ main entrance.

Now that the project is under construction, the timing couldn’t be better, Flaxman said. The nearby downtown Culver City district’s main thoroughfares have been revitalized, thousands are employed at the growing Sony Pictures Entertainment complex, and Culver City’s more-industrial-oriented Hayden Tract district is undergoing something of a renaissance.

Besides all that, “the area is under-serviced” as far as retail facilities are concerned, Flaxman noted.

Bank of America is providing construction financing for the $30 million project by Crown Realty, a “low-key” development firm that has completed more than 1.5 million square feet of Southern California office space, as well as “power” retail centers in Chico, Calif. and Phoenix.

Watson roll continues

Another indication that the local economy is heating up is the soaring amount of industrial leasing and sales activity.

Particularly hot have been Watson Land Co.’s holdings in the old Dominguez Ranch district.

Since mid-December, Watson has completed leases totaling nearly 800,000 square feet of space with six different tenants. Nearly all the newly leased space is within the 400-acre Watson Industrial Center South in Carson.

The biggest deal involved Kelsey-Hayes, an auto parts maker and distributor, which took more than 200,000 square feet of distribution space under a $4.7 million, five-year lease. Watman Commercial & Industrial Properties represented Kelsey-Hayes in the lease negotiations.

Another deal involved NEC Logistics, which is expanding into another 175,000 square feet of warehouse space. Terms of that transaction weren’t disclosed.

Watson also leased 157,000 square feet of distribution space on a short-term basis to trucking company California Cartage, which was represented by The Klabin Co.

Distribution company Mitsui-Soko (USA) Inc. leased 106,000 square feet under an 18-month deal valued at about $750,000. Grubb & Ellis Co. was the tenant’s broker in that transaction.

Solar panel manufacturer Solec International Inc. leased 82,275 square feet under a 10-year transaction valued at approximately $4.7 million. Solec’s tenant rep was Capital Commercial Real Estate.

And garment distributor FMI International Corp. signed a five-year, $1.7 million lease for 64,000 square feet of distribution space. Klabin was the tenant rep in that deal as well.

On top of all that, Watson leased an 11.1-acre site on Sepulveda Boulevard for five years to Total Intermodal Services, which will use the property as a container and chassis storage and repair facility. That ground-lease transaction is valued at about $2.4 million.

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