Contributing Reporter

Higher vacancy rates and lower prices in Ventura County’s industrial and office real estate continued to attract companies from the San Fernando Valley in the first quarter of 1997.

The area also saw increased interest from investors.

“Investors big and small, including (Real Estate Investment Trusts) and small private investors, are coming here. We’ve got buyers like we’ve never seen before,” said Mike Crocker, a partner at Camarillo’s Crocker Dimeo Realty.

Santa Barbara-based Pacifica Real Estate Group is one investor active in the area, purchasing six office buildings over the past two and one half years in Westlake Village, one of them during the first quarter (a 65,000 square foot office building).

“In our opinion (Westlake Village) is one of the best markets we have seen in a long time.” said David Brown, executive vice president for Pacifica. “It has a high level of interest from corporate America because executives can live in areas nearby and it is also located where it can draw from a very wide labor pool.”

At about 12 percent, Ventura County’s office vacancy rate is at its lowest level since 1988, said Madalyn Seyer, research director for Grubb & Ellis Co. in Sherman Oaks. The Conejo Valley (including communities such as the Thousand Oaks and Agoura Hills), which is attracting the most interest with its proximity to L.A.’s San Fernando Valley, was slightly lower at 11.3 percent vacancy.

Keifer said that investors are attracted to Ventura County by rising rental rates for office space in the county’s eastern areas, including Thousand Oaks.

Industrial space in the Conejo Valley also has been scarce compared to the rest of the county, with Simi Valley and Moorpark’s vacancy rates at 5.5 percent vacancy, compared to an overall rate of 7.5 percent.

Seyer stressed that the industrial market in the Conejo Valley can move in quick leaps these days because 77 percent of its 14.7 million square feet of industrial space is concentrated in four large buildings.

With the Ventura industrial market so tight, plans for speculative development projects increased in the first quarter.

“The pace of development became faster,” said Bram White, an industrial real estate broker at the Camarillo office of Daum Commercial Real Estate Services.

“We had two buildings in Oxnard that were 98,000 square feet and 64,000 square feet that we leased even before they were finished, and having completed those we’re commencing with a new project of 70,000 square feet and more in Moorpark,” he said.

Even with the rising demand for industrial space, White said he has seen industrial prices remain stable.

Daum has been representing development firms and investors in the process of designing and steering construction projects through the approval process, and there have been results.

In the first quarter, the City of Moorpark approved two separate projects to be developed (on speculation) by West America Construction Corp. of Beverly Hills. Pending final permits, one development will include four buildings totaling about 35,000 square feet built on a new street named after the development, called Endeavor Court.

The other will have a 71,000 square foot building and two smaller ones, bringing the total square footage to about 130,000 square feet.

Daum similarly represented Goldrich and Kest Cos. of Culver City in their development of the Channel Islands Business Center in Oxnard. During the first quarter, the companies received permission from the City of Oxnard to go ahead with 11 new buildings totaling 170,794 square feet of industrial space.

Oxnard and Camarillo have seen a great deal of retail growth in recent years, with development of Channel Islands and warehouse grocery outlets like the Price Club and the Target Center along Highway 101.

Market studies have shown that up to a third of the business enjoyed by those businesses comes from shoppers who make the trip from the Santa Barbara area, according to an area real estate consultant. This is largely because development in Santa Barbara has been at a crawl for almost a decade.

This source of shopping dollars could be under threat with the first quarter approval of a 500,000 square foot Camino Real Marketplace shopping center in Goleta, a few miles away from the city of Santa Barbara.

Major Events:

– Ground was broken in Moorpark for a 150,000 square foot industrial build-to-suit for SDI Special Services, a company which manufactures ignition mechanisms for car airbags. Crocker Dimeo Realty in Camarillo was the broker.

– Bungee International Manufacturing Inc., maker of bungee cords, leased 64,000 square feet of industrial space in Oxnard. Daum Commercial Real Estate Services in Camarillo was the broker.

– The City of Oxnard approved the construction of 11 new industrial buildings in the Channel Islands Business Center, owned by Goldrich and Kest Cos. of Culver City. The facilities will be built on speculation.

– Central Purchasing Inc., which sells and distributes construction tools and equipment, signed a lease for 98,000 square feet of industrial space in Oxnard. Daum Commercial Real Estate Services in Camarillo was the broker.

– The City of Moorpark approved two industrial projects proposed by the Beverly Hills developer West America Construction Corp. Final permits are pending for the projects, one of which would encompass 35,000 square feet in 4 buildings and the other 130,000 square feet in three buildings.

– Pacifica Real Estate Group of Santa Barbara bought a 65,000 square foot office building in Westlake Village. The broker was CB Commercial.

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