Office parks in the Irvine Spectrum have become the go-to location for back-to-school sales of a real estate variety over the past few years.
Orange County universities have spent nearly $100 million since 2009 buying and renovating offices in the Spectrum, using the buildings as auxiliary campuses, administrative offices, and in some cases, sources of rental income.
The schools’ purchases in the area, taken as a whole, would make them the second-largest investor in Spectrum-area office properties over that time, trailing only Newport Beach-based Irvine Company.
The latest addition to the buyers’ club: California State University, Fullerton, which this month closed on the $30.5 million purchase of the two-building Banting Corporate Center in Irvine.
The school had been leasing a portion of the offices at the center since 2011 for a branch campus.
Cal State Fullerton will continue to occupy one of the buildings at the 140,000-square-foot center, and it will expand into the other building as existing tenants’ leases expire over the next five years.
The Irvine purchase “reconfirms our commitment to South Orange County,” Cal State Fullerton President Mildred García said in a statement.
The school has operated a separate campus since 1989 to serve students living or working in Central and South OC.
The buildings purchase is part of a trend of local nonprofit schools looking to own instead of rent facilities, said Jeff Woolf, a senior vice president for the Los Angeles office of CBRE Group Inc. who heads the brokerage’s Private Sector Colleges & Universities Education Practice Group.
“They want to control their own destiny,” Woolf said. “If they’ve got the money, they will spend it.”
CSUF financed the Banting Corporate Center buy with systemwide bonds. The school said it expects to pay off the debt with rental income from tenants in the buildings.
Chapman University in Orange is another large school that has been shopping in the Spectrum lately.
It paid a reported $20 million last September to buy Jeronimo Technology Park, a two-building office park in the Spectrum at the intersection of Alton Parkway and Jeronimo Road.
The school is converting the buildings, which total about 166,000 square feet, into a campus for its new graduate health sciences program and expects to spend about $24 million in renovations before the buildings open next year.
It will rename Jeronimo Technology Park to Chapman University Health Sciences Campus, which will house classrooms, offices and lab space for graduate students enrolled in physical therapy courses at the Crean School of Health and Life Sciences at Chapman’s Schmid College of Science and Technology.