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Irvine Land Deals Top $100M, Usher in New Plans

Nearly 30 acres along a busy stretch of Jamboree Road in Irvine have sold over the past few weeks or are expected to soon, with plans for apartment and office development expected to start on the sites.

The deals, for a trio of neighboring sites just west of the San Diego (405) Freeway, are believed to be valued at more than $100 million combined. Development there would add to a spate of construction in the area around John Wayne Airport.

San Diego-based apartment owner Garden Communities of California, in the largest of the three deals, recently closed on the purchase of a 13-acre parcel near the intersection of Campus Drive and Jamboree Road.

The land, which holds seven low-rise offices and retail buildings, including an Office Depot, is believed to have sold for nearly $75 million, or a little more than $5.7 million per acre, according to real estate sources familiar with the transaction.

Plans include razing the buildings and constructing apartments.

2 on Block

The deal is the second for Garden Communities on the same block. In mid-2013, it bought an adjoining 10-acre site off Campus Drive that is home to a five-building collection of office, retail and light manufacturing buildings. The deal was valued at about $55 million, or nearly $5.5 million an acre.

Both parcels were sold by a partnership between Irvine-based real estate investor and developer Greenlaw Partners and an affiliate of Boston-based Guggenheim Real Estate LLC. The pair paid about $72.5 million for the two sites nearly a decade ago with the goal of re-entitling 23 acres next to the Jamboree Promenade shopping center for a residential redevelopment called Irvine Technology Center.

Garden Communities has renamed the proposed multifamily project Elements and plans to start the first phase of construction this year. The site is one of the largest residential projects on the books at the Irvine Business Complex.

Plans call for 1,600 apartments with amenities including a bowling alley, rooftop swimming pool and fitness center. Elements is scheduled to open in 2017.

It is the second project in Irvine for Garden Communities, which is owned by the Wilf family, whose affiliated companies reportedly own more than 90,000 apartment units and numerous commercial properties across the country.

The family’s best-known member is Zygi Wilf, owner of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings.

The company’s other development in Irvine is taking place on the other side of the 405 Freeway on Main Street. The 9-acre Metropolis project has 457 apartments under construction.

Offices Coming?

A block from the Elements site, on the opposite side of the Jamboree Promenade center, a land deal in the works could lead to more office development.

A vacant 7.5-acre site at the intersection of Jamboree Road and Dupont Drive is said to be close to selling. Numerous sources

point to a venture featuring Dallas-based developer Trammell Crow Co. as the likely buyer.

The buyer is expected to pursue office development, although a time frame for construction is unknown. The land could hold more than 500,000 square feet of office space, based on land-use calculations for the Irvine Business Complex, according to marketing materials for the site.

Residential development isn’t allowed there due to the property’s proximity to the headquarters of Allergan Inc., whose campus is across the street. That’s likely to make the value of the land less than the $5.7 million-an-acre price in the latest Garden Communities purchase, but the site could still fetch close to $20 million, according to real estate sources.

The property is one of three parcels on Jamboree Road at the intersection of Teller Avenue and Michelson Drive that were once envisioned as California Green, a block-long office development envisioned by the local office of Houston-based developer Hines Interests LP.

The project never got off the ground in the last economic downturn, although several older industrial buildings on the block were razed about five years ago.

The one structure still standing, the former St. John Knits building at the intersection of Jamboree and Michelson, has a new owner, according to property records.

LBA Realty in Irvine closed on the purchase of the 170,466-square-foot building at 2722 Michelson in December, records show. A sale price for the building, which now is used by Obey Clothing, wasn’t disclosed.

Affiliates of New York-based insurer American International Group Inc. owned a loan tied to the property and took over ownership of it in 2011 from Hines and its partners through foreclosure.

CoStar Group Inc. records put the value of the deal at $24 million.

LBA, which owns a bulk of the Park Place mixed-use campus on the opposite corner, hasn’t disclosed its plans for the recently acquired building.

Sources said creative-office development could be a possibility for the building.

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Mark Mueller
Mark Mueller
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief of the Orange County Business Journal, one of the premier regional business newspapers in the country. He’s the fifth person to hold the editor’s position in the paper’s long history. He oversees a staff of about 15 people. The OCBJ is considered a must-read for area business executives. The print edition of the paper is the primary source of local news for most of the Business Journal’s subscribers, which includes most of OC’s major corporate and community players. Mark’s been with the paper since 2005, and long served as the real estate reporter for the paper, breaking hundreds of commercial and residential real estate stories. He took on the editor’s position in 2018.
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