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Platinum Triangle Preps for 2nd Act of Development

The development of the Platinum Triangle area in Anaheim is entering its second decade, and the 820-acre swath of land around Angel Stadium remains poised to be a hub of apartment construction.

For the first time in years, there’s also talk of other types of private developments, thanks to an improving housing market and economic climate, and the high-profile Artic transportation facility that opened in the Platinum Triangle last month, drawing expectations of more attention to the area.

As “the economy continues to improve, we will see the vision of the Platinum Triangle fully realized,” Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said this month.

One real estate executive still sold on the original vision of the area is Rich Knowland, managing director for Newport Beach-based developer Brooks Street.

Knowland previously ran the Orange County operations of Miami-based Lennar Corp., which in 2004 and 2005 was one of the largest buyers of land in the former industrial area surrounding the city’s baseball stadium.

The builder and its venture partners, including one-time sister company LNR Property Corp., reportedly invested about $270 million assembling land and doing early work for a pair of mixed-use properties in the area.

The projects, along with several other ambitious condo and mixed-use projects, never got off the ground in the last downturn, and other for-sale condo projects were downscaled or converted to apartments.

Over the past 10 years, only one for-sale condo project has taken place as initially planned: La Jolla-based Windstar Communities LLC’s Stadium Lofts, a 390-unit project that broke ground in early 2005 at the intersection of State College Boulevard and Katella Avenue.

A second for-sale project could soon proceed.

LT Commercial

Knowland is now working with another investor, Hong Kong-based LT Commercial Real Estate Ltd., and recent comments from the Chinese developer suggest that for-sale residential and commercial projects are in the works.

LT Commercial in November closed on the purchase of a roughly 12.5-acre former industrial site at the northeast corner of State College Boulevard and East Orangewood Avenue across East Orangewood from Angel Stadium.

The land traded hands for just under $28.4 million, or nearly $2.3 million per acre, according to regulatory filings in Hong Kong, where the buyer’s stock is traded.

The site, which last changed owners in 2006 for a reported $55 million, was sold by an affiliate of Miami-based LNR Property.

LT Commercial said in regulatory filings that it plans to “develop the land into residential properties and commercial properties for sale” in what will be the company’s flagship project in the U.S.

The project is “close to the original vision of the Platinum Triangle,” Knowland said following the deal’s completion. He said Brooks Street is working with LT Commercial and the city on finalizing plans for the site.

The land was originally expected to hold 878 units for sale under the name A-Town Stadium, a combination of high-rise condo towers and midrise townhouses. The last housing downturn put the plans on hold.

LNR took over full ownership of the site from Lennar about two years ago and began re-entitling it for a less-dense development of 525 brownstone-type apartment buildings.

LT Commercial’s plans, which should be filed with the city shortly, are expected to include more residences than LNR planned, in addition to commercial uses.

New Life for Office?

Less than 40,000 square feet of new retail and office development has taken place in the Platinum Triangle over the past decade, according to city records.

Developers initially envisioned several office towers for the area but abandoned those projects during the downturn. They’re now revisiting the potential for office space in the area but looking at refurbishing existing buildings rather than starting from scratch.

One of the county’s largest creative-office redevelopment projects is planned this year at the Anaheim Corporate Office Plaza about a block from the A-Town Stadium site on Orangewood Avenue.

The five-building business park next to the Santa Ana River is getting a nearly $10 million makeover this year that will turn the nearly 30-year-old buildings at the campus into high-end creative space called Axis. The buildings total about 300,000 square feet.

The redevelopment will add a variety of open floor plans, high ceilings, indoor and outdoor meeting areas, and other contemporary features meant to appeal to tech, apparel, media and other tenants seeking less traditional offices.

Also part of the makeover is an upscale brewery, restaurant or sports bar at the entrance of the park to cater to fans going to Angel Stadium.

The campus is owned by Southfield, Mich.-based Seligman & Associates Inc., and the redevelopment is being managed by the Santa Ana office of Lincoln Properties.

Ground-up office development in the area is also possible in the near term, but only if developers are willing to bet that rents will increase enough during the two to three years of a project’s construction to justify the costs of the new buildings, said JLL Senior Managing Director Louis Tomaselli.

“The rents aren’t there right now,” Tomaselli said.

Big A for Apartments

Apartment construction still represents the bulk of new activity for the Platinum Triangle, despite signs of life for commercial construction and for-sale residential development.

Nearly 2,000 apartments have opened in the area over the past eight years. The primarily podium-style projects in the three- to four-story range have made the area the epicenter of apartment development in North County over that time.

That doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon. An additional 1,500 or so apartments are under construction or expected to break ground in about the next year, according to Anaheim city documents and developer announcements.

“I still believe that multifamily represents the highest and best use (for the area), even with the tremendous amount of product already there,” said Tomaselli, who brokered many of the land deals in the Platinum Triangle a decade ago.

The area is Orange County’s second-busiest market for apartment development, trailing only the Irvine Business Complex, another former commercial area where a slew of apartment complexes are being built (see related storty, page 26).

The latest Anaheim project to be announced: Jefferson Platinum Triangle, a 400-unit apartment complex that will go up near the intersection of Katella Avenue and South State College Boulevard.

Irving, Texas-based JPI/TDI Cos. recently paid a reported $24 million to buy the 7.6-acre site for the project, which was previously expected to be the future phases of BRE Properties Inc.’s 320-unit Park Viridian apartment project next-door.

JPI/TDI said it expected its project to cost $119 million to build, or less than $300,000 per unit. Construction began this month.

Representatives of the developer cited the project’s proximity to the recently opened Artic transit station and a new guided streetcar system slated to open in 2018 as reasons for their optimism in the development.

The $184 million Artic station, also known as the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center, opened in December to much fanfare.

The 67,000-square-foot center, largely paid for by the voter-approved Measure M sales tax, offers “transit, dining, retail and entertainment options” in one location.

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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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