Sprawling former Toyota headquarters campus in Torrance is up for sale

Looking for an office complex with its own helipads, swimming pool, data center and emergency power?

One just hit the market in Torrance: the longtime North American headquarters of Japanese car manufacturer Toyota, which is consolidating its U.S. operations in Texas.

Toyota announced its plans to leave Torrance for Plano, a suburb of Dallas, in 2014. The departure of about 3,000 workers should be complete by the end of the year, and the company’s sprawling 110-acre campus is now officially up for grabs.

The pending loss of Toyota’s mostly white-collar jobs came as a blow to Torrance three years ago, Mayor Patrick Furey said. Soon, however, came inquiries from other companies interested in taking over the site near the 405 Freeway at Western Avenue. 

“For a time, our phone was ringing off the hook” with calls from potential buyers from the U.S. and abroad, Furey said. Among the callers were automotive companies, pharmaceutical corporations and technology firms.

He declined to identify them, but said “most involved lots of jobs and high-paying positions.”

Now that it’s officially on the market, Toyota and city officials hope the campus will be bought by a single owner-occupant, Furey said. But it might land in the hands of a developer interested in giving it a major makeover that could include substantial new construction that would draw multiple businesses as tenants or property owners.

Toyota and its real estate broker JLL won’t say how much they hope to get for the campus with about 2 million square feet of office and industrial space, but history suggests the price could surpass $150 million.

In 2006, Nissan Motor Co. sold its campus near the intersection of the 110 and 405 freeways for more than $75 million. The Nissan operation was also a configuration of offices and light industrial space, but was less than half the size of Toyota’s campus at 42 acres and 700,000 square feet of buildings.

Nissan’s property was purchased by Los Angeles developer Kearny Real Estate Co., which fixed it up and turned it into an office and manufacturing park for multiple businesses. Nissan’s old executive tower, for example, is now the U.S. headquarters of Taiwanese tire distributor Tireco Inc. A former Nissan training facility is home to electronics products manufacturer Qual-Pro Corp.

Kearny, which also turned an 86-acre former Northrop Grumman plant in Hawthorne into a business park, may try to buy the Toyota campus, partner Hoonie Kang said.

“The size of the project is intriguing,” Kang said. “We love these big complicated business projects.”

Demand for unconventional office space has been rising in Los Angeles County for the last few years, spurred by the growth of technology and entertainment firms.

Santa Monica was the first destination of choice for “Silicon Beach” tenants, but the wave of demand moved south and east into Venice, Culver City and Playa Vista. The most recent hot spot is El Segundo, home to nontraditional companies such as online media firm Internet Brands Inc. and MotoArt, which makes functional art out of used aircraft parts.

Torrance appears to be in the path of future growth by creative firms, said Petra Durnin, director of research for CBRE Group.

Toyota set up shop in Torrance in 1967, company spokesman Aaron Fowles said, about a decade after it started U.S. sales in a former Rambler dealership in Hollywood. Toyota stumbled at first, but sales ramped up in the 1960s with the introduction of the Corona and Corolla sedans. The administrative site in Torrance grew too.

Today, the property includes some automobile-specific uses such as hydrogen fueling stations, a car wash and an auto-test facility. But most of it is a self-contained environment set up to support Toyota’s corporate functions such as accounting, finance and communications.

There are 18 buildings on multiple city blocks, a data center, five diesel power generators, two helipads, two dining centers, one cafeteria, a tennis court and a fitness center with a swimming pool. It also has 8,000 parking places.

“It’s a ready-to-go corporate campus,” said property broker Jeff Adkison of JLL, who represents Toyota. “We expect the sale will happen fairly quickly.”

Toyota will employ about 4,000 workers in Plano, including 3,000 positions transferred from Torrance and an additional 1,000 from Kentucky and New York.

About two-thirds to 75% of Toyota’s workers in Torrance are expected to make the move to Texas, Toyota Motor North America President James Lentz has said. 

roger.vincent@latimes.com

Twitter: @rogervincent

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