One of Japan’s largest construction companies has purchased a 20-acre site in an industrial area of Torrance, the latest in a wave of Japanese investment there that has totaled hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years.
Shimizu Land Corp. bought the Reynolds Metals Co. property east of Crenshaw Boulevard and north of Dominguez Street for about $14 million in a transaction completed May 5.
The company, a subsidiary of multibillion-dollar Shimizu Construction Co. of Tokyo, announced plans for a $40-million business park but has not decided whether to move its U.S. headquarters to the South Bay’s largest city.
Torrance, strategically located between Los Angeles International Airport and the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, has become the U.S. headquarters for major Japanese companies including Toyota, Honda and Epson America Inc.
Shimizu, based in downtown Los Angeles, plans to build 400,000 square feet of offices on the vacant land, where maintenance yards for the old Pacific Electric Co. streetcar system once stood.
In addition to the Shimizu project, a group of Japanese investors and an American partner are planning to build a six- to eight-story, 200- to 300-room hotel in the Torrance Center project, part of Torrance’s east-side redevelopment area.
The hotel project on Western Avenue at 213th Street will involve an investment of about $30 million, said Allan Mackenzie, partner in Gascon-Mar Ltd., a San Diego-based development company.
To the north, American Honda Motor Co. has begun work on a five-story adminis tration building, the centerpiece of a $225-million U.S. headquarters complex.
Honda plans to build 1.2 million square feet of offices, including the administration building, a computer center, service building, warehouses, research and development complex, and regional center, said Torrance planner Mike Bihn.
The Honda project is being built on 101 acres, including 26 acres purchased from the Torrance Redevelopment Agency.
Symbolic of the change in the South Bay economy, the Japanese auto maker’s American headquarters is rising on the site of a former U.S. Steel plant.
$150 Million Toyota Investment
Farther north, on Western Avenue at 190th Street, is the U.S. headquarters for Toyota Motor Corp. The Toyota complex, which houses the sales, service and distribution arm of the Japanese auto maker, consists of five buildings on 41 acres. The project represented an investment of $150 million when construction began in 1982.
Elsewhere in Torrance, the steel skeleton for the U.S. headquarters of Epson is rising on 10 acres immediately north of the Torrance Civic Center.
The project, which Epson executives estimated two years ago would cost $30 million, involves construction of four low-rise buildings at Madrona Avenue and Civic Center Drive.
Epson, which manufactures personal computers and computer printers, is building the complex in partnership with Shimizu.
Torrance City Councilman George Nakano said Torrance’s location is an important factor in the decision of Japanese companies to locate their headquarters in the city.
“Toyota and Honda have moved in and gotten a foothold (in Torrance) and word has gotten back to Japan that this is a very desirable place,” Nakano said. “It seems like it kind of snowballs.”
Councilman Bill Applegate, who owns a commercial real estate company, said Torrance is well-known in Japan and the Far East. “Torrance is viewed by the Pacific Rim companies and investors as a very safe, a very clean, and a very accepted place to conduct your business,” Applegate said.
He said the presence of good housing for employees and executive homes on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, along with Japanese schools, stores and restaurants, have helped make Torrance a comfortable place for Japanese companies.
But the Shimizu project caught city officials off guard.
Torrance Planning Director David Ferren said city planners were shown only a very sketchy plan for the office project last week. A formal application for approval of the office complex has not been submitted.
Paul D. Bonevac, general manager of Reynolds Metals Co. property development group in Richmond, Va., said the land was sold because it was surplus property.
The sale will not affect operation of the Reynolds Metals’ aluminum can production plant in Torrance, he said.
Environmentally Clean Site
Before the transaction was completed, some soil on the property was removed to an approved landfill because it was contaminated with toxic materials. “The site was environmentally clean when we sold it,” Bonevac said.
Toxic pollution has affected some other Torrance projects on old industrial properties, including Honda’s development on the former U.S. Steel site.
Torrance planner Bihn said Honda will install vapor barriers to prevent underground methane gas fumes from entering Honda’s buildings. A special vapor extraction system will be constructed to remove solvent vapors from soil on part of the sprawling property.
Efforts have not begun to remove gasoline that has polluted ground water beneath the Honda property. State water quality officials believe the fuel leaked from storage tanks at the nearby Mobil Oil Corp. refinery.