Denver Firm to Pay $100 Million for O.C. Land : Real estate: Nation's largest owner of industrial property plans to buy and develop 144 acres at three sites.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a sign that Orange County's commercial real estate market is gaining strength, a large Denver company says it plans to buy and develop more than 140 acres here.

Security Capital Industrial Trust, the nation's largest owner of industrial property, will pay more than $100 million to purchase and develop three sites in Anaheim, Lake Forest and Foothill Ranch.

Security Capital's purchase is considered a particularly significant sign of confidence in the local commercial markets because the company plans to construct more than 1 million square feet of buildings before lining up solid tenants, real estate specialists said. This is the first time so-called speculative industrial buildings have been put up in Orange County in more than four years, brokers said.

"It's not only positive--it takes guts," said Tim Cooley, executive director of Partnership 2010, an economic development group. "There really hasn't been any 'spec' industrial building here in years."

Although the deal hasn't completely closed yet, Security Capital plans to buy 52 acres owned by Northrop Corp. at Orangethorpe Avenue near the Riverside Freeway in Anaheim for about $13 million, sources said.

Security will put up a 507,000-square-foot building on the site, one of the largest speculative efforts ever in Orange County, sources said.

"Nobody had built industrial space here for a long time, and vacancy rates are well below 5% in some cases," said Larry Harmsen, vice president of Security Capital. "If we didn't have confidence in Orange County, we wouldn't be here."

At the same site, Security also will build a 675,500-square-foot building to be occupied by RSI Home Products, which is expected to sign a 10-year lease valued at $25 million.

RSI, a La Mirada-based company that makes bathroom and kitchen cabinets and marble sink tops for large home builders, will bring about 350 workers from other areas of Orange County to the new manufacturing facility, which it expects to occupy by next June.

"We liked the location and amount of space there," said Ron Simon, RSI chief executive. "We're growing and hopefully we'll have more than 350 workers when we get there."

While downturns in the local economy and Orange County's Dec. 6 bankruptcy filing have roiled the local housing markets, the office and industrial real estate markets have showed surprising resilience, with vacancy rates falling and lease prices stabilizing.

Vacancy rates for industrial space in Orange County dropped to 11.75% for the second quarter this year, compared with 14.34% during the same quarter last year, according to Grubb & Ellis Co., a brokerage firm. In some areas of the county, vacancy rates were as low as 5% for high-quality industrial space, brokers said.

The Security Capital deals reflect a resurgence of activity in the local industrial real estate market, said Biff Smith, a broker with Collins Fuller Corp. "We have about triple the number of people out looking for new space than we did three years ago," he said. Smith and Al Segal, another Collins Fuller broker, negotiated the Anaheim deal with Security.

In addition, Security on Tuesday purchased 32 acres in Lake Forest from PacTel Corp. which will be developed into four buildings. Security is negotiating with several tenants, including some locally based light manufacturing firms for the new buildings, said Lin Stinson, a broker with Grubb & Ellis Co., which brokered the deal.

"We're worked on this deal for a year and a half all through the bankruptcy," Stinson said. "This is a true indication that south Orange County is coming back. This group doesn't make mistakes."

A Security deal to purchase 60 acres in Foothill Ranch off Portola Parkway, where it will build 11 industrial buildings, was negotiated earlier this year and should close next week. Security is in "serious negotiations" with one large tenant, a growing manufacturing company already based in Orange County, which would take up a big chunk of the Foothill Ranch space, sources said.

"There wasn't another developer that could come in with that much strength. It was a real unique and sharp play by Security Capital," said Dougall Agan, spokesman for Foothill Ranch, a major master-planned community in south Orange County.

The Denver-based real estate investment trust, which was founded in 1991, owns 55 million square feet of industrial space in 34 cities.

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New Developments Denver-based Security Capital Industrial Trust is spending $100 million to purchase and develop three Orange County sites. The combined total of 137 acres will hold 2.75 million square feet of warehouse and distribution space. Security Capital Industrial Trust Business: Real estate investment trust Headquarters: Denver Founded: 1991 Went public: 1994 Holdings: 55 million square feet in 34 cities nationwide CEO: Dane Brooksher Chief investment officer: Tom Wattles Employees: 250 1994 revenue: $71.7 million 1994 net income: $25.1 million Land Purchases Here are locations of the three parcels and their individual sizes: Anaheim: 55 acres Foothill Ranch: 60 acres Lake Forest: 32 acres Source: Security Capital Industrial; Researched by JANICE L. JONES/Los Angeles Times

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