BBCN Bank to set up offices at Wilshire Colonnade

The largest Korean American bank in the country will soon be ensconced in a Wilshire Boulevard office complex built decades ago by of one of Southern California's most storied financial institutions.

BBCN Bank, formed in a November merger between Nara Bank and Center Bank, will make its headquarters in Wilshire Colonnade. The marble-clad complex at 3731 Wilshire Blvd. — built in the early 1970s by H.F. Ahmanson & Co., parent company of Home Savings & Loan Assn. — was formerly known as Ahmanson Center.

BBCN Bank's lease extends the former Nara's existing lease for 44,000 square feet and adds 18,400 square feet for expansion to accommodate the merged staff of Center Bank, said real estate broker Norman Y. Lee of Studley Inc.

Terms of the 10-year deal were not disclosed, but landlord Wilshire Colonnade Corp. is asking for $2 per square foot a month, according to real estate data provider CoStar Group.

The Wilshire Colonnade complex consists of two 11-story office buildings flanking a public plaza that housed Ahmanson's headquarters when Home Savings was one of the country's largest savings and loan associations.

Ahmanson imported nearly 2,000 tons of white travertine marble from Italy to clad the buildings and 2,000 cubic feet of white Pentelic marble from Greece — the same as was used in the Parthenon — for the 86 arches in the ground level colonnade.

Home Savings bank branches were also imposing. Clad in light marble and adorned with a mosaic mural and a gilded shield, they were among the most easily recognizable commercial buildings in Southern California.

Ahmanson was acquired by Washington Mutual in 1998. In 2008, JPMorgan Chase & Co. bought WaMu, and some former Ahmanson branches are now Chase banks.

Prologis is building speculative warehouse

With industrial property occupancy tightening in the South Bay, construction is underway on a speculative distribution center in Torrance.

The warehouse on 14 acres at 20000 S. Western Ave. is being developed by Prologis Inc. of San Francisco. It will have 272,245 square feet of space intended to serve tenants conducting business through Los Angeles International Airport or the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Since the last economic downturn, there has been little construction in the region of buildings on speculation — meaning developers have no tenants lined up before starting work. The South Bay has a relatively tight market, however, with industrial vacancy at 5%.

That's down slightly from a year ago, said property broker Frank Schulz of Klabin Co./Corfac International, and about 800,000 square feet of new warehouse space is under construction there. Klabin is looking for a tenant for Prologis' Western Avenue project.

Prologis is one of the largest industrial real estate landlords in the world, controlling 600 million square feet of distribution facilities on four continents.

Industrial leases show a rebound

New industrial real estate leases signed in 2011 returned to levels not seen since before the recession of 2008-09, according to year-end statistics for the nation's industrial market compiled by a real estate brokerage.

More than 306 million square feet of new leases were completed last year, up 14% from 2010 and the highest level of activity since 2007, Cushman & Wakefield said.

Of the 33 U.S. industrial markets tracked by the brokerage, 22 reported an increase in new leasing activity, with Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth, northern and central New Jersey, Houston and California's Inland Empire among the markets with the most significant increases.

"While there is still concern that global economic uncertainty may erode some of the progress made in the U.S. industrial market, we're increasingly confident that we are at the beginning of a sustained recovery that will gain momentum over the next 12 to 24 months," said Jim Dieter, head of industrial brokerage operations in the U.S. for Cushman & Wakefield.

roger.vincent@latimes.com

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