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HEARD ON THE BEAT / REAL ESTATE

Developer Angles to Be 1st With Office Building in '98

March 13, 1997|MELINDA FULMER

By thinking smaller, a Phoenix-based developer is hoping it can be the first out of the ground with a new Orange County office building next year.

Opus Southwest has purchased 18 acres in Foothill Ranch off Lake Forest Drive adjacent to the Foothill Transportation Corridor, where it plans to construct a 309,000-square-foot office complex. But initially, Opus plans to put up just one two-story office building of 84,000 square feet, with a price tag of about $8 million.

Unlike some other office projects that have been announced for Orange County, Opus is willing to build it whether a tenant is lined up or not. "We want to be first out of the gate," said Paul Marshall, vice president of real estate development for Opus.

Shrinking vacancies and increasing office rents are prompting the rush to build. Marshall said lower land prices made the Foothill Ranch project more economically feasible than a development near the airport or in other South County locations.

Opus officials are marketing the proposed building to service-oriented companies with an employee base in South County. Once the first building is leased, construction will begin on the rest of the project, which will consist of one to four buildings, Marshall said.

The initial building, scheduled to be completed in early 1998, will be the first Orange County development for Opus, which has built office, industrial and retail properties in the southwestern U.S. since 1979. It will also be the first multi-tenant office building in Foothill Ranch, which to this point has sold commercial land for individual corporate campuses and industrial projects.

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Melinda Fulmer covers real estate for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-7832.

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