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2 High-Tech Campuses Are Going Up in East County

Business: The parks are being built in Thousand Oaks on former aerospace sites. Experts see it as a major development in the 101 corridor.


THOUSAND OAKS — Two business parks under development on former aerospace plant sites in Thousand Oaks are strong indicators that Ventura County is achieving critical mass as a high-tech destination, economic experts say.

Conejo Spectrum, the larger of the two projects, is under construction on 100 acres. Part rehabilitation, part new construction, the project will add 1 million square feet of industrial and office space needed in a city running out of such real estate.

The second project, the Arbors, will be built on about 18 acres in a heavily landscaped office park overlooking the Ventura Freeway. Work there should get underway within 12 months.

Developers behind the business parks, Investment Development Services of Los Angeles at the Spectrum and Hileman Co. at the Arbors, have secured three high-tech tenants.

Business and design offices for Newport Beach-based Conexant Systems Inc., one of the largest semiconductor manufacturers for the communications market, will anchor the Arbors. Xylan Corp. of Calabasas, which makes switching systems for computer networks and is owned by French telecommunications equipment maker Alcatel, will expand operations to the Conejo Spectrum. Thousand Oaks-based mobile networking company Xircom Inc., which has outgrown its original space, will move to larger quarters at the Spectrum.

Between the two parks, space should remain for more than a dozen other high-tech or biotech companies that want to lease or buy existing or build-to-suit offices.

"It's a big deal," said Rohit Shukla, president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Regional Technology Alliance. The group tracks the growth of high-tech businesses along the 101 corridor--the Ventura Freeway in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. "This is the first big campus on the 101 since the technology explosion, beginning in 1996.

"Many of us said at the time, this [area] is going to become 'Telecom Central' for Southern California," Shukla said. But with industrial space drying up in Thousand Oaks, along the eastern edge of Ventura County, he said the area had risked turning off the industry.

Officials in Thousand Oaks and Camarillo estimate a combined 750 high-tech companies--dozens of them large companies--have headquarters or branches between the two cities. In Camarillo, two business parks geared to high-tech tenants are currently under construction.

The two Thousand Oaks projects should let high-tech companies outside the area know the county is indeed still open for business, Shukla said, and should also help retain companies that are here now but are outgrowing their current spaces.

With Conexant, Xylan and Xircom, "It's an important signal that they're going to grow and that they plan to commit to that area," Shukla said. "It's becoming a concentrated hub."

The Spectrum project is going up at what was once a Northrop Grumman Corp. plant, a site vacant for about 15 years.

David Mgrublian, managing director of Investment Development Services, said site cleanup and economic recession kept buyers away early on. Even after the economy picked up, buying the parcel might have been risky if not for the strength of the local high-tech sector, he said. His company's initial costs were $50 million and Mgrublian estimates that figure will grow to $200 million by the time the project is complete.

"You had a lot of Fortune 500 [companies] based in the Conejo Valley, but they weren't growing that much," he said. "Without the growth in the technology firms I don't think this project would have been viable."

Randy Holliday, general counsel for Xircom, said the construction "signals a lot of optimism for the growth of this type of business and tenant. We're delighted to see that optimism, and we're glad to be a contributor to that."

The Arbors is being developed at a former Teledyne Electronics facility. Estimated total cost is $40 million. Conexant, which had begun rehabilitating one of the four buildings at the site before Hileman Co. purchased it, moved in about three months ago and will remain there during construction of the rest of the park.

Conexant executives anticipate leasing space in at least one of the three additional buildings that will go up at the campus.

Nick Gregg, a broker representing the developer, said Hileman meanwhile is considering buying adjacent land to expand the project.

Terry Pope, executive director of Conexant's Thousand Oaks operations, said the Arbors was a great relief to the company. As Conexant has grown, it has spread to six sites throughout the city but can now start consolidating. And Conexant's local factory is a stone's throw from the Arbors.

"It gives us a walk-able campus, an area where the factory, the designers, the businesspeople . . . are at a distance where you don't have to get into your car.

"I always have mixed feelings about high-tech growing here, because that means competition for our people," Pope said. "But McDonald's usually does better when Taco Bell is next door."

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