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Southern California Gas agrees to stay in Gas Co. Tower in downtown L.A.

Gas utility will remain in its signature building for the next 15 years. Real estate industry analysts had been watching to see whether it would bail out on troubled landlord MPG Office Trust.

July 08, 2010|By Roger Vincent, Los Angeles Times
  • The tower's tapered blue-glass crown is intended to evoke the image of a gas flame.
The tower's tapered blue-glass crown is intended to evoke the image… (MPG Office Trust )

Suspense over whether the Gas Co. Tower in downtown Los Angeles will remain the headquarters of Southern California Gas Co. is over: The big utility is staying put in its signature tower for the next 15 years.

Real estate industry analysts had been watching to see whether the gas company would bail out on troubled landlord MPG Office Trust Inc., formerly Maguire Properties Inc., and move its offices elsewhere.

Southern California Gas said Wednesday that it would keep its more than 1,300 employees in 350,000 square feet in the building at 555 W. Fifth St., where it has been the anchor tenant since the tower was completed in 1991. The 50-story skyscraper was designed by Pasadena architect Richard Keating with the gas company in mind — its tapered blue-glass crown is intended to evoke the image of a gas flame.

Terms of the agreement weren't released, but MPG's average asking rent rate in the tower is almost $38 a square foot per year, according to real estate brokerage Cushman & Wakefield. For such a large space, however, the gas company will presumably pay a lower rate.

"We are extremely pleased with the renewal of this highly valued tenant," MPG President Nelson Rising said. "Southern California Gas Co. was the original tenant, and we are delighted they have elected to remain with us."

MPG reported a first-quarter profit in May, linked largely to the forgiveness of a $49.1-million debt it was unable to pay. The company is burdened with heavy debt, most of which it picked up in an aggressive expansion during the real estate boom of the mid-2000s.

The company has been laboring to reduce debt but has been battered by falling occupancy and rents during the economic downturn. The loss of a major tenant such as Southern California Gas would have been considered a sharp reversal for MPG.

Shares of MPG rose 20 cents, or 7.8%, to $2.75 on Wednesday.

roger.vincent@latimes.com

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