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ONTARIO, CA-CIP Real Estate of Irvine bought a 178,000-sf office building called Empire Towers I at 3633 Inland Empire Blvd. in Ontario from Lord Baltimore Capital Corp. of Baltimore, Md. that broker Phil Woodford of CB Richard Ellis says is the largest office sale ever in the Inland Empire.

Woodford, who represented both parties in the transaction, would not disclose the purchase price for the property. But knowledgeable sources pegged it at $25 million, which they said was clearly the largest price ever paid for a single building in the Inland Empire, which includes Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

The nine-story, class A office tower is on 8.2 acres within the Ontario Center, an office and retail project, and is 94% occupied by tenants that include Verizon, Liberty Mutual Insurance, GMAC, Mitsubishi Cement Corporation and City National Bank.

Built in 1991, it is the largest office building in the Inland Empire, Woodford says. It is one of three buildings totaling 322,000 sf at the site. The other two are still owned by Lord Baltimore.

“The buyer got a good price and has some upside on rent rollovers because some of the leases are below market,” Woodford tells GlobeSt.com. He describes the 16 million-sf Inland Empire office market as “the strongest in Southern California,” with a vacancy rate of about 10.8%.

“This will probably be the biggest year ever for office sales (in the Inland Empire), both in numbers of deals and total dollars,” Woodford tells GlobeSt.com. What’s driving the deals is “the perceived value” that investors see in Inland Empire buildings because of the lower vacancy rates and higher cap rates here compared with neighboring Orange and Los Angeles counties.

CIP is an investor and manager of commercial properties that has joint venture relationships with a number of institutional and private equity partners.

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