ORANGE, CA-WCB Properties of Newport Beach has acquired the 397,000-sf Union Bank Square office project in partnership with the US real estate business of UBS Global Asset Management. Terry Thompson, vice president of acquisitions for WCB, tells that the new owners plan $4 million in upgrades in a value-added play at the office project.

WCB’s renovations and repositioning will be mainly designed to improve the overall appearance and create a more contemporary feel to the four-building project, Thompson says. The property was one of the first multiple-building office developments in Orange County when it was built from 1962 to 1967.

“Some of the lobbies are a bit dated, and we would like to create a more consistent look from building to building, but the project is in very good shape and has been well maintained,” Thompson says. WCB acquired the property from the Irvine-based Colton Co., which had owned it since 2000, in a deal that was brokered by Robert Smith of the Newport Beach office of CB Richard Ellis.

Thompson tells that WCB sees upside in raising rents to market when leases roll over. In-place rents at the project, which is 95% occupied, are below current market rates, the WCB vice president points out.

In addition to the upgrades that WCB plans, Thompson says, the property benefits from its location at the corner of Main Street and La Veta Avenue in Orange, close to the Main Place Mall. The property is in the middle of an area where developers are investing in a host of office and residential projects that will complement each other as well as the Union Bank property.

The Union Bank Square project features two 12-story towers, one six-story building and a single-story building. Its tenant roster features some of Orange County’s most prominent companies, including St. Joseph’s Health Care Systems, Western Dental, Union Bank and OCTA.

WCB was one of multiple bidders vying for the Union Bank Square property, and Thompson tells that one reason the Newport Beach-based firm won the bidding is that it does well in competing for properties that present a more complicated challenge to tap their value-added potential. He explains that upgrading the Union Bank property, for example, involves “a long list of what needs to be done.”

The nature of the property required a buyer who could recognize what needs to be done and who would be willing to invest the necessary funds in the upgrades, Thompson explains. WCB’s repositioning will be completed under the direction of WCB Properties Asset Management, with PM Realty Group assisting with implementing the WCB capital investment and operational strategy.

Mark Friend and Andy White of CB Richard Ellis will handle the team’s market repositioning and leasing strategy. The Union Bank project now becomes part of a WCB portfolio that includes more than one million sf of properties that it has acquired for more than $230 million over the past 18 months in Orange County.

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