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[IMGCAP(1)]FREMONT, CA-For the year, (going on two years), the global economic downturn has continued to force the decline of investment activity in commercial real estate markets due to the inability of investors to obtain financing. In this situation, very few large-scale transactions have been about to be completed. However, for a slim portion of investors able to close all-cash transactions, there have been some exceptional opportunities. In December 2008, a 500,000-square-foot building on 30 acres, held by a company eager to dispose of it, presented such an opportunity. The story below is told by guest columnist Peter Castleton, a senior vice president at Voit Real Estate Services’ Anaheim, CA office, along with Eric Fox, an SVP at CPS in Santa Clara.

“When Hewlett-Packard put its 500,000-square-foot property back on the market, an all-cash investor, Gardena, CA-based Overton Moore Properties, capitalized on the opportunity. The half-million square-foot property situated on 30 acres, located at 901 Page Ave. in Fremont, offered a quality investment opportunity. OMP purchased the property with the assistance of Voit Real Estate Services and Commercial Property Services. This was the largest single tenant industrial building to be sold in Northern California in 2008. This building is also the largest overall property to be sold in the Silicon Valley, since the same property sold in 2000.

[IMGCAP(2)]The relationship that made the sale possible began more than 13 years ago, when Voit Real Estate Services became a member of the CORFAC International alliance. Through this alliance, Peter Castleton of Voit Real Estate Services established a close business relationship with Eric Fox at CPS when the two firms partnered in 2007 to represent both the buyer and the seller in the $36.4 million sale of Coronado One, a two-story office complex in Santa Clara, CA.

Following the success of this partnership, Voit Real Estate Services introduced its client, OMP, to CPS. OMP was in the market for a large-scale property in Northern California and CPS was able to provide assistance and specialization in this particular market. Voit had a well-established relationship with OMP, which began when Voit represented the company in the acquisition of a 212,000-square-foot building in Compton, CA. Voit and CPS toured numerous submarkets with OMP, including Santa Clara, Fremont, San Jose and Sunnyvale, identifying specific asset classes OMP was interested in acquiring.

When Voit and CPS showed OMP the Hewlett-Packard property, which had been placed on the market early in 2008, the investor was attracted to the building due to the sheer size of the asset and relatively low asking price.

[IMGCAP(3)]The 506,490 square-foot single-story industrial building is situated on 29.89 acres of land in Fremont, California, in the North East portion of the Silicon Valley. The sheer size of the property accounted for approximately five-percent of the total space in the Fremont warehouse market. The building was originally constructed and occupied by Xerox Corporation in 1982. Subsequently acquired by Compaq Computers in 2000, it was then retained by Hewlett-Packard as a part of its acquisition of Compaq Computers in 2001. Hewlett-Packard had originally attempted to sell the property once in 2002 and then again two months prior to OMP’s purchase. It was only when the second of these attempts fell out of escrow that OMP was given the option to acquire the property.

For many prospective buyers, this more than 500,000 square-foot building would not have been a viable investment. Hewlett-Packard’s lease at the property was due to expire within a year, which made its imminent vacancy a daunting prospect for would-be investors. This concern was further compounded by the state of the market, which at the time of the sale was already beginning to rapidly decline. As the market dipped and credit seized up, the number of investors with the means to acquire a property of this size also depreciated. Even those with the available cash to do so were apprehensive to invest a large amount on a single property while the market continued to dip.

However for OMP, this building presented an exceptional investment opportunity for two reasons. Firstly, because the property was built to serve an owner/user rather than a tenant, it was equipped with high-end amenities not found at other similar properties in the area. Among these high-end amenities was a vast power source provided by a 21kVA utility service and an extensively distributed air conditioning system. The property was also situated on a colossal land parcel located within an industrial zone. The combination of these great amenities and the ability to build on the adjacent land parcel for future development opportunities made this property ideally suited to future development, which could renovate the asset for a relatively low cost and provide OMP with a maximum return.

The second factor that attracted OMP to the property was the niche it occupied in the market. There was and still is a lack of large, quality warehouse product in the Silicon Valley. There are only a few warehouse properties, larger than 300,000 square feet that exist in the entire Bay Area. Furthermore, there is no planned development to introduce additional similar product in the region. Therefore, after some minor cosmetic enhancement, the property could be returned to the market for lease to capitalize on the growing demand by tenants in warehouse properties seeking additional space or consolidation under one roof.

Voit Real Estate Services and CPS assisted OMP in the acquisition of the building in December of 2008 in an all-cash transaction. Due to the declining financial market, Voit and CPS were able to negotiate a competitive price on the property by leveraging the buyer’s ability to purchase the building in cash. The tightening of the credit market would have made obtaining a loan on a property of this size nearly impossible.

The purchase price was a fraction of the property’s estimated $67 million replacement value and an extremely solid investment for OMP. The determined partnership between the three firms secured the acquisition at a price well below the property’s value, in a market with pent-up demand for large warehouse buildings.

The risk of the investment appears to have paid off. In November of 2009, OMP executed a 12-year lease for the entire building to one of the world’s leading solar technology companies, Solyndra. Solyndra leases 183,000 square feet adjacent to the building and has acquired 30 acres of land just to the north of the building to develop additional production capacity. Solyndra will occupy the Page building in early 2010 after completion of tenant improvement work.

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