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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

C.W. Driver at Caltech

Six simultaneous projects at Caltech underscore builder’s expertise in campus facilities

PASADENA, Calif. — March 20, 2012 — Already a leading builder of campus buildings and laboratories, C.W. Driver will make its mark on one of the world’s preeminent research institutions when it completes six simultaneous projects at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
Managed by C.W. Driver’s independent company, Driver SPG, the construction projects include new biological labs and educational facilities on the campus. As a premier builder serving the Western U.S. since 1919, C.W. Driver has a deep understanding of Caltech’s ever-changing needs in the area of biotechnology research, as well as the need to preserve its historic architecture.
“C.W. Driver has been entrusted with updating the same facilities where some of the brightest minds in the world have taught,” said C.W. Driver Senior Vice President of Business Development Bob Maxwell. “As our team builds facilities that support the precise needs of today’s top biotechnology researchers and students, we take pride in our careful preservation of campus history.”
Driver SPG provides a competitive edge for performing work on a moment’s notice and adjusting to the specialized and evolving needs of the end user. At Caltech, a precise laboratory or state-of-the-art lecture hall – such as the recently completed remodel of the lecture hall where Richard Feynman delivered his seminal “Lectures on Physics” from 1961-1963 – must be delivered without interrupting campus operations or disturbing sensitive research.
“It comes down to understanding not only the project, but how it impacts the entire campus community,” said Karl Kreutziger, Driver SPG’s executive vice president, who pointed to one researcher’s use of mirrors and lasers valued at $3 million. “It’s essential that our work – even demolition –does not ruin an experiment or disrupt a lecture.”
The Driver SPG team was tasked with upgrading the facility to accommodate the growing needs for the campus and its students, yet protecting and embracing the historical significance of the university grounds. Including the remodeled lecture hall, Driver SPG will complete six projects during the current academic year. The following projects will be completed before the fall semester begins:
The Richard P. Feynman Lecture Hall
  • 2,375-square-foot housing a 250-seat auditorium
  • Remodel of the historic lecture hall where Richard P. Feynman delivered his “Lectures on Physics”
  • One of C.W. Driver’s first projects on the campus
  • Construction of the hall was completed in Sept. 2011
  • Located on the second and third floors of the East Bridge building

“Wet Lab”
  • Project was completed in Dec. 2011
  • Located in the Beckman Institute basement

Arthur Amos Noyes Laboratory of Chemical Physics
  • Remodel of student office space on the first floor
  • Began construction in Jan. 2012 and is slated for completion in March 2012
  • Located adjacent to an existing laser lab

New laboratory for an incoming Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering
  • Class 10,000 Clean Room
  • New 1,100-square-foot laser laboratory 
  • Design-build with AC Martin
  • Construction began in Feb. 2012 and is slated for completion in June 2012
  • Located on the basement level of the Keck Building

New lab for a newly hired Assistant Professor of Aerospace
  • Multi-phased project for a 650-square-foot laser lab
  • Construction began in Jan. 2012 and is slated for completion in April 2012
  • Located on the third floor of the Guggenheim building and approximately 250 square-feet in the basement of the Firestone building

New lab spaces for newly hired and long tenured Biology faculty
  • Remodel of a biological facility includes 3,000 square-feet of lab space used for neuroscience experiments  
  • Design-build with Gensler Architects
  • Began construction in Feb. 2012 and is slated for completion in July 2012
  • Located in the subbasement and second floor of the Alles Building, and the second floor of the Kerckhoff building

Monday, March 19, 2012

Honorable Borrowers Pay for Housing Market Collapse

By Stephen Sharpiro, Westside Estate Agency
I can finally say it: Things are getting better in the L.A. residential market.
But not for everyone. In fact, in many cases, not even for those who are fiscally responsible.
It’s true that compared with a few years ago there are less foreclosures on high-end luxury homes on the Westside. Most troubled sellers have sold or otherwise restructured their mortgages, making troubled homes scarce as foreclosures reach their bottom.
But today, after spending 35 years in L.A. residential real estate, – I’ve learned that numbers don’t tell the whole story. Unfortunately, in an election year, numbers are also motivating poorly conceived public policy that rewards the bubble’s most irresponsible borrowers while honest homeowners suffer the consequences.
In fact, one example of a fiscally responsible person who is bearing the brunt of the market with no way out is my son, a successful Realtor who understands the complex local market, who is being strangled by a high-interest loan on an underwater condo.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mountain Real Estate Expands SoCal JV Program

Acquisition of bank-owned L.A. site marks Mountain’s sixth joint venture in the area
LOS ANGELES – March 18, 2012 – The joint venture between Mountain Real Estate Capital (MREC) and Harridge Development has recently acquired a bank-owned residential infill site located at 5120 Melrose Avenue, situated five miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles adjacent to Paramount Studios. The partners are in the process of re-entitling the site from multifamily to single family lots which they plan to sell to homebuilders. The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
“The acquisition of this project on Melrose Avenue is the exact type of infill opportunity MREC and our developer partners have been seeking and closing in Southern California,” said Peter Fioretti, MREC’s chief executive officer. “Identifying such opportunities is just the first step – the more challenging part is value-add through creative land planning and product design to meet current market demands. That is why we team up with best-in-class developers and builders like Harridge on projects like this: to identify and create hidden value and assure success.”
The Melrose acquisition represents MREC’s sixth joint venture in Southern California, accounting for over 300 lots for development and house construction, with projected sales value exceeding $140 million. Since 2010, MREC has purchased assets in 10 states from 30 financial institutions and is capitalized with $1 billion to acquire distressed notes and assets. Since 2010, MREC has invested $260 million to acquire 10,000 lots/homes and 9,000 acres, with projected sales exceeding $1.2 billion.          
Harridge Development was recently formed by David Schwartzman, a Los Angeles-based real estate developer. Schwartzman has more than 22 years of real estate experience beginning with his homebuilding-development career in 1990. He has completed more than 20 projects in Los Angeles and controls approximately 700 lots in Southern California.  Said Schwartzman, “It was fortunate that we had recently closed our first joint venture with MREC, because this new opportunity on Melrose involved some tricky land use and development issues, and also required a quick decision.  Because MREC’s principals have development experience and not merely capital providers, I was confident that we could work together to overcome these challenges in a timely fashion.”
Mountain Real Estate Capital is the equity investment arm of the Mountain Real Estate Group, founded in 1993 by its CEO, Peter Fioretti. Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., its homebuilder joint venture and asset management groups, headed by Managing Director Joel Kaul, are based in Minneapolis, and its national origination team has additional offices in New York, Los Angeles, Richmond, Va., and Newport Beach, Calif. Lance Franklin, senior investment manager in Los Angeles, originated and managed the closing of this transaction for MREC.
“The Harridge team has demonstrated a unique ability identifying niche infill opportunities in the Los Angeles area and creating value through creative re-entitlement and site design,” said Franklin.  “We believe that Harridge will continue to be a great partner in pursuing additional infill Los Angeles opportunities.”

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Top Female Broker Adds Beauty to African Village

Lee & Associates’ Christine Deschaine returns home after helping village open its first self-sustaining business in Uganda, Africa
LOS ANGELES — March 14, 2012 — Christine Deschaine is a very busy woman. What with her 24-7 work ethic toward her job as a retail broker for Lee & Associates LA North/Ventura, Inc., it’s a wonder the Los Angeles resident has time for anything else but showing properties, managing tenants and landlords and fielding the many calls and emails from clients and other brokers. But despite her time-consuming professional life, she still makes time for the small village of Kaihura, Uganda.
 “I dedicate time, energy, or even my thoughts to Africa at least once a day. Once you have witnessed their plight and been moved by their gratitude and welcoming faces, it is hard not to think about the people of Africa,” says Deschaine, who has just returned from her third trip to Kaihura, Uganda.
As one of Lee & Associates’ most successful retail brokers, and in fact, one of the few women brokers in the profession, Deschaine somehow finds time for Kaihura and its villagers, which she connected with through Global Support Mission (GSM). GSM is a Tennessee-based charity organization that connects volunteers with grass-roots community programs in developing nations. In this particular case, Deschaine, who has developed a passion for global volunteer initiatives over the years, helped build a hair salon and bridal boutique for the village in southern Uganda.
GSM has assisted with many projects in Kaihura, which they are affiliated with through Bringing Hope to the Family, a community program that aids local orphans and vulnerable children who have lost their parents to violence, poverty, or disease. Some previous projects include the building of a medical clinic, a vocational school and an orphanage as well as mosquito net outreach to the surrounding community. But the people of Kaihura have been very excited for the addition of Village Art Hair Salon and Bridal Boutique, their first self-sustaining business. Given Deschaine’s background with retail, it was a perfect project for her to get involved with.
So after three years in the making, trips back-and-forth from California to Africa and a little physical labor, Deschaine is pleased to announce that Kaihura’s Village Art Hair Salon and Bridal Boutique had a successful grand opening. Along with Deschaine, the local community and other volunteers from GSM came together to make possible a business that will provide skills and jobs to several people in the village. In addition, the profits from the salon help sustain Bringing Hope to the Family.
For Deschaine, who grew up with a family-owned beauty salon business, her broker experience has put her in front of some of Beverly Hills most prominent high-end spas and salons. But this one-room -- with its bright green and orange painted walls, its two chairs and single hair-washing station -- is as beautiful as any place on Rodeo Drive.
“Because of my background with the family-run beauty salon, I was able to help train the local women on how to give manicures and pedicures. They were so eager to learn! It is great to foster the entrepreneurial spirit there, because that is how the village will be able to help itself,” said Deschaine.
 Even from home she was able to contribute to the project by gathering resources and raising money and awareness with her friends, family, and even her retail clients, many of which donated beauty products that Deschaine personally brought to Kaihura in overstuffed suitcases.
“The beauty about this project is that it will provide women and men in the community with skills that they can use to add value to their families and communities,” says Deschaine. “No one really thought that shops like these were possible in the village setting, but Village Art is already more successful than we could have hoped for.”
Deschaine is no stranger to working against the odds as a woman who has been incredibly successful in a man’s world. With more than 18 years of experience in retail tenant and landlord representation, she has consistently ranked among the top producers of Lee & Associates. Specializing in urban redevelopment with some of the Los Angeles’ most prominent retail developers, she has been an integral part of the resurgence of neighborhoods such as Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, downtown Burbank Village, Hollywood Boulevard and Culver City. 
“Christine’s work ethic and her dedication to improving the quality of life wherever she goes has made her a major asset to our team,” said Mike Tingus president of Lee & Associates’ Los Angeles North/Ventura office. “Constantly reminding us of how important it is to give back, she has truly bridged the gap between Africa and Los Angeles for our office and our clients. I consider myself very lucky to know such an inspiring person.” 
Just days after her return, Deschaine is already looking forward to her next trip to Kaihura, where three new construction projects await her. She has also found a way to help the people of Kaihura from home in the interim by spearheading two action groups for Bringing Hope to the Family, through which she plans to raise money for uniforms and school fees for an entire school year for over 115 students.
Contributions can be made to any GSM affiliate at, where Deschaine’s action groups are “Scholarship Fund” and “Secondary Education and Uniforms.”  

Monday, March 5, 2012

Buying Chances Tumble for Flipper

REAL ESTATE: StarPoint sees rivals ramp up auction action

On a recent Monday morning, Milton Bernal walked up the steps of the Pomona courthouse and stood among a sea of people. He had a cell phone,  a bagged lunch - and a cashier's check for $1 million.

It's a lot of money, but those who want to snatch up and foreclosed homes and condos at auction need big cash - and a good plan.