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Space at Poway Business Park still in demand

General Atomics takes 1 million square feet

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At a time when retrenching is the order of the day, the 900-acre Poway Business Park and its nearly 20,000 employees continues to fill new spaces.

About 90 percent built with 8 million square feet and more under construction, the 500-firm park in southern Poway is being augmented in a big way with 1 million square feet of research and office space for General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, expected to be completed in May or June.

Aeronautical Systems is divided into Aircraft Systems and Reconnaissance Systems divisions. The buildings will encompass executive offices, administrative offices, along with manufacturing and engineering functions. The buildings are up, but the tenant improvements have yet to be completed.

"We're probably 60 percent moved in," said Kimberly Kasitz, a General Atomics spokeswoman.

After being at multiple sites in Rancho Bernardo, Kasitz said with GA Aeronautical's consolidation in Poway workers are now close enough to for teams to easily form and work together. It also helps that the new facilities are still close to where many of its workers live.

City of Poway Economic Development Manager Kim Schmidt said General Atomics will bring approximately 1,700 jobs into the city and will provide a boost to the surrounding businesses.

General Atomics will represent a big net gain in terms of occupied space and the number of employees, but in many, if not most cases, the current economy translates into a lot of churning of space in the business park.

Robert Manis, Poway development services director, said Hunter Douglas, best known for its ceiling fans, moved into a smaller space in the business park. The space that firm vacated was subsequently occupied by National Powersports, a New Hampshire-based motorcycle distributor.

Schmidt said Pentair Inc. (NYSE: PNR) a Minnesota-based manufacturer of water filtration systems, also is shrinking its space, but how much is still being determined.

Other major employers located in the business park include Geico, Cohu, Sysco Food Services and First American Credco.

A little over a year ago, at a time when the full scope of the housing downturn was becoming apparent, Hallmark Pools & Spas, which had built more than 3,000 pools and spas over a 22-year-period pulled out of its Poway Business Park offices. The departure left at least 60 unfinished pools and no less than $2 million in subcontractor debts at the time.

It does appear an In 'N Out Burger will be coming to the business park, but the lease has yet to be signed. If built, it would be a small freestanding restaurant.

Retail now plays a more significant role in the park than when it was originally conceived more than two decades ago. Despite some early consternation, Poway now seems comfortable with the arrangement.

Big box stores Costco, Kohl's and Home Depot have joined the industrial and office tenants at the business park, and each seemed to be doing well -- at least until the downturn hit full force last fall.

Now, although there are about 32 unfinished acres at the far southeastern portion of the business park, there are only a few readily developable parcels remaining.

"There's not a whole lot," said Ted Cuthbert, Colliers International senior vice president.

Cuthbert said he is marketing a 2.67-acre parcel suitable for a 30,000- to 40,000-square-foot building for an owner/user.

When asked about the finished lot prices, Cuthbert said they run about $25 per square foot.

"And we're not discounting our land prices," Cuthbert said, adding that the remaining parcels remain in high demand despite the downturn.

Cuthbert said buildings such as those developed by firms such as Whittaker Investments, Techbilt and Hamann Construction are holding their value surprisingly well given the economy.

"Some of the older buildings that weren't built well or don't have enough parking aren't doing so hot, but the others are doing extremely well," he said.

A Poway Business Park Association meets about every other month to tackle the latest issues within the development.

The association is chaired by Jean Bruni of Employers Legal Advisors. Other board members include Pauline Getz, an attorney with Getz & Associates; Michael Giulianotti of Tatum CFO Partners LLC; Bill Berghoff with SportsplexUSA San Diego; Russell Riehl of Pomerado Hospital; Wilma Owens of Furniture Resources; and Michael Steele of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.

"We've got a beautiful business park," said Getz. "And we've got nearly 20,000 people working here. That's a lot of jobs."

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