After brookfield’s big buy of mpg, now what news quadcopter gas motor

Vacancy in Class A office buildings — that’s most of the steel and glass towers on Bunker Hill and in the Financial District — has steadily risen from about 13% before the recession to 21.3% in the first quarter of this year, according to data compiled by brokerage firm Cushman & Wakefield.

Additionally, there’s little evidence that a major growth spurt in the industries that fill the towers is on the cusp. Financial service companies, law firms and other white-collar institutions are slowly rebounding, but they haven’t yet reached their pre-recession employment numbers, according to data provided by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation.

New York-based Brookfield Office Properties last month announced that it has a deal in place to acquire what’s left of beleaguered MPG Office Trust, the former Maguire Properties entity that long ruled the skyline but has been slowly selling assets in an attempt to climb out of a sinkhole of debt (in March, it reached a deal to sell U.S. Bank Tower to a Singapore-based investor for $367.5 million).

“If you’re looking to invest in Downtown L.A. it’s best to do that when the market is under the greatest stress, when vacancies are at their highest levels,” Kleinhenz said. “So from a business perspective, it was an opportune time for Brookfield to step in and get a good deal knowing that over the long run they’re going to be able to fill that space.”

Brookfield entered the local market in 2006 when it spent $4.8 billion to acquire the firm Trizec Properties. That gave it control of Downtown’s Bank of America Plaza, 601 S. Figueroa and Ernst & Young Tower, as well as the FIGat7th shopping center.

The proposed MPG deal calls for the creation of a new ownership entity titled DTLA Holdings. Brookfield, which will own 47% of the fund, will manage the properties. It values the new fund at about $1.15 billion, which includes the company’s $410 million in equity in its three existing Downtown office towers, according to a Brookfield statement.

Some expect that the MPG acquisition will jolt the market in a positive way. Office building owners have worried that an outside investor could buy MPG’s assets, then lower prices to lure tenants. That strategy wouldn’t line up with the goals of Brookfield, which as a Downtown owner is just looking to build value, Marcussen said.

With such a sizable portion of the best office product in its control, Brookfield would also be in a position to buoy pricing, said Nelson Rising, who served as CEO of MPG from 2008-2010 before resigning. Today, average rents for Class A space is about $35.66 per square foot per year, or just under $3 a month.

“Clearly owning that much of the institutional quality office space Downtown gives them some degree of pricing power,” said Rising, who last year launched Rising Realty Partners, a Downtown venture focused on acquiring and managing creative office properties. “In that sense it might be a very smart move.”

Still, the jobs market has a ways to go before anyone pronounces a recovery. Before the recession, there were 247,000 people employed in the financial activities field in L.A. County, according to the LAEDC. At the end of 2012, the count stood at 210,000.

The professional and business services category (think accountants, law firms and consultants) is down from 605,000 to 567,000 jobs during the same time frame. Government, another key Downtown employment sector, dropped from 596,000 to 557,000 jobs.

Some office market watchers say that as employment improves, the rate at which cubicles get filled will be slower than in previous real estate cycles. That’s because this time, office culture is changing. Technology is increasingly allowing companies to use less space more efficiently, said Kleinhenz of the LAEDC.

That trend is in part what has spurred Rising, as well as firms like Evoq Properties and developer Jeffrey Fish of the Pershing Square Building, to go after so-called creative office tenants that value common space and open-air layouts over the traditional cubicle grids and corner offices.

“People with blue hair and facial jewelry who want to bring their dogs to work, that’s a trend,” he said. “If the windows leak and the air conditioning doesn’t work, [the trend] doesn’t matter. Tenants want parking, elevators and air conditioning. These buildings have it.”