Amp&rsnd features an art mural by artist John Park. | Courtesy a representative of CBRE and The Casey Brown Company

A Vision for Repurposing Office Assets (SLIDESHOW)

Carrie Rossenfeld Office

As SoCal Real Estate recently reported, the redeveloped former San Diego Union-Tribune site Amp&rsand — owned, repurposed, and partially occupied by the Casey Brown Company — has gained international specialty-finance company Encore Capital Group as a tenant, according to a release from a representative of CBRE. Encore is consolidating its two offices in Mission Valley and will occupy the entire third floor and a portion of the ground floor in the project, occupying a total of approximately 95,000 square feet, with tenant improvements on its new space slated to begin this fall, the statement says.

We sat down with Casey Brown, founder and principal of the The Casey Brown Company, to discuss what’s attracting tenants to Amp&rsand, his vision — and subsequent execution of it — for the property, and other projects his firm is working on now in the San Diego market. (See slideshow below of one of those projects, Tower 591.)

Casey Brown | Image and slideshow images courtesy a representative of The Casey Brown Company

SoCal Real Estate: What is attracting tenants to Amp&rsand?
It’s a fresh, urban opportunity for tenants to move into, and it’s current in its design. It has a positive employee focus, it’s close to public transportation (access to the trolley), and it’s centrally located. Plus, there’s a story here: the history of this project as a news building built for business.

The Riverpark Foundation is starting its cleanup and development of the park to the north of us, running down from the mall to the golf course, which will provide us with walking path to the mall and trolley. And Mission Valley itself is seeing a great revitalization. A nearby office park has been purchased by Trammell Crow, which is creating 280 units in it, and then to the west of us is Town & Country, whose renovation is underway — there’s fencing around project and they’re tearing down some low-rise buildings to create 800 new apartment units.

Another little quiet improvement to the whole Mission Valley submarket is that Caltrans is spending money on the 163-Friars Road interchange and the I-5 to I-8 interchange. These are big access things, huge investments in this community, but they’re not something people write about. The last is the church they’re building. There’s a huge amount of money going into this area. Some of it is recognized, and some of it is not.

What was your vision for this particular property before you redeveloped it, and how did you execute on that vision?
My vision was to provide an environment that tenants were trying to achieve, but weren’t big enough to achieve. A high-profile campus like a Google campus, for instance, has all these things, but that’s Google, They have that ability. But the 20,000-square-foot tenant can’t provide that to their employees because they’re not big enough.

There will be 10 to 15 tenants in this project, and they’ll take advantage of the fitness center, the concierge service, and the on-site food service that will be here, plus San Diego’s climate through the bicycles we’ll provide. They’ll want to take advantage on these things. Employers put a value on this; they don’t want high turnover — they want a happy, healthy, productive environment for these employees.

What other projects are you working on in San Diego?
We’re repositioning Tower 591, across the freeway from where we are now, which is a 12-story, 185,000-square-foot office tower. It has been extremely well received, the leasing is brisk, and it is a Mission Valley building in that we compete within this market for those tenants. The architectural firm LPA is all but done on it, with just some punch-list items to finish. There’s an integrated café in the main lobby, and we redid the prime entry to the project. All of the restrooms and corridors have been redone, and the building has been painted. The tenant name on top is TD Ameritrade.

We also have Old Town Plaza, which we’ve renovated, and Chesapeake Park Plaza in Kearny Mesa. That building has been totally redone, with Gensler as the architect. It’s 100,000 square feet; we introduced an outdoor seating area and redid the fitness center, and all the corridors and bathrooms have been redone. The funny thing is, we added music in the restrooms, and people are commenting more on that than they are on the fitness center. Tenants there include Brown and Caldwell, Walters Management Company.

In all the development and redevelopment we do, we are focusing on the workforce, on the employee.