REGION — North County is booming.
Real estate developers are taking advantage of the region’s aggressive play to create jobs and lure industries to their markets.
Encinitas-based RAF Pacifica is just one of several development firms making a play. They are in the midst of constructing more than 1 million-square feet of industrial space in Carlsbad and San Marcos.
Principal Adam Robinson said his company is targeting specific Master Plan areas to avoid zoning and other challenges with larger developments.
Currently, five new projects are slated for Carlsbad and one in San Marcos. RAF Pacifica’s el•e•vate building is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2017 and features 156,977-square feet with multiple docks, grade loading doors, state-of-the-art lighting and sprinkler system, among other amenities.
“There’s no land really left in central San Diego,” Robinson said. “Because there’s higher paying jobs … that’s why we decided to do these developments there. A lot of land was available because it was finished in 2005, 06, 07 and just sat because of the downturn. Now, almost all that land has been absorbed.”
Robinson said his company is also a test subject for larger projects in reducing greenhouse gases, as at least one project will feature solar panels and other clean energy technology.
He said a change in culture among industries and businesses is leading developers to change the way they develop infrastructure for their clients.
Another active developer is La Jolla-based Badiee Development and its push into North County with six large projects — three in Carlsbad, two in Escondido and one in Vista. In total, the six projects will add 413,373-sqaure feet of inventory to the market.
Badiee’s Escondido projects are the largest industrial developments there in about 10 years. Of course, the Great Recession put a hold on, and or sunk projects, but the economy has rebounded and developers are taking advantage of North County’s location, quality of life, business-friendly governments and access to freeways and rail lines.
CEO Ben Badiee echoed Robinson’s comments on new, state-of-the-art facilities. Badiee said to attract high-end tenants, and those targeting North County, more modern architecture inside and out is needed.
For example, each company is constructing developments with a more corporate exterior with inside features to handle research and development, warehousing, manufacturing and distribution, to name a few enterprises.
“We looked at every available piece of land in San Diego County,” he added. “We found that the only remaining land that we were excited to move on … they all happened to be in North County.”
Yet, another bonus is relatively low vacancy rates in the region, Badiee said. He said Escondido is about 1.6 percent, while Carlsbad is at about 3.8.
Badiee said his projects will take about nine months from time of purchase to breaking ground and between seven to nine months to build. Robinson, meanwhile, said the processes of navigating developments through city governments, state regulations and environmental factors can add several months to the timeline.
“Another factor is the type of tenant in North County,” Badiee added. “It is very attractive to high-end companies that want to do manufacturing of a higher standard, research and development companies that want to do distribution.”
As for the cities, Carlsbad Director of Community and Economic Development Glen Van Peski said his department is pushing their industry clusters and focusing on business retention and expansion.
Action sports, technology and clean energy businesses, to name a few, are starting and expanding in the region. In addition, Van Peski said Carlsbad has also adopted a new avenue, with approval of a conditional use permit (CUP) in Planned Industrial zones, for small retail space within the business parks.
“The change in zoning allows them to have a small, little footprint that serves customers and brings more life to them,” Van Peski said. “And people are being more creative. It gives them a chance to get started.”
The boom, however, isn’t so recent as many of the ongoing projects throughout North County were approved one to two years ago. Still, Robinson said since the economy has rebounded more investment in North County has become commonplace.
Van Peski said the city has issued building permits for 620,700-square feet of industrial and commercial space in 2016, compared to 410,120 in 2015.
One reason, Robinson added, is availability of land within the Master Plan and other areas, in contrast with areas like Sorrento Valley, which are nearly built out.
Despite targeting Master Plan areas, Robinson said the environmental conditions and obstacles still remain for his firm, though the areas offer more protection to the firms.
“So we’re not taking on entitlement risks, rezoning,” he said, adding, “we can bring our projects to market quicker.”
In addition to RAF Pacifica and Badiee Development, Lee & Associates recently sold a 21,415-sqaure foot industrial building on Kellogg Avenue in Carlsbad for $2.9 million to TLR Properties, according to a press release from Lee & Associates. TLR plans to renovate the building before putting the property up for lease.
Lee & Associates also announced it recently leased a research and development building on Loker Avenue for $1.5 million to Optec Fuel Technologies in the Promontory Business Park.
But it’s not just industry and large-scale commercial operations taking a foothold in North County. Numerous breweries, wineries and other restaurants have put down roots in Carlsbad and other cities.
For example, Park 101 in Carlsbad Village will open in February with an 8,000-square foot multi-level building. It’s North County’s small-scale version of Liberty Station in San Diego, according to Paige Nordeen, media relations manager for
Alternative Strategies, the company handling marketing for Park 101.
The property will feature dining and drinking establishments, a market for on-the-go customers and a deck with fire pits.
The Carlsbad City Council also approved a conditional use permit for a pseudo incubator, dubbed the Brewery Igniter, at the Carlsbad Corporate Center.
“There is definitely some increased activity,” Van Peski said. “Some of the growth is due to our very strong industry clusters. A lot of these clusters, they kind of feed off each other.”