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Also: L-3 Sonoma takes additional space at airportThe nearly 182,000-square-foot Marin Gateway shopping center in Marin City might have a new owner soon, but there are mixed signals on who that will be.

On Oct. 17, Israel-based shopping center real estate investment trust Big Shopping Centers (2004) Ltd. filed a disclosure with the Tel-Aviv Stock Exchange that a July 7 joint venture between subsidiary Big Shopping Centers USA and Developers Diversified Realty Corp. had signed an agreement to pay about $36 million to acquire rights to the center by year-end, pending due diligence.

Big would have a 75 percent stake in the center, and DDR would get 25 percent plus management of the property, said to be 92 percent occupied, according to the filing.

Bay Area Council-sponsored Bay Area Smart Growth Fund I acquired rights to the center in 2003. Marin City Community Land Corp. owns the land.

Meanwhile, the board of the Marin City Community Services District in early October appointed a committee to study the feasibility of the district's acquisition of the center, including options for financing and structures for ownership and management, according to Jonathan Logan, general manager. The district governs the 3,500-resident neighbor to Sausalito and has one of the five seats on the land corporation board.

That study would look at how rent revenue from the center would support community programs, which was an initial goal of the public-private partnership that developed the property, Mr. Logan said.

Big estimated rent revenue this year will be $3 million, according to the filing.

This would be Big's first acquisition via the venture with DDR, but it would be the third North Bay retail property in which Big had a stake. Big recently acquired a stake in the 343,000-square-foot adjacent Windsor shopping centers Lakewood and Lakewood Village in a joint venture with Kimco Realty Corp.

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Autistry Studios, a Corte Madera nonprofit that helps youth with autism spectrum disorders learn to live independently and develop job skills, plans to move Nov. 1 from a part-time home art studio to a 10,000-square-foot shop leased for five years at 37 Duffy Place in San Rafael, according to Dan Swearingen.

His wife, Mill Valley psychotherapist Janet Lawson, started the organization as an extension of her private practice.

The organization has been hindered by lack of space this year, according to Mr. Swearingen. The staff of parents, special education teachers and therapists serves 16 people now with 12 on a waiting list.

The number served is expected to grow to 50 next year.

"We will be starting several small enterprises, which will operate like small businesses providing real work experience for real customers," he said.

The first business is Autistry Graphics for print and website design.

Sliding-scale fees for services, supplemented by grants and fundraising, currently support the group. It raised $60,000 this year and is targeting a goal of $160,000 next year. The cost of moving and outfitting the new facility is estimated at $30,000.

Nathan Ballard of Keegan & Coppin represented the landlord, and Michael Golden of Cassidy Turley BT Commercial represented the tenant.

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Michael and Heather Cruciano, who operate Study Abroad Italy and Viva Italian Culinary and Cultural Center, respectively, at 7151 Wilson Ave. in Sebastopol, purchased a 9,000-square-foot building at 7190 Keating Ave. in the same city.

They acquired the building from Marigold LLC, led by Ron Basso, with U.S. Small Business Administration financing through Presidio Bank and Mortgage Capital Development Corp.

Mr. Cruciano, president of Study Abroad Italy, said the plan is to move the 12-person office to the new building early next year, sharing space with Taylor Maid Farms Coffee & Tea for at least a few years under the current lease. The organization has 1,200 college students placed in programs in Italy and London.

Barry Palma of Cornish & Carey Commercial Newmark Knight Frank brokered the sale.

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[caption id="attachment_26506" align="alignright" width="432" caption="L-3 Sonoma EO expanded to the whole bottom floor of 420 Aviation. (courtesy of Carlos Rivas) "][/caption]

L-3 Sonoma EO, which makes remotely controlled ball-shaped camera mounts mainly for defense applications, expanded its two-building campus near Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport north of Santa Rosa. New York-based L-3 Communications has 65,000 employees and had 2009 sales of $15.6 billion.

The Sonoma EO division inked a short-term lease renewal with Schulz Family Trust for the entire 14,800-square-foot ground floor of 420 Aviation Blvd., according to Keegan & Coppin's Jeffrey Wilmore, who represented L-3 Sonoma EO in the deal. Carlos Rivas of Pacific Union Commercial Real Estate represented the trust.

Sonoma EO leased 9,400 square feet in the building two years ago.

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E&P Properties Inc., led by Dennis Paulley, owner of Metropolitan Van & Storage in Benicia, acquired 6.2 acres at the corner of Airport Boulevard and Airpark Road in Napa Valley Gateway Business Park in south Napa. The seller was Steelbird Ghetto LLC, a venture of Don Sebastiani's family, which has an adjacent bottling facility for its negotiant wine business Don Sebastiani & Sons.

The price was undisclosed, but land prices in the south Napa Valley business parks have decreased to $7.50 to $9.50 a square foot from $9 to $15 at the peak of the market a few years ago, according to Chris Neeb. He and fellow Cushman & Wakefield agents Matt Bracco and Glen Dowling represented E&P.

The company wants to build a 103,000-square foot concrete tilt-up multitenant warehouse there with a goal of having it ready for occupancy late next year, according to Mr. Neeb.

Metropolitan Van & Storage started in Martinez in the 1940s and became an Atlas Van Lines agent in 1963. The moving, storage and document-management business operates a 93,000-square-foot warehouse in Benicia and one in Fairfield. The company is looking to occupy part of the proposed Napa facility, according to Mr. Neeb.

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[caption id="attachment_26508" align="alignleft" width="360" caption="St. Joseph Ambulance Service could be relocating to this San Rafael building recently acquired by the owners"][/caption]

Roman Holiday Properties LLC, led by Richard Angotti, whose family operates St. Joseph Ambulance Service of San Rafael, purchased the 19,000-square-foot two-story office building at 67 Mark Drive in San Rafael from GE Commercial Finance Business Property Corp. in a foreclosure sale on Sept. 9 for $1.85 million plus auction fees, according to Mac Cranford of Cornish & Carey Commercial Newmark Knight Frank. He and Cornish & Carey agent Michael Lieberman represented GE.

GE took back the 44-year-old building from KKG Consolidated LLC in a trustee's sale in June 2009. KKG owner Peter Thompson's public works-oriented Thompson Pacific Construction used to be the major tenant of the now-vacant building.

KKG also owned Napa Mini Storage and a 32-unit apartment complex in San Rafael before filing for Chapter 11 reorganization in 2008, and the plan was confirmed in August 2009.

In court filings, Mr. Thompson said he filed for court protection because of a dispute with a construction lender.

Plans for the building are in flux but include moving the 54-year-old ambulance company's base of operations there and leasing the 7,400-square-foot top floor, according to Mr. Cranford.

Security Public Storage-Napa LLC acquired Napa Mini Storage in a trustee's sale in April, according to Napa County records. San Francisco-based Security Public Storage has 42 self-storage facilities in California, Nevada and Washington, D.C., including ones in Santa Rosa, Vacaville and Vallejo.

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[caption id="attachment_26509" align="alignright" width="202" caption="Marni Duncan of Model Home Source & Vinotage Design brings her dog Chaps to work at 5577 Skylane. "][/caption]

PLS Investments LP added a dog-friendly environment and a community garden to the list of amenities at its office flex building at 5577 Skylane Blvd. in Airport Business Center north of Santa Rosa. The ownership was looking for some way to use some vacant land behind building and found interest in a community garden among some tenants with employees who don't have home gardens, according to Leanne Sarasy of PLS.

PLS plowed a 20-foot-square plot and added irrigation and fertilizer, and employees from four tenants purchased corn, tomato, lemongrass, squash, strawberry and herb plants. They share in weeding and the produce.

"It has been a very organic process that has nurtured a wonderful sense of community and loyalty," Ms. Sarasy said. PLS is considering doubling the size of the plot in 2011.

[caption id="attachment_26511" align="alignleft" width="288" caption=" Employees of Cutting Edge Optical work the garden at 5577 Skylane. "][/caption]

Also, PLS allows well-trained, good-mannered dogs on leashes to come to work with their owners as long as owners supervise and clean up after them.

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Submit items for this column to Jeff Quackenbush at jquackenbush@busjrnl.com, 707-521-4256 or fax 707-521-5292.