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[caption id="attachment_30977" align="alignright" width="125" caption="Chris Neeb"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_30979" align="alignright" width="125" caption="Matt Bracco"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_30978" align="alignright" width="125" caption="Glen Dowling"][/caption]

Industrial markets in Napa and Solano counties overall continued to be sluggish throughout 2010 because of poor economic conditions.

While several significant lease transactions were completed during the year, a number of large new vacancies nullified any real traction. That said, tenant tour activity did increase toward year-end, which will hopefully result in a good start to leasing activity in 2011.

Another positive sign was the reemergence of investment sales as several leased investment transactions closed, primarily in the fourth quarter.

Year-end 2010 overall vacancy rate for industrial space in Napa and Solano counties was 13 percent, up slightly from 12.2 percent at the end of the fourth quarter in 2009.

Napa County had 8.5 percent of 955,000 square feet of industrial space available at the end of 2010, compared with 7.8 percent vacancy a year before.

Of 3.91 million square feet in Solano, 15 percent was available in the fourth quarter of 2010, compared with 14.3 percent at the end of 2009.

The rise in Napa County’s vacancy came from 364,000 square feet of Constellation Brands warehouse space available for sublease in the fourth quarter at 80 Technology Court in south Napa. Constellation relocated certain distribution to Lodi, where triple-net rents are in the range of mid-20 cent a square foot for similar space.

As demand from consumers for lower- to mid-priced wines continues, a number of wineries with brands serving that segment posted strong sales and growth last year. Trinchero Family Wines, which makes Sutter Home, expanded by 164,000 square feet in south Napa, while premium-tier wine programs for Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines pulled back from 150,000 square feet south of Sonoma and Constellation from south Napa.

Solano County had its share of new vacancies. Downsizing and consolidation as a result of new technology helped put 450,000 square feet back on the market. Applied Materials vacated its 100,000-square-foot manufacturing plant at 2700 Maxwell Way in Fairfield as part of closing optical-coating operations on a national basis.

Vallejo-based Meyer Corp. vacated more than 320,000 square feet of leased facilities and one of their owned facilities. A newly constructed 166,000-square-foot warehouse in Fairfield has the equivalent storage of about 700,000 square feet because of its 100-foot height and automated racking systems.

Tom Duffy Co. also vacated a 127,000-square-foot warehouse at 5200 Watt Court in Fairfield in January 2010, consolidating in the Central Valley.

There were several notable Napa County Airport area leases in 2010. Trinchero's expanded cased wine storage to 37 Executive Way. Zephyr Express relocated cased wine storage operations from American Canyon to 101,200 square feet at 770 Skyway Court. Anu Wines leased 62,000 square feet of conditioned space at 626 California Blvd. Biagi Bros. leased 50,000 square feet at 80 Technology Court.

In Solano County, Harbinger Fitness relocated from Napa to 37,000 square feet at 801 Chadbourne Road in Fairfield. Metropolitan Moving & Storage leased 40,000 square feet of overflow space at 451 Industrial Way in Benicia. PODS Enterprises leased 36,000 square feet at 5000 Park Road for a Benicia storage container rental location. Diablo Valley Packaging leased 52,000 square feet of overflow storage at 2701 Maxwell Way in Fairfield. Cable Com leased 45,000 square feet at 845 Chadbourne Road in Fairfield.

Significant leased investment sales since early 2010 were in south Napa. The Wahl Family Trust in April 2010 purchased the Napa Crossroads 314,000-square-foot fully leased two-building warehouse project at 21 and 37 Executive Way. Lowenberg Corp. bought 770 Skyway Court, leased to Zephyr, in December 2010 from Carlsen Ventures. Westcore-AG Napa LP, backed by hedge fund Angelo, Gordon & Co., purchased 257,000-square-foot, eight-building Napa Airport Centre in early 2011.

The only notable land sale was E&P Properties, affiliated with Metropolitan, purchased 6.2 acres in Napa Valley Gateway Business Park. E&P is pursuing entitlements to build a 107,000-square-foot warehouse, 70,000 square feet of which Metropolitan would occupy.

Tenant tour activity increased in the fourth quarter, but it remains to be seen if this will result in increased transactions in 2011. We expect continued downward pressure on rental rates because of the significant amount of inventory available in both the Napa and Solano markets, compounded by a lack of tangible demand.

Investment sale activity should continue for quality buildings with good-credit tenants and substantial remaining lease terms. Little, if any, speculative industrial product is expected to be completed in 2011.