Raydiance, developer of next-generation laser technology, is considering a major expansion in Petaluma this year.

A site for an expansion pointed to by real estate sources is a vacant 42,000-square-foot former Cisco Systems research-and-development building at 1450 N. McDowell Blvd. The company currently occupies about half that amount of space at 2199 S. McDowell Blvd.

Raydiance Chief Executive Officer Dick Pierce last week wouldn't confirm any plans, calling them "rumor and speculation." He said similar rumors recently had the company expanding into RNM Properties' South McDowell Landing at the southern end of Petaluma.

That's where Camelbak expanded in 2008 and Gap's fast-growing Athleta division last year doubled in size to 40,000 square feet. Enphase Energy was said to be in final negotiations to expand there before leasing 96,000 square feet at Basin Street Properties' Sequoia Center complex elsewhere in the city.

Cornerstone Properties, owner of 1450 N. McDowell, declined to comment.

Raydiance has been growing quickly since it moved to Petaluma from Florida several years ago. The company has received about $50 million in investments, including $3.8 million raised last spring, to commercialize its ultrafast laser pulse technology for ablating -- removing -- material without generating heat. Applications include targeting human cells and highly precise manufacturing.

At the time of the last funding round, the company was projecting it would employ up to 70 employees by the end of 2011.


Santa Barbara-based multifamily property investment firm Nevins Adams Lewbel Schell, or NALS, purchased the 292-unit Rolling Oaks luxury apartment complex at 3700 Lyon Road in Fairfield for $52 million, or about $178,000 a dwelling.

The 15-building complex, built in 2001, has one- to three-bedroom units listed for lease at $1,209 to $1,829 a month. The sale price was the second-largest for a North Bay multifamily property in 2011, following $68 million for 492-unit Enclave at Adobe Creek in Petaluma in February.

NALS owns more than 14,000 units in 12 states, but this is the only California property currently in the portfolio for a reason, according to partner Mike Schell.

"We tend to be yield-oriented," he said. "Historically, California is not a place to get cash flow but to get appreciation. We're very long-term owners, so our interest is in cash flow."

The Rolling Oaks property at 97 percent occupied at the time of sale was available at an investment yield comparable to available properties in states such as Arizona, Colorado and Georgia, where NALS has a number of holdings, according to Mr. Schell. But the barriers to new construction in California can make apartments good investments.

Generally, he's positive about the outlook for multifamily real estate investments.

"The age cohort that generally rents apartment is on a growth tear to 2025, and there is ample demand for apartments and a somewhat reduced supply," he said.

NALS plans to upgrade the property common facilities and areas, such as the leasing office, pool and fitness center, and give the buildings a fresh coat of paint.

William Huberty, Clint Sholl and Malcomb McComb of CBRE Group represented sellers Continental American Properties and Kuwait-based Wafra Investment Advisory Group in the Nov. 30 deal.***

Prima Fluer Botanicals signed a five-year lease for the 14,400-square-foot warehouse and offices at 23 Pimentel Court in Novato. The 21-year-old San Rafael-based contract manufacturer of natural luxury personal care products scouted Marin County for expansion space.

"They wanted to stay in Marin, but there are not tons of choices in Marin of that size," said Brian Eisberg, part of the Cornish & Carey Commercial Newmark Knight Frank team marketing the building. " There are lots of smaller sizes available."

Lead chemist and Chief Executive Officer Marianne Griffeth has created thousands of skin care, body care, hair care and aromatherapy products for destination spas, resorts, hotels, day salons, integrated pharmacies, natural food stores. The company is approved to make products certified by France-based Ecocert and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program.

Company co-owner Ron Griffeth, her husband, didn't return calls about plans for the new facility and for existing San Rafael space.

Linda Zacharin of The Zacharin Co. represented Prima Fluer in the early December lease. Mr. Eisberg, Brian Gleason and David Walwyn of Cornish & Carey Commercial Newmark Knight Frank represented Novato building owner Frank Davis.


Lowenberg Corp. has acquired another North Bay building. An affiliate of the San Francisco-based industrial real estate investor purchased a 101,700-square-foot warehouse at 801 Hanna Dr. in American Canyon from Upvalley Associates, LLC, on Dec. 16 for $6.8 million. That's where Sonoma-based Groskopf Warehouse & Logistics made its 60,000-square-foot expansion into Napa Valley last year. The building is 60 percent occupied.

The dozens of properties in the Lowenberg portfolio now includes seven Napa-area buildings and two in Fairfield, according to Glen Dowling, part of the San Rafael-based Cushman & Wakefield team with Matt Bracco and Chris Neeb who have represented Lowenberg in all the North Bay deals. Previous purchases in the North Bay included a 101,200-square-foot warehouse at 770 Skyway Ct. in south Napa in December 2010.

Industrial real estate vacancy rates were about 7 percent in the business parks south of Napa and 12.5 percent in Solano County in the fourth quarter, according to Cushman & Wakefield.

"Both markets are improving, but Napa appears to moving a bit quicker in a positive direction as wine-related users continued to dominate demand," Mr. Dowling said. "Fairfield is performing best out of Solano County cities, but Benicia and Vacaville vacancies need to improve substantially before we will see improvement in rents in Solano County."***

As part of planned projects around the Bay Area, San Ramon-based gym chain 24 Hour Fitness has been upgrading its North Bay facilities. In December, the 22-year-old, 17,800-square-foot health club at 101 Larkspur Landing Circle in Larkspur reopened after remodeling and installing new equipment.

"We're creating more space in our clubs for movement-based training, versus strength-training or cardio," said Jim McPhail, executive vice president of real estate and chief development officer.

In February, the company plans to open a 42,400-square-foot club in a long-vacant former Rite Aid drug store in Northbay Centre in Rohnert Park, according to Mr. McPhail. The facility will have an outdoor pool, large group exercise rooms, dedicated exercise bike room and 110 pieces of equipment each for cardiovascular and strength training.

That's the same largely vacant neighborhood shopping center that Modesto-based RP Wings, LLP in mid-2011 won approval for a Hooters restaurant.

Later this year, 24 Hour Fitness' nearly 30,000-square-foot gym in Petaluma will get upgrades similar to those finished in Larkspur, Mr. McPhail said.

Earlier last year, the company upgraded its Santa Rosa gym to the larger "Supersport" format.


Send items for this column to Business Journal Staff Writer Jeff Quackenbush at jquackenbush@busjrnl.com or call 707-521-4256.