Since Mercedes-Benz USA announced plans to lease a 1.1 million-square foot Boeing plane factory in July, the luxury automaker has kept its plans for the former Long Beach facility a tightly guarded secret.Well, I drive by the facility everday, which is right next to my campus. I've been meaning to take some pictures but I just never stop and make the time. (Besides, it's been a demolition site mostly, since part of the facility included an old hanger that was torn down to make way for the huge concrete lot they've created on the grounds.) It'll be opening soon though, so I'll update when I get the chance to take some pics.
But an executive with Irvine-based Sares-Regis Group, which is the landlord for the 52.2 acres at 4501 E. Conant St., said that Mercedes-Benz plans to use the facility as its vehicle preparation facility and regional office for the western United States, and as a training center.
With the exception of the main airplane hangar, the fenced-in plant has been mostly turned into a huge parking lot with fresh concrete laid along Conant.
Larry Lukanish, a senior vice president with Sares-Regis, also says Mercedes-Benz will test, inspect, customize and prepare new cars for transfer to dealerships.
Sares-Regis, which bought the property in July 2012, plans to turn the property over to Mercedes-Benz USA on March 1 to begin a 15-year lease, Lukanish said.
Chicago-based Boeing Co. shuttered the facilities at the corner of Conant and Lakewood Boulevard in 2006, when the last 717 commercial jet rolled off the line. Boeing inherited the plane when it acquired McDonnell Douglas Corp. in 1997. The plane was originally called the MD-95 but never caught on with major airlines. The hangar is still on the property, which has a large “Fly DC Jets” sign on top. The factory, which employed thousands for decades, once built some of the world's most popular airlines, including the DC-3, DC-8 and MD-80.
Several outbuildings were demolished and tunnels under Lakewood Boulevard were filled, Lukanish said. The hangar interiors remain unchanged with the exception of painting, removal of old cranes and a mezzanine structure.
Mariella Kapsaskis, a spokeswoman with Mercedes-Benz USA's corporate headquarters in Montvale, N.J., confirmed portions of Lukanish's disclosure. She said in a statement that the car manufacturer would be consolidating its Western regional offices, its training and performance center and vehicle preparation center under a single roof in Long Beach as a means of improving overall efficiency. This includes its regional office in Irvine and its vehicle preparation center in Carson.
She couldn't comment on whether those two offices would be closed or how many employees would be affected.
Beyond California, the other regional offices are located in Jacksonville, Fla.; Parsippany, N.J.; and Rosemont, Ill.
RELATED: From last summer at LAT, "Mercedes-Benz leases old Boeing jet factory in Long Beach."