The developers of The Center at Needham Ranch haven’t asked for an asterisk. But to hear them describe the 135-acre master planned business park that’s beginning to take shape adjacent to Highway 14 about a mile north of Interstate 5, Needham Ranch will deserve distinction. “These will be the best (industrial) buildings built in this market,” promised John Balestra, senior vice president of Trammell Crow Company, the project’s developer. In the first public update since tractors began pushing dirt – and crews are moving some 4mm cubic yards of earth during the first phase alone – Needham Park officials detailed the project’s timeline and touted its proximity to the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles and the Antelope Valley during the Valley Industry Association’s monthly luncheon this week at Valencia Country Club. Vertical construction at the site is scheduled to begin in April or May, with the project’s first phase forecast for completion in the fourth quarter of this year. The initial buildout will include seven buildings, ranging in size from 40,000 to 210,000 square feet. The full project is approved for up to 4.3 million square feet of industrial, office, and research and development facilities across 54 acres. While Balestra and Craig Peters, executive vice president for CBRE who will work as the project’s leasing agent, outlined Needham Ranch’s future, they also reflected on the past. “The first three times I took this project to Trammell Crow, they said ‘No,’” Peters told the VIA lunch crowd, adding that for years he faced questions about potential development at the site. “Somebody would pull me aside and say, ‘When is Needham Ranch starting?’ Well, we’re starting now.” VIA President and CEO Kathy Norris remembered that she heard about the Needham Ranch project for the first time during her second board meeting – some 20-plus years ago. “This has been a long time coming and we’re happy to be underway,” Balestra said. With convenient access to six major freeways and approximately 5.3 million people within a 30-minute commute, according to promotional materials, Needham Ranch developers believe the industrial park is poised to set a new standard with a variety of state-of-the-art features including greater clearance heights and cutting-edge architectural design. The project’s target clusters align with those of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation: Aerospace & Defense, Medical Devices, Advanced Manufacturing, Digital Media and Entertainment, and Information Technology. There is already a “substantial list of potential occupiers,” Balestra said, adding that the beginning of vertical construction would be necessary to help those would-be tenants “envision” a future in the business park. “We’re going to have the best-in-class, highest quality buildings. We’re looking for best-in-class occupiers,” Balestra emphasized.