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Warner Center Complex Sold to CarrAmerica

Valley: Robert Voit gets $51.5 million for his sprawling Woodland Hills commercial development.

August 28, 1996|JILL LEOVY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In a transaction seen as breathing new life into the San Fernando Valley's commercial real estate business, Warner Center Corporate Park, part of the giant Woodland Hills office complex, has been sold for $51.5 million to CarrAmerica Realty Corp., a Washington real estate investment trust.

The sale represents the end of an era for Robert Voit, the 56-year-old developer who transformed the face of the West San Fernando Valley by building a large chunk of the gleaming high-rise complex, including the 343,458-square-foot corporate park that is being sold.

The sale, which closed on July 23, was disclosed Wednesday.

Voit, who has now sold the last of his office holdings in Woodland Hills, said he is cashing out in order to diversify his real estate holdings in other markets, including Orange County, Arizona and Northern California.

Warner Center Corporate Park is a cluster of mostly low-rise office buildings on the northwest corner of DeSoto Avenue and Burbank Boulevard.

Many observers called the sale another sign that the long-troubled Southern California commercial real estate market is at a turning point.

"It's a signal that the worst is over," said Jack Kyser, head of the L.A. County Economic Development Corp.

The transaction is drawing attention not just because of the size of the 24-acre campus--which recently became home to a branch of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court--but because of the terms of the deal, which observers viewed as highly favorable to Voit.

CarrAmerica's price works out to about $150 per square foot. That's "a high water mark," said John Nagle, a senior investment officer for John Hancock Real Investment Group.

Built in 1980, the complex has lost value since the market's peak, but rents have long been sufficient to cover all debts, he said. He declined to give the amount invested to build the complex.

The property was never formally put up for sale, according to Voit. He said CarrAmerica came to him with an offer--a scenario that would have been all but unheard of a few years ago.

CarrAmerica is a rapidly expanding investment trust which owned about 8.4 million square feet of offices nationally as of June, according to Securities Exchange Commission documents.

The company began an aggressive expansion about six months ago, snapping up so-called "value" office buildings in rock-bottom markets. Southern California is one of CarrAmerica's target areas because commercial real estate here is rounding a corner, said spokeswoman Karen Widmayer.

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