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CareAmerica New Tenant at Ex-Hughes Site

Relocation: The HMO plans to move its headquarters from Warner Center to a planned office complex on the aerospace company's former campus.


WEST HILLS — CareAmerica Health Plans has signed a 10-year, $35-million lease to occupy a planned office complex bankrolled partly by Roy E. Disney at the former Hughes Aircraft site here.

CareAmerica, now in a Warner Center high-rise in Woodland Hills, will move into its new three-story, 162,000-square-foot headquarters late next year.

"They wanted the open-air campus environment, a low-rise building, with a beautiful greenscape and a view of the Santa Susana Mountains," said Doug Brown, a principal with Regent Properties.

Regent Properties in Beverly Hills and Shamrock Holdings, which is based in Burbank and owned by the Roy Disney family, are partners in what they expect will be a $100-million-plus office complex on 30 acres of the former Hughes Aircraft campus.

Shamrock and Regent are also talking to several other major tenants, Brown said, and they expect to have the entire office project leased in 18 months.

CareAmerica is an HMO with 265,000 members in seven counties in Southern California.

One lure for CareAmerica was having a low-rise office. A hot design trend in commercial real estate is what brokers call "large floor plates," for offices in which many employees can work in the same wide-open space, improving communication. And the design reduces employees' need for elevators.

CareAmerica is one of several HMOs that last winter threatened to move out of the city because of high tax rates.

Ross Goldberg, a spokesman for the firm, said that, while the tax issue is "not fully resolved," the company has reached "some compromise" with the city and has decided not to move out of state.

The Shamrock-Regent office complex is the third step in redeveloping the 86-acre former aerospace site.

Hughes Aircraft shut its West Hills plant in 1994 after 35 years there and moved 1,900 employees to Tucson, part of the massive exodus of aerospace jobs from the Valley in the past decade.

Coast Federal Bank then bought the West Hill site and in 1995 moved its administrative offices there.

Last year DeVry Inc., a Chicago company that runs engineering and business schools, agreed to develop a 15-acre campus there.

Next month Shamrock and Regent will purchase 30 acres from Coast Federal for its office development.

Although CareAmerica has been growing steadily, there is considerable consolidation taking place in the medical industry.

Brown said CareAmerica had signed an ironclad lease, so that if the company were bought its new owners would have to honor the full terms of the lease.

A similar scenario is found at the Great Western Bank headquarters complex in Chatsworth.

Great Western is being purchased by Washington Mutual, and the out-of-state savings and loan will have to take over Great Western's remaining years on its guaranteed leases, though Washington Mutual is expected to sublease much of the Chatsworth office space as it trims jobs.

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