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Connecticut General Acquiring Stake in Alhambra Office Park

The insurer has invested $27.5 million, giving partner Wayne Ratkovich funds to begin development.

June 13, 2003|Roger Vincent | Times Staff Writer

A campus best known as a backdrop for the exploits of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is getting a new life.

Connecticut General Life Insurance Co. has invested $27.5 million to acquire a stake in the 1-million-square-foot Alhambra office park, giving partner Wayne Ratkovich the capital to begin new development on the 45-acre site.

Connecticut General, a subsidiary of Cigna Corp., has replaced Lehman Bros. and Wachovia Securities as equity partners with Ratkovich's Los Angeles-based Ratkovich Co. in ownership of the office campus known as the Alhambra, formerly the headquarters of engineering firm C.F. Braun.

Ratkovich bought the property on Fremont Avenue in Alhambra for $78 million in 1999 from Santa Fe US Holdings Inc. The 20 office buildings were less than 35% occupied but now are about 75% leased, with such tenants as the USC Keck School of Medicine, Tenet Healthcare Corp. and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

"Cigna has a longer investment horizon and is more comfortable with development" than his previous partners were, Ratkovich said.

Construction will begin soon on 37,000 square feet of retail space on Fremont Avenue that will be completed in mid-2004, Ratkovich said. He already has tentative commitments from Starbucks, Jamba Juice and T-Mobile Wireless.

He is in negotiations with a fitness facility for the campus and is considering building either condos or apartments. "Our vision is to move it from what is primarily a business campus into an urban community," Ratkovich said.

The brick buildings that date to the 1920s and campus-like grounds have made the property a popular location for movies and television programs. It was featured regularly on the television series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Ratkovich specializes in urban development. Previous projects include restorations of the James Oviatt Building and the Fine Arts Building, both in downtown Los Angeles, and the Wiltern theater in Mid-Wilshire.

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