2004-05-12 / Front Page

Countrywide to close Moorpark center

By Saria Kraft
kraft@theacorn.com

By Saria Kraft kraft@theacorn.com

The fourth largest employer in Moorpark will pull out of town this fall. Countrywide Home Loans is expected to move about a third of its employees from the Moorpark center as early as August, said Vice President Rick Simon, a company spokesman.

Countrywide’s lease agreement for the Condor Drive center expires Oct. 31. The location currently houses about 560 employees.

Moorpark represents less than 10 percent of the company workforce in Ventura County, Simon said. Personnel are likely to be shifted to other locations within the county or to the West San Fernando Valley.

"This does not have anything to do with cutbacks," Simon said. "In fact, nationally, we are still expanding staffing levels."

The company currently has more than 600 offices and 35,000 employees nationwide.

"The decision is in keeping with Countrywide’s desire to operate out of owned, rather than leased, properties, as the opportunities present themselves," Simon said. "In this case, it did."

In March, Countrywide closed escrow on the State Farm Insurance facility at Lindero Canyon and Agoura roads in Westlake Village. Following renovations this summer, the 257,000-square-foot building is expected to house about 1,300 employees.

A third of the building will be occupied by September, with full occupancy planned for December, Simon said.

Lease agreements for two Countrywide offices on Malibu Hills Road in Calabasas and one office in Woodland Hills will expire at about the same time as the Moorpark center. Together, the four locations represent 187,000 square feet of office space.

In addition to Moorpark personnel, many of the Calabasas and Woodland Hills workers will be transferred to the newly purchased facility in Westlake Village. Overcrowding was an issue at all four leased locations, Simon said.

"There is no question that they have outgrown the facility in Moorpark," said Assistant City Manager Hugh Riley. "We knew the company was searching for a place to consolidate their operations.

"We hate losing Countrywide," he added. "They’re good people and we’ll miss them."

Riley said that due to the shortage of existing office space in Moorpark, he expects the Condor Drive property to be leased quickly. Although the pull out will impact local businesses, city revenues will not be affected, he said.

Chamber of Commerce President Virginia Hayward said parking is inadequate at the facility, and that employees line up in front of the building to valet park their cars. The city has bent over backwards to accommodate the situation, she said.

"We would like to see Countrywide stay here in Moorpark," Hayward said. "If they had owned a building in Moorpark, they would have been able to make parking improvements."

Local restaurants will sustain a weakened lunch trade, and businesses will suffer the loss of purchases made by Countrywide employees before and after work and during the lunch hour, Hayward said.

The company owns five properties and leases another two locations in Simi Valley. Those leases will not expire for some time. The seven offices house a total workforce of 6,200 employees.

Job security in Simi Valley will not be threatened, and there are no plans to move those employees at this time, Simon said.

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