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Aug. 22--SIMI VALLEY, Calif. -- Farmers Insurance is temporarily transferring about 450 employees from its Los Angeles headquarters to its Simi Valley building, which has been vacant for about 2 1/2 years.
The transfers will be welcomed by retail businesses that neighbor the five-story, 240,000-square-foot Simi Valley structure at 3041 Cochran St. Sales dropped off when the 1,200 employees who had worked there -- many of whom patronized surrounding businesses -- were transferred in 2011 and 2012 to the insurer's Woodland Hills office 16 miles away. Farmers had been Simi Valley's second-largest private employer.
The transfers will occur over the next several weeks, Farmers spokesman Trent Frager said Thursday.
"We anticipate employees being located in Simi Valley for about six months," he said.
The employees are being transferred because of seismic deficiencies in the company's buildings at 4680 and 4750 Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles, Frager said.
After six months, some of the employees will be transferred to the Woodland Hills site at Warner Center, which is replacing the 10-acre Wilshire Boulevard campus as the insurance giant's headquarters, he said.
Others will temporarily return to the 4750 Wilshire building before eventually transferring to Woodland Hills.
Simi Valley Mayor Bob Huber said Thursday the pending transfers to the Cochran Street building will be "a huge plus" for neighboring businesses.
"Bringing approximately 450 employees will energize that whole area," he said. "Employees who go to lunch or shop during lunch or after work will patronize those businesses, which took a huge hit when Farmers moved out."
Farmers is considering providing van-pool service for the transferred employees commutes, Frager said.
The building has been vacant since early 2012 when Farmers transferred the last of the location's employees to Woodland Hills.
Farmers is locked into a lease at the building, which is owned by New York-based Capital Lease Funding Inc., until early 2017. The insurer and Simi Valley have been looking without success for a new tenant or tenants for the structure, the largest vacant office space in the county. Ventura County is considering buying it to consolidate its east county operations.
In April, Farmers announced it had sold its Wilshire Boulevard campus to CIM Group, a real estate investment firm, but will lease the site until its move to Woodland Hills is complete. All 1,500-plus employees at the Wilshire Boulevard location will be transferred to Warner Center over the next several years, according to a company news release.
(c)2014 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.)
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