Equis Corp.: Shift from signature buildings began before Sept. 11

Corporations began moving out of their signature buildings long before the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., but the Sept. 11 events accelerated the trend. According to Chicago-based Equis Corp. — which helps such big-name clients as Daimler/Chrysler, Xerox and SBC/Ameritech find, lease and buy office space worldwide — the shift away from high-profile buildings with high square footage is part of a change in corporate strategy that was taking place before the destruction of the World Trade Center towers.

“Companies also realized there were other ways to achieve brand recognition, not necessarily in bricks and mortar,” Equis President Michael Silver said in a statement. “Between costs and the reality of globalization, it makes sense to downsize to smaller structures.” Silver cited the recent example of Quaker Oats' move from its 400,000 sq. ft. space in its flagship building in Chicago to a smaller building with 225,000 sq. ft.

The availability of global technology, in conjunction with heavy expenses associated with high-profile buildings, led to a downsizing trend across the industry. Security concerns sparked by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers provided further motivation for companies to disperse employees.

But Silver insists the pattern was firmly in place even before the Sept. 11 attacks. “Companies began to re-think their human asset locations long ago, when it became apparent that the very top talent was located in different parts of the country,” he said, citing the move by Sears, Roebuck and Co. out of its signature building, the Sears Tower in Chicago, nearly a decade ago.

Prime New York City property aimed at small, blue-chip tenants

Berwyn, Pa.-based developer LCOR Inc. has unveiled the design for a $168 million, Class-A office building at 505 Fifth Ave. in New York City. Slated for completion in 2003, the building is geared toward companies seeking smaller, high-quality office space in a prime location. Financing for the project is in the negotiation stage.

The 23-story, 275,000 sq. ft. 505 Fifth Ave. will feature three stories of retail space and a high-ceiling penthouse in addition to the office space. LCOR officials will market the building to tenants seeking small blocks of office space, from 20,000 sq. ft. to 75,000 sq. ft. — a niche previously neglected in the New York commercial real estate landscape.

New York-based Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates PC designed the building, situated between Bryant Park and Grand Central station. Insignia/ESG, New York, is the exclusive leasing agent for the office space. Cushman & Wakefield, New York, will handle the retail leasing.

Design approval opens gate for 1.6 million sq. ft. Metroport

Metroport, a proposed 1.6 million sq. ft., mixed-use project in Oakland, Calif., is a step closer to reality now that the Port of Oakland's Design Review Committee has approved the $364 million design submitted by developer San Francisco-based SIMEON Commercial Properties.

Designed by Gensler Architects, the transit-oriented project will include 1.3 million sq. ft. of Class-A office space, 50,000 sq. ft. of retail space and a 336-room, full-service hotel — the only full-service lodgings adjacent to the airport. Metroport will be located on Interstate 880 and Hegenberger Road in Oakland, and will include a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Connect station that will provide direct access to the BART system and the Oakland International Airport.

Westbrook Partners venture buys $530 million U.K. portfolio

A joint venture between Westbrook Partners, a New York-based opportunity fund, and private clients of Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle recently acquired a portfolio of 20 properties throughout the United Kingdom valued at $530 million. The five sellers were undisclosed.

“The portfolio provides outstanding characteristics of long-term, well-secured income and excellent opportunities to refurbish many of the properties,” said Mark Morris, national director and head of private client real estate for Jones Lang LaSalle. “We are actively seeking investment opportunities throughout Europe with a focus on portfolios, shopping centers and in-town offices.”

The portfolio offers both long-term income potential and the opportunity to refurbish and re-sell individual properties, according to Jones Lang LaSalle. It includes 10 office buildings, five distribution warehouses, four retail centers and one leisure complex. Nine office properties are located in central London, while others are in the West End, Midtown, Euston and Southwark. Jones Lang LaSalle represented the purchaser and arranged financing.