Friday, August 29, 2008

Downtown Dallas sees an increase in commercial activity

Downtown Dallas is the largest employment center in North Texas, making up over 20%of the region’s workforce. However, like many urban centers across the country, in the late 80’s the area suffered from economic woes and suburban flight, resulting in vacancy numbers that left much to be desired. However, in the last few years, massive efforts have been underway to reposition Downtown Dallas as a thriving business community. A number of original office buildings have undergone major facelifts, and new developments are being built in an effort to attract new business. The City, along with the private sector is also investing over $100 Million in new park development Downtown, in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars that will be spent on the Trinity River project to add more green space and recreation to the area – all enhancing the quality of life and making the are more attractive for companies and their employees.

The investment is paying off. According to DOWNTOWNDALLAS, more than 40 companies have made the decision to relocate to Downtown Dallas in the last year, including major corporate moves like Tenet Healthcare Corp., AT&T, Comerica, TM Advertising, 7-Eleven and AIG. This represents approximately 6,500 new employees and over 1 million square feet of space. Furthermore, in the last year, Downtown has experienced more than 1.5 million sf of expansions and/or lease renewals including companies who have made the decision to remain in the area like McKool Smith, Thompson & Knight, Haynes & Boone, Corgan, Hunt Consolidated, Greyhound and Fireman’s Fund.

“When we opened our law firm in 1991, most of the offices downtown were filled with banks or other law firms,” says Mike McKool, co-founder of Dallas-based McKool Smith. “But we have seen more and more diverse companies moving downtown, and the varied mix has been a great benefit in revitalizing downtown.”

These companies are citing a number of factors in their moves. Dallas, of course, with its central location and major international airport is certainly attractive to many corporations, particularly those looking to move headquarters. In addition, the economic factors such as cost of gasoline commute times, competitive rental rates and proximity to mass transit make Downtown more attractive than ever. There is also a lifestyle factor involved. Following a national trend of “Young Professional” Gen X and Y’ers seeking a true “live, work, play” environment, urban living is becoming the norm. In turn, companies are following, seeking locations close to where this talented employee pool wishes to reside.

Commercial activity can be seen in many Downtown’s districts, most prominently in Victory Park, Uptown, the Central Business District and the Trinity/Design District. Following is information and updates about a few of the key commercial developments Downtown.

The 45-story Lincoln Plaza first rose over downtown Dallas in December 1984. Twenty-four years later, this distinctive granite building remains one of the city’s premier business addresses. A recent multimillion dollar renovation will ensure that it continues to be an attractive home to successful companies for the next quarter century.

In an ongoing commitment to provide excellent in management, leasing and service to current and future tenants, CB Richard Ellis Investors (advisor to Lincoln Plaza’s owner, The California State Teachers’ Retirement System) has rejuvenated the tenant and guest spaces on the lower three floors of the building.

Renovations began with the building’s exterior and include beautiful new landscaping that blends with the City of Dallas’ streetscape improvements, existing mature trees and unique courtyard water features.

Designed by Corgan Associates, Lincoln Plaza’s lobby has been transformed into a bright, energetic space with an innovative reception area that includes new security and concierge stations. A new ceiling enhances the lightning in the public spaces and custom light elements highlight the lobby’s features and elevators. Wood accents provide warmth to the rich stone floor and walls, and contemporary custom rugs and multiple seating arrangements reflect the building’s enhanced new image.

“Lincoln Plaza is now one of the most unique commercial buildings located in the Dallas CBD, offering spectacular architecture, an unmatched location, superior amenities and strong dedicated ownership,” said W. Blaine Hale, Director of Leasing for CB Richard Ellis.“We believe these renovations are among the reasons companies are choosing to relocate to Lincoln Plaza. The upgrades and improvements were all designed to improve the working experience and provide unique special services and conveniences for our tenants and their guests.”

Lincoln Plaza has recently leased more than 64,000 square feet this year with Watson Wyatt & Company, and Brownile & Braden LLC planning to move into the building early next year.

Texas-based Spire Realty Group – a privately held real estate investment and management company – recently announced that Regency Energy Partners LP will move its headquarters to Bryan Tower, located at 2001 Bryan Street. The move, which is expected to be completed by October, will nearly double Regency’s office space to more than 54,000 square feet with expansion rights for future growth. The new headquarters will house around 90 employees.

Spire Realty Group – also known for its generous support of the arts – is sponsoring a series of Texas-based artists throughout 2008 in order to promote the Dallas Arts District. All exhibits are being held in the lobby of Bryan Tower. The next exhibit – The Texas Sculpture Association Curated Membership Show – will be open to the public from September 8 to 27. Past exhibits have included the “Business of Art”, featuring works by Tobolowsky; and “Scrap Can Be Beautiful”, which showcased sculptures designed by students from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

“Bryan Tower is only blocks from the art, music, dance and theatre that makes up the largest urban art district in the United States,” said Caleb Smith, president and owner of Spire Realty Group, which owns and manages Bryan Tower. “As a building owner and downtown tenant, Spire Realty Group understands the importance of supporting Dallas’ booming art scene. Through our series of arts exhibits at Bryan Tower, we hope to raise more awareness among our tenants and visitors about the variety and quality of the arts available to them downtown.”

Bryan Tower, which is bounded by Bryan, Olive, Federal and Harwood Streets, is conveniently located along the DART rail line.

Jones Lang LaSalle’s leased office property, 1700Pacafic Avenue, has added a new upscale full-service 25,000 square-foot fitness facility called Elevation, which offers state-of-the-art amenities and equipment. The fitness center will also include a new 3,000 square-foot conference room attached for tenants and fitness education classes. Located in Downtown Dallas, the 1.3 million square-foot office building is owned by Berkeley First City, L.P. Jeff Eckert and James Esquivel, Senior Vice President with Jones Lang LaSalle’s Dallas office are leading the leasing efforts and the property.

“With the addition of Elevation, as well as significant capital improvements to the building’s lobby and concourse and a great downtown location, 1700 Pacific will remain on e of Dallas’ most recognized office properties, “ said Eckert.

Added Esquivel, “We are seeking a great deal of activity downtown, and are sure that 1700 Pacific’s new fitness facility will attract high-quality tenant.”

1700 Pacific Avenue is a 49-story, Class A office building containing more than 1.3 Million square feet of rentable space. The building is rectangular in shape, allowing for extraordinary retail and office visibility and frontage. Tenants include Penson Worldwide Inc., Akin Gump Strauss Haver & Feld Law Firm, Neiman Marcus Group and Mary Crowley Medical Research.
Elevation fitness center will be a platform for top certified personal trainers to use their skills in training sessions and signed a contract to work out at the fitness center this year. Elevation’s membership is open to everyone and offered at a discount to tenants.

The Adolpus Tower, a 26-story 182,000 square-foot office building at Main and Akard streets, is undergoing a complete face lift, which includes improvements to both the interior and exterior. LaWayne Schrader, of Henry S Miller’s Corporate Services Division, said renovations to the buildings common areas – including the connector to the hotel - are already underway and are expected to be completed by the fall. Custom spaces will then be created based on new building standard finishes.

According to Schrader, the Adolpus Tower’s ideal location is what prompted plans to update the space. “it’s a great investment for us to renovate when we have such a premier location in the Central Business District,” noted Schrader. The tower is two blocks away from the DART line, is walking distance to a wide variety of shops and restaurant, and will be across the street from the planned downtown park.”

Comerica Bank Tower (formerly Bank One Center and Chase Center) is located at 1717 Main Street in the southeast quadrant of Dallas’ central business district. The 60-story, 1.7 million square-foot tower is at the hub of the Downtown Dallas Underground Walkway System.

Last year, Comerica Bank leased nearly 200,000 square feet – making Dallas its corporate headquarters. The remainder of the building is currently 86 percent occupied, leaving approximately 205,000 square feet of Class AA of the space available.

A Dallas icon since 1985, Bank of America Plaza rises 921 feet, offering 72 stories of classic modern architecture. With signature green lights that define one of the most recognizable big-city skylines, Bank of America Plaza is comprised of over 1.8 million square feet of office space, making it the largest commercial real estate asset in North Texas.

Bank of America Plaza has recently attracted five new office tenants totaling 80,000 square feet. With floor plates of over 28,000 square feet, the building’s unique design provides for 16 corner offices and up to 40 offices on the glass with unobstructed views of the metroplex. The plaza is center to the vortex of activity soon to take place in Downtown Dallas. Construction of the Trinity River Project, and Dallas’ new convention center hotel provides Bank of America Plaza with the excitement and anticipation of a vital, growing Downtown community affording a 24/7 live, work and play environment.

Bank of America Plaza is home to Dallas’ largest down town tenant, Bank of America, and several other large corporations and law firms. A host of amenities make Bank of America Plaza a great place to work for over 3,500 Downtown Dallas employees. The building contains nearly 42,000 square feet of retail conveniences to service its tenants, such as Bank of America, CVS Pharmacy, Strabucks, Tin Star, Subway, and Corporate Care Dry Cleaners. With access to the central business district tunnel system, employees at the Bank of America Plaza also have access to over 70 restaurants and eateries. The Texas Athletic Club, a full-service 47,000 square foot fitness facility, is connected to banks of America Plaza via the underground tunnel. Additionally, the City Club a private dining club located at the top of the tower offers stunning panoramic views of the city. Bank of America Plaza is leased by Transwestern Urban Advisors and is professionally managed by Cushman Wakefield of Texas Inc. The building is kept in the pristine, condition essential to the needs of its sophisticated corporate tenants.

In October 2008, availability of a 285,000 square foot contiguous block of space will enable Bank of America Plaza to provide office space to a larger user that is unparalleled in the Central Business District. Its monumental presence combined with its unique floor plate, amenities base, and location allows corporations to office in the building that defines Dallas.

“As the largest office building owner in Dallas, Younan Properties has long recognized the importance of a strong central business core,” said John R. Cook with Younan Properties. “Due to the ever-inflating cost of fuel, increasing DART rail ridership, competitive rental rates and the addition of exciting new amenities to the area such as the Arts District and the Woodall Rodgers Park, Downtown Dallas is poised for positive growth and absorption in the coming years. I expect to see more companies follow in the footsteps of AIG, Comerica Bank, Temerlin McLain and Tenet Healthcare in the near future as Downtown Dallas becomes increasingly attractive as a corporate relocation hotspot.

In an effort to further build the corporate community, DOWNTOWNDALLAS has recently embarked upon the creation of an Office Recruitment and Retention program in cooperation with the City of Dallas and a task force of private stakeholders. Under the program, a “one-stop-shop” will be created for downtown market information, providing commercial brokers, property owners and managers the necessary tool to recruit business. In addition the group will work its way through meeting with companies who are currently located Downtown, gaining particular insight into today’s environment. DOWNTOWNDALLAS will also be re-launching it’s market data web site, www.downtowndallas.org in September of this year, in invaluable resource for facts, figures and development information.