Downtown St. Paul’s efforts to become a center forhigh-tech companies seems to be bearing fruit, as the second high-tech tenant in a week announced plans to take a significant lease there.Guardent Inc., a Boston-based digital securityservices provider, says it plans to move the 25employees of its fast-growing Midwest office into the fifth floor of Lawson Commons in downtown St. Paul.

Just a week earlier, Cisco Systems said it would move its fast-growing optical Internet-working business unit to a 26,000-sf lease in the Hamm Building, which is near Lawson Commons.Although the fifth floor on Lawson Commons had been designed for a single tenant, it will broken up into multitenant space to accommodate Guardent, says Rob Kost, the United Properties agent who brokered the deal. Guardent is leasing 9,000 sf of office space,less than a third of the size of a typical floor.

City officials expected that the City’s hefty subsidies to facilitate the relocation of Lawson Software from Minneapolis to a new office building in downtown St. Paul would attract other high-tech companies to thearea. The 370,000-sf Lawson Commons opened late last year.St. Paul’s growing tech sector, which also includes a variety of high tech start-ups and Internet companiesin its Lowertown district, was indeed an incentive for Guardent to move there, says John Sekevitch, vice president and general manager of Guardent.The growing number of restaurants and entertainmentoptions, including a new Science Museum and aprofessional hockey team debuting this fall indowntown St. Paul, is another reason Guardent chose Lawson.

But one big reason downtown St. Paul is becoming anattractive location to high-tech tenants is itsrelatively low rents – at just under $14 psf, class A space in downtown St. Paul is about $1 psf below the metropolitan average and $2 psf below downtown Minneapolis, according to arecent report from Bloomington, MN-based UnitedProperties.What’s more, space in Lawson Commons and the HammBuildings are definitely bargains these days. The St.Paul Cos. is subleasing a large amount of space inboth buildings, and to fill it up quickly, the spaceis being offered at attractive rates. One brokergroused that rental rates on the space were recentlycut more than 10%. Kost agree that he wasoffering a “fairly aggressive package.”

Guardent, which in April bought the professionalservices unit of San Jose-based Secure Computing(formerly based in Roseville, MN), last month movedits office from Roseville to temporary space in theHamm Building. It plans to move into the Lawson spaceby the end of September or early October.Guardent and Cisco project that they will each have 40to 50 employees by year-end.

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