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Tech companies WorldCom and RCN have signed leases for a total of 228,000 sf at 600 W. Chicago, otherwise known as E-port, and formerly known as the Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalog House. The 1.5 million sf structure on the banks of the North Branch of the Chicago River is a massive redevelopment project, converting a 92-year-old catalog order processing facility into telecom and high-tech office space.

The leases are the first major ones at E-port. Previously, the Chicago-based divine interVentures, an Internet incubator company, had been negotiating for space at E-port, but recently scuttled the plan. RCN Corp., one of the largest providers of high-speed Internet access in the country, will lease 82,000 sf. RCNÕs acquisition of 21st Century late last year has enabled it to increase the number of Internet subscribers in Chicago that use digital subscriber lines (DSLs), and also spurred it to seek new space.

WorldCom, a local and long-distance phone provider, will occupy 146,000 sf of E-port. WorldCom, operating under the MCI WorldCom name, is the second-largest long-distance carrier in the United States.E-port is being developed by a team consisting of New York-based Taconic Partners, Chicago-based Centrum Properties, Amerimar Enterprises and Angelo Gordon and Co. “Top-tier companies are E-portÕs target tenants,” says Paul Fishbein, vp for Amerimar, leasing agent for the project. ” We still have large spaces for new economy businesses, telecom companies, and broadband providers.” All together, the partners are investing roughly $150 million to convert the building. E-port will offer high-ceilings, abundant riser space, flexible HVAC systems, high electric capacity and 24/7 access and security.

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