SAN FRANCISCO-Ketchum Inc. and Turner Construction Co. are joining the growing list of San Francisco-based companies moving east for reprieve from high rents and grueling commutes. The two firms say they will take up residence in Oakland’s historic PG&E building, located at the corner of 17th and Clay Streets, a block from City Hall.

From 1922 to 1975, the classic brick-and-marble structure served as the utility’s Western US headquarters. The 40,000-sf building is undergoing an $8-million facelift by Terry McGrath, owner of Aegis Realty Partners. McGrath credits skyrocketing real estate values for saving the building, which he picked up in 1996. Turner, the Bay Area’s largest contractor, will take the buildings first four floors, totaling more than 17,000 sf and Ketchum will move into the top two floors plus the penthouse, totaling more than 10,500 sf.

New York-based Ketchum, a public relations firm, will still keep its offices in San Francisco and Redwood City. The commute-friendly location lured the company to its new location, says Jon Higgins, director for the company. He estimates that approximately 40% of his workers live in the East Bay. In recent years, Oakland has become a viable option for office space, where rent is $1.50 to $2 per sf per month.

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