NEW YORK CITY-Chase Manhattan Bank is busily signing lease deals in Manhattan and across the river in New Jersey, leaving rumors flying about possible plans by others to pounce on the space to be vacated at 55 Water St. While Chase’s role in one of the biggest lease deals of 2000 became public yesterday, employees of the company were telling that they are actively searching for a new job for layoffs they call inevitable. To add to the mix, the implications of Chase’s planned merger with J.P. Morgan have not yet been calculated.

Brookfield Properties Corp. made the news public yesterday that Chase Manhattan Bank has signed a 20-year lease for 580,160 sf at 245 Park Ave. in one of the year’s biggest deals. Chase will occupy floors two through 14 in the 44-story building, also occupied by Bear Stearns. Actually, it is the leases signed by the two companies that make the deal so huge. Bear Stearns, despite planning to move its headquarters to 383 Madison Ave., is renewing its lease for 207,625 sf—floors 15 through 20. The two leases in the building make up 787,785 sf.

As Chase plans to move in to its new digs in the 1.7-million-sf building adjacent to Grand Central Station, the time left on the lease at 55 Water St. is ticking. Bradley P. Gerla, senior managing director for Insignia/ESG, was one of the brokers involved in penning the deal for Chase across the river in Jersey City. He tells the office that has been cited in countless discussions about the interstate competition in the real estate world will house mainly “back and middle office” operations and that the headquarters of the company will remain here in Manhattan at 270 Park Ave.

Gerla also notes that there are a number of “unrelated leases pending.” As to rumors of layoffs, Gerla says he has no knowledge of such plans, of course, but that even if they took place, “all these deals are done. The New Jersey deal is done.” The rumors seem to be fueled by suffering stock prices and the plans to merge with J.P. Morgan. Of the joining of the real estate holdings of the two mammoth banks, Gerla says, “We don’t know yet.”

Rumors about the future of 55 Water St. abound. The latest published reports indicate plans by Goldman Sachs to establish a new trading facility there. With the plans for the fresh New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ’s relocation to Manhattan, the wisdom of such a plan is questionable, according to insiders. Insignia/ESG reportedly would represent the owner of the building, the Retirement Systems of Alabama, in the reconstruction plans, but Gerla says he is not involved and cannot comment.

In the latest deal, at 245 Park Ave., Jeremiah Larkin of Brookfield represented owner Brookfield Properties Corp. in both the transaction with Chase and that with Bear Stearns. David W. Levinson of Insignia/ESG represented Bear Stearns and Chase Manhattan Realty Corp. represented Chase Manhattan Bank.

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