NORWALK, CT-The ownership of the 50 Washington St., building in South Norwalk has not only significantly increased its occupancy levels since it completed a $5-million renovation program, but is now looking to present an expansion plan to the city for approval.

Lloyd Amster, manager partner for the joint venture that owns the 190,000-sf, 12-story building, says that its multimillion-dollar renovation program has paid tremendous dividends. The partnership–SoNo Equities LLC and 1122 Associates LLC–acquired the property for approximately $7 million in February 1999. At that time the building was about 50% occupied. Since then, the ownership conducted upgrades on the building’s HVAC system, common areas, roof and waterproofing operations and also brought fiber-optic technology into the building. Today, the building is 82% occupied.

He acknowledges that the 50 Washington St. property had experienced its share of troubles and has gone through a host of ownership changes since it first opened its doors in the early 1970s. However, the introduction of high-speed communications infrastructure at the building has been one of the keys to its recent turnaround.

Amster notes that the building was approximately 90% leased earlier this year, but recently took back some space due to the failure of several dot-com tenants.

He reveals that the U.S. Passport Office recently signed a lease for 12,400 sf of space on the ground floor and first floor. “It is going to be a super-high-tech passport office.”

Now with its tenant base stable, the building’s seventh floor is being turned into executive suite space totaling 14,100 sf. A climate-controlled computer server room complete with a backup power system was built to facilitate the needs of new technology firms.

The building, which will soon feature three fiber-optic vendors for tenants to choose, is also venturing into a new niche market. Due to the back-up system available at the property, the building recently secured a lease of 1,500 sf from a London-based bank that will be utilizing the space for disaster recovery.

Other initiatives set to begin soon include $500,000 in upgrades to the buildings’ elevator system, facade restoration work and a possible expansion of its ground level retail space.

“Our idea is to expand our retail by about 15,000 sf and present a parking plan to alleviate the lack of downtown parking,” Amster says. That plan is to be presented to the city of Norwalk for discussion soon, he adds.

Despite some turbulence in the high-tech sector, Amster is bullish on the property’s future performance. “We are confident that we will be above 90% occupied by year’s end,” he predicts.

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