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HOUSTON-The dry Galleria submarket gets some needed relief, with Chicago-based Aon Corp. committing to 137,000 sf at Four Oaks Place, a class A office building at 1330 Post Oak Blvd. in Houston.

Aon owns a family of businesses including insurance brokerage, consulting and insurance underwriting subsidiaries. Peter Aberg and Michael Caffey, both of Jones Lang LaSalle in Dallas, represented Aon in the building selection and lease negotiations. Patrick Hicks, principal with Dallas-based Trammell Crow Co.’s Houston team, negotiated for building owner, Lehndorff Four Oaks Place JV.

Caffey says Aon is taking the keys to the last large chunk of office space in the 1.75 million-sf office complex. The deal, say the brokers, is a surefire spark for the submarket’s economy even though the inked pact carries below-asking rates, a major selling factor. It was, says Caffey, “a value-driven real estate decision.”

It’s no secret in Houston that the Galleria has been soft this year. Lease rates now hover around $23 per sf for class A space, construction’s zilch and vacancy stands at 15.5%.

Hicks stands firm that the building’s leases are riding at or above the current market rate. “Four Oaks Place has outperformed the marketplace,” he stresses. “We have taken our lease level from 73% to 87% in the last 90 days and have consummated over 450,000 sf of new renewal and expansion leases over the past 12 months.”

Jones Lang LaSalle will handle build-out, assigning in-house representative Barry Weiner to construction management and design. He says the first phase, which encompasses 72,000 sf, will be completed in mid-November. It will house a new regional service center. The second finish-out phase gets under way by year’s end on the balance of the office space. It is designed with a higher percentage of enclosed upscale offices, says Weiner. Move-in is set for the Q1 2002 end.

Aon will relocate from 2000 Bering Dr., where it occupies about 100,000 sf, according to Harris County tax assessment records. Aberg tells GlobeSt.com that the company was interested in finding a location near its existing offices for employees’ convenience. Equally tempting was the amenity package of retail and restaurants, he adds. And most important is the fact that it has “the capacity for future growth that we desired when planning for this move,” stresses Rick Powell, Aon’s senior vice president of real estate.

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