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DALLAS-It’s been nearly two years since Dallas proper saw a purely spec office building top out, so say those who would know. But yesterday, the lull ended as the familiar pine tree was ceremoniously placed atop the 220,000-sf Four Hickory Centre at Mercer Crossing.

Ironically, the topping out fell within the same family of ownership as the last one: American Realty Investors of Dallas, owners of the 415,521-sf Centura Tower I at 14185 Dallas Parkway and the developing 950-acre Mercer Crossing just off Interstate 635.

On hand was Mercer Crossing’s developer, Wayne Starr of Colorado, and the project’s full team plus a bevy of brokers who came out to see the uncommon sight for the times. “Realistically, I’d be lying if I didn’t say we’re a little concerned,” Cliff Bogart, partner of Vector Project Services LLC, tells GlobeSt.com. Still, he has a barometer by which to measure the demand–the fully leased One Hickory Centre and 75%-occupied Two Hickory Centre.

Bogart says the Mercer Crossing office leasing team has floated several proposals in the 50,000 sf to 150,000 sf range for Four Hickory Centre. The scouts are hoping to rope just large users for the eight-story building. It’s a good target market because, he believes, there aren’t that many alternatives in the immediate area, save for build-to-suits. A “significant lease” could be in hand in first quarter 2002. “I anticipate that as confidence grows in the economy and political situation that one or two will happen,” he says.

Bogart, like most in the room, survived the market going south in the late 1980s when “see-through” buildings and a “crane on every corner” were common sights. It’s different now, he stresses. It’s not the “double whammy” of the 1980s when the economy soured, supply spiked and other hard-hitting factors converged in a chokehold on the market. Yes, demand now is down too. Yes, there is a glut of sublease space. But, he quickly counters, the fast-paced frenzy to build is noticeably absent.

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