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FORT WORTH-Nearly a year of searching for a new office ends as a Fort Worth-based insurance company signs what could be the largest office lease, year to date, for its hometown. The long-term, 84,000-sf lease pushes the 115,000-sf Mercantile Center One to full occupancy, but drives a relocation from the Fort Worth CBD to 3001 Meacham Blvd.

Bill McClung, senior director for Cushman & Wakefield of Texas Inc.’s Dallas office, and Jack Huff, principal, in Fort Worth-based Stoneleigh Huff Brous McDowell represented American Health & Life, which will be relocating in stages from July through year’s end into the three-year-old office building. American Health & Life is part of Citigroup’s CitiFinancial network.

McClung says at least 10 sites were reviewed in the past year as the tenant sought office space with larger floor plates and better parking than what’s now available to its staff. The insurance company is a longtime tenant in the Commerce Building at 307-309 W. Seventh St.

A confidentiality agreement bars McClung from disclosing the terms, but he did say that “they got a very aggressive deal. It’s an extremely attractive building that met their needs at a favorable economic package.”

Tenant improvements are under way. The firm will neighbor Dynex Financial, which occupies about 21,000 sf, and MLM Architects, housed in an office in the 2,000-sf category.

A “no vacancy” sign often spells a construction start. Plans are on the drawing board for the 94%-occupied business park and will remain there until more of a dent is made in the 40,000 sf of available office space and 180,000 sf of open industrial space, Brian Randolph, vice president of Mercantile Partners LP, tells GlobeSt.com. Still, it’s altogether possible that dirt could start moving in the 30-building park at year’s end or first quarter 2003.

Market conditions will dictate which product comes out of the ground first. Randolph confides plans are ready to go on another 115,000-sf office building, 120,000 sf in a multi-building flex development and 240,000 sf in a two-building second phase to a six-building industrial component.

Mercantile Center is owned by a consortium of family trusts based in Texas. Randolph estimates the mixed-use park’s 1,500 acres are just 20% built out.

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