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NEW YORK CITY- Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, the nation’s fourth-largest law firm, displaced by the World Trade Center bombings, has completed its move into 338,000 sf at the Equitable Center.

The firm’s 1,000 employees are now occupying 11 floors in the landmark building at 787 Seventh Ave. Former occupant Ernst & Young LP vacated the space at Seventh Avenue and 51st Street in May to move into its own new quarters at 5 Times Square.

Sidley also is leasing around 3,000 square feet of conference space in Two World Financial Center. “It makes sense to maintain meeting space in lower Manhattan, given the amount of business we still conduct there, but it also has some genuine symbolic importance given our roots there,” notes Tom Smith, vice chairman of Sidley’s management committee.

Meanwhile, the lease on Sidley Austin’s temporary space at 875 Third Ave. expired June 30. Insignia/ESG represented both Sidley Austin and building owner Equitable Life Assurance Society USA in negotiating the new 20-year lease.

American Express reportedly had been considering 500,000 sf of space in the Equitable building space before deciding to return to its Downtown headquarters at the World Financial Center. Once American Express withdrew from negotiations, Sidley Austin threw its hat in the ring.

In May 2001, Chicago-based Sidley & Austin merged with New York’s Brown & Wood to create the fourth largest law firm in the US. Originally, Sidley, which had offices at 875 Third Ave. at 52nd Street, planned to transfer personnel to the World Trade Center’s north tower, where Brown & Wood had been housed since 1983.

The newly combined firm was in the midst of decorating and furnishing several additional floors acquired in the tower when the planes struck on Sept. 11. Within a week after the attacks, the firm’s 600 downtown employees were operating in temporary quarters dispersed across multiple floors secured in the Third Avenue offices. Sidley was eventually able to adapt its World Trade Center plans for the Seventh Avenue offices, where the firm occupies floors 16 to 26. The move took place over the extended July 4th weekend.

The law firm becomes the largest tenant at the Equitable, built in 1985 and notable for the huge Roy Lichtenstein mural rising in its five-story skylight atrium lobby. “We were extremely fortunate by the turn of events,” explains Tom Cole, chairman of the executive committee at Sidley. “The options for sufficient class-A space after Sept. 11 were limited and under considerable competition.

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