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SANTEE, CA-In a $9.2 million deal, Hartford Fire Insurance Co. has leased 77,000 sf of office space here for a claims and customer service center that will employ up to 600 people.

After searching the greater San Diego area, Hartford Fire chose the East County community of Santee because of its available and well-educated workforce, according to CB Richard Ellis, which represented the insurer. The company will employ about 600 people and is expected to occupy the build-to-suit space in May 2003.

Jim Trobaugh, Rob Marsh and Chris Hook of CB Richard Ellis¹ Phoenix-based Call Center Solutions team represented Hartford Fire Insurance Co. of Hartford, Conn. The landlord, the Ryan Cos. of Minneapolis, represented itself.

Located at the northeast corner of Mission Gorge Road and Civic Center Drive, the 104-acre Santee Town Center Office Park is Santee¹s newest corporate business park.

The East County community of Santee has become an attractive alternative for corporate site selectors, particularly for back office operations that don’t need the high-end amenities demanded by office tenants in more expensive markets like Del Mar, La Jolla and Carlsbad.

The lease also bolsters forecasts of a warming trend in the county’s chilly overall office market.

Overall net absorption in the San Diego market has emerged from negative territory for the first time in over a year, according to the mid-year commercial real estate market report issued by Insignia/ESG. Net absorption in San Diego posted overwhelming gains in the second quarter at a positive 314,000 sf, compared with negative net absorption of 651,000 sf in the first quarter.

“Leases are being executed,” says Eli Gilbert, head of Research for Insignia/ESG’s San Diego office. “Large tenant requirements and tours are up and landlords clambering for occupants are offering more concessions.

“Prospective tenants in San Diego are taking full advantage of the many sublease opportunities in the region as they seek to lower their largest corporate expense, after payroll.”

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