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DALLAS-Are the good old days returning to Dallas? It looked that way yesterday as two companies took their kudos for a trio of leases that closed off 214,000 sf of class A space at two premier office buildings in two of the hardest-hit submarkets in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Cousins Properties Inc. of Atlanta has secured a 63,000-sf headquarters tenant in a relocation from the Stemmons Corridor to 6565 MacArthur at Sierra in Las Colinas, where vacancy is tracking upward of 26%. Dallas’ Macfarlan Real Estate Investment Management did a double slam dunk by renewing and expanding two longtime tenants for a combined 151,000 sf at Thanksgiving Tower, a landmark structure in the 28% vacant Dallas CBD.

“Activity has picked up in the last two months,” confirms Keith Waggoner, Macfarlan’s COO. The Thanksgiving Tower wins were secured in a 30,000-sf expansion and 81,000-sf renewal by Hunt Petroleum Corp. and a 10,000-sf expansion rolled into a 40,000-sf new lease for the law firm of Kane, Russell, Coleman & Logan.

The Cousins deal is luring Commercial Metals Co. from its 20-year home at 7800 Stemmons Freeway into the bulk of a 100,000-sf block emptied by Nokia and returned to the market in the first quarter when the lease expired. Just three weeks ago, 14,265 sf of the empty Nokia space was taken by Franklin American Mortgage, a tenant with a plan to expand.

For most of the downturn, “bread-and-butter” deals have dominated the wheeling and dealing as brokers and building owners reminisced about the big ticket deals of the past. Those deals slowly are coming back, evidenced not only by the trio announced Thursday but recurring talk about pending deals by large users from inside and outside the marketplace.

Commercial Metals will move to Las Colinas by spring 2003. The long-term lease was crafted by Mark Dickenson, Cousins’ senior vice president of leasing, and the tenant’s reps, Greg Burns, vice president, and Brad Selner, associate, with Dallas-based Staubach Co.

Commercial Metals started shopping the market in the first quarter, looking at class A buildings in Las Colinas, Uptown, the CBD and the Stemmons Corridor before settling down to serious talks with Cousins. “They were looking to be the major tenant in a midsize building,” Dickenson explains.

Las Colinas and the 10-story building’s quality contributed more to the decision than the economic package laid on the table, he says. “It’s a good time to make a move, but we were not the low economic choice,” Dickenson stresses to GlobeSt.com. “People want a competitive market price at a building they want to be in.” And that’s what Cousins delivered, he says.

The 261,000-sf 6565 MacArthur–owned by Northwestern Mutual and managed by Cousins–is 91% occupied. That new level includes the mortgage company expansion and renewal, another long-term deal delivered by Dickenson and tenant representative, Jack Moravcik of Dallas-based Swearingen Realty Group.

The landscape was equally competitive in the CBD for Thanksgiving Tower’s 10-year renewals and expansions. Hunt, an original tenant in the 1982 high-rise, will be shuffling its space to occupy two floors above and two floors below the Tower Club. Hunt is fine-tuning office layouts while finish-out for the law firm, a tenant since 1993, has just kicked off.

Hunt and the law firm did some window shopping, a market reality that’s keeping talks spirited and aggressive. “The deals that are being done in the downtown right now are pretty competitive,” Waggoner admits to GlobeSt.com.

Holding onto the duo and reeling in the expansions push occupancy to 92% in the 1.35-million-sf, 50-story office tower at 1601 Elm St. Macfarlan, which manages the property, bought the high-rise in 1999 in a partnership with Morgan Stanley Real Estate Fund III.

Jon Altschuler of Stream Realty Partners and Macfarlan’s Helen Rivero and Waggoner represented Macfarlan Real Estate Investment Management. John Poston of Poston Commercial Real Estate brokered the deal for Hunt while Jeff Ellerman of the Staubach Co. handled talks for the law firm.

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