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ATLANTA-Expecting the city’s class A office market to recover sometime in 2003, Lincoln Property Co. has hired HLM Design Inc. of Charlotte to refurbish the building’s lobby, mezzanine and common areas in the second, million-dollar stage of the 38-year-old, 32-story, 600,000-sf Downtown Equitable Building.

Located at 100 Peachtree St. NW, the 72% leased building was Atlanta’s first skyscraper.

The Dallas-based developer has renewed 15 of the 16 expiring leases in the past two years with 30,000 sf of positive absorption, a feat matched by few comparable Downtown office properties, according to Q3 data from Richard E. Bowers & Co. Bowers shows a Downtown net absorption of a negative 308,403 sf and an overall vacancy rate of 13.61%.

“We’re positioning the Equitable Building to take advantage of heightened demand as the Atlanta office market rebounds,” Lincoln vice president Tony Bartlett says in a prepared statement. “Our goal is to return the Equitable to its class A status as one of Atlanta’s premier office buildings.”

Lincoln bought the property in 2000 for $50 million or $83.33 per sf. Chicago-based Skidmore, Owings & Merill designed the structure in 1964. The building opened in 1969.

According to Lincoln’s Web site, 182,144 sf is available for lease. The largest contiguous block is 19,590 sf. Average asking Downtown class A rent is $25.27 per sf. But area brokers tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity that deals are being cut for $20 per sf and lower with annual escalation clauses of 2% to 4%.

“The Equitable is a landmark of Atlanta’s skyline, based loosely on the work of the German Bauhaus and legendary architects Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe,” HLM vice president Richard Macri says in the same prepared statement. “Designing a fresh look for the building, while respecting the architect/s original vision was a challenge, but we believe we’ve provided a feeling of luxury and simplicity that will stand the test of time.”

The new-look Equitable will be competing with several Downtown properties that are also upgrading structures. Among them is the AtlantaXchange Building, a 75-year-old, eight-story, 645,695-sf former Macy’s department store building that is switching from a telecommunications location to an office site at 180 Peachtree St. NE.

Like Lincoln, AtlantaXchange owners Taconic Investment Partners, Angelo, Gordon & Co., and Benenson Capital Co. bought the asset in 2000. The joint owners paid Federated Department Stores Inc. $40 million or $61.95 per sf.

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