DALLAS-Insignia/ESG’s Dallas office has edged out two other firms for its first Dallas leasing assignment from Horsham, PA-based GMAC Commercial Mortgage Co. The contract comes with a challenge: find and sign deals for a 62%-leased office building in the heart of a major highway project.

The 198,000-sf North Central Plaza I at 12655 N. Central Expressway in the Park Central submarket is drawing some interest from prospective tenants despite the High Five project, which at the onset of construction had many fleeing the corridor. But, the activity is far from “robust,” says Dennis Barnes, Insignia/ESG’s leasing director in the metroplex. The High Five roadblock is keeping the goal realistic: 70% to 75% occupancy for the coming year.

Barnes and Jeri Hadsell, who joined the firm in recent weeks, are tasked with the “challenge.” Barnes admittedly has leverage in that he’s held leasing assignments in Park Central for the last 12 years. Still, he’s looking to lease in a submarket that had 21.6% of its 12.3-million-sf inventory empty at the Q3 close, according to the market report of Cushman & Wakefield of Texas Inc.

Barnes tells GlobeSt.com that the former leasing team of Corporate USA, led by Michael Birgance, closed “four or five” renewals, albeit small ones, in recent months. Another six leases expire in 2003. Corporate USA, which held the contract for three years, did not return telephone calls by press time.

North Central Plaza I’s lead tenant remains UNUM Life Insurance Co., a one-time owner who now occupies 20,000 sf. Other top space takers are Premier Radio, with 14,000 sf, and Gateway Bank, which occupies 10,000 sf in the lobby. The building’s high vacancy is a mix of the highway project and a bankruptcy of a 40,000-sf, dot-com tenant earlier this year, Barnes says.

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