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SAN FRANCISCO-The California Academy of Sciences has leased the entire 875 Howard Street Building, a 204,000 sf development in San Francisco’s SOMA district that is owned by a joint venture of Fidelity Partners and ING Realty.

Located near the new Moscone West Convention Center, the six-story building built in 1946 will serve as the temporary home for the Academy’s aquarium and exhibits, scientific collections, research scientists and administrative facilities while its permanent digs in Golden Gate Park are being rebuilt over the next four years. The Academy will return to Golden Gate Park in 2008.

The four-year lease commences this December and includes renewal options. The California Academy of Sciences was represented by Dan Mihalovich, principal of Mihalovich Partners. Jon Wittemyer, senior managing director of Insignia/ESG’s San Francisco office represented building ownership.

Neither Mihalovich nor Wittemyer would tell GlobeSt.com the financials of the deal, citing confidentiality agreements. Local brokers familiar with the transaction tell GlobeSt.com the full-service lease starts in high teens and ends in the low $20s and includes about 50 covered parking spaces. The tenant improvement allowance is believed to be in the range of $15 to $20 per sf.

The building was leased but never occupied by MarchFirst, an Internet consultancy that was formed in 2000 with the merger of Chicago’s Whittman Hart and San Francisco-based USWeb/CKS. The company struggled from the get-go and filed for bankruptcy in April 2001. Wittemyer tells GlobeSt.com the company paid a lease termination fee.

The building, which was stripped back to shell condition for MarchFirst, has remained largely unoccupied for the past two years save for a ground floor tenants including Landmark Education, which leased half the ground floor. Wittemyer says the building owners bought out Landmark’s lease to accommodate the California Academy of Sciences.

The Academy will use the ground floor for its Steinhart Aquarium, which it describes as “an aquatic world of 165 individual tanks exhibiting the interactions of more than 6,000 representatives of diverse underwater environments.” Wittemyer says the upper floors will be used for administration and the storage of its myriad exhibits.

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