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ATLANTA-In a cost-savings move, Coca-Cola Co. plans to vacate its 250,000-sf suburban Sandy Springs, GA building in the second half and move 650 workers to its main North Avenue campus in Downtown Atlanta, the company confirms. Coke had been at the site for only two years.

The relocation will almost certainly raise metro Atlanta’s office vacancy level above the current 20.6% mark, analysts say. “Atlanta’s office market continues to weaken,” Michael A. Crawford, research director at Atlanta-based Bullock Mannelly Partners tells GlobeSt.com. “With many companies struggling to turn profits, excess office space has been shed at a hurried pace.”

Highwoods Properties Inc., the Raleigh, NC-based owner of the building, says Coke has hired Advantis Real Estate Services Inc. of Atlanta to fill the suburban space. Average quoted rents in the Glenlake submarket, north of Downtown Atlanta, are $22 to $24 per sf. Subleased space would be less, brokers say.

The soft drink company confirms it will continue to pay Highwoods rent until a sublease tenant is found. Coke is on a 10-year lease that expires in 2011. The lease is aggregately valued at $60 million or about $24 per sf, according to a published report.

Besides the cost-savings aspect of the relocation, Coke envisions integrating three North American divisions, Jeff Dunn, president of the company’s North America division, has told directors. Those divisions are fountain or food-serve; bottle and can or retail; and Minute Maid. Workers at Coke’s food-service facility in suburban Dunwoody, GA are not part of the company’s move to Downtown.

The Sandy Springs-to-Downtown move follows another big deal Coca Cola Enterprise Inc., affiliated with Coca-Cola Co., completed May 1. As previously reported by GlobeSt.com, Coca-Cola Enterprises leased a total 214,000 sf in some of the space IBM Corp vacated at the 12-year-old, 687,000-sf Wildwood Plaza developed by Cousins Properties Inc. in the Wildwood Office Park.

That lease, for an average 10 years, is aggregately valued at an estimated $45 million, area brokers in a position to know tell GlobeSt.com. The space will be occupied by Coca-Cola Bottlers Sales, Coca-Cola Enterprises and Service Co. LLC, owned by a Coca-Cola bottling group.

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