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NEWARK, NJ-The venerable One Gateway Center lost its major tenant–the FBI, which occupied 160,000 sf–in 2002, changed hands in 2003, and is now getting a multi-million-dollar makeover to help cure its vacancy woes. Owner Advance Realty Group, Bedminster, NJ, has launched a major project that will create “dramatic new lobbies and enhanced retail space,” according to Robert Martie, the company’s senior vice president.

Martie terms the makeover “a historically significant moment.” In effect, the tower is coming full circle: When it was built in 1971 as the first of four new office towers within the 2.3-million-sf Gateway Center opposite Penn Station in this city’s Downtown, it was heralded as the project that would pull New Jersey’s largest city out of the despair created by the civil unrest of the late 1960s.

Newark’s rebound has taken years to accomplish, of course, and the One Gateway Center makeover is itself an effort to bring the venerable property back to life. The building took that major hit two years ago when the FBI moved out of its nine-floor, 160,000-sf block of space to move into its own 200,000-sf building nearby.

One Gateway Center currently has a total of 190,000 sf available in blocks of 3,000 to 160,000 sf. Current tenants include Merrill Lynch, the New Jersey EDA and the Port Authority of NY/NJ, among others.

Advance has hired the locally based Grad Partnership to redesign the building’s lobbies and other common areas. Also part of the package is a redesign and re-tenanting of the building’s 50,000-sf retail component. Advance acquired the building in early 2003 from the Gale Co. and Tishman-Speyer Properties for a reported $83 million, or about $178 per sf. Gateway Center’s other three interconnecting office towers, as well as its 250-room Hilton Hotel, remain under separate ownership.

And last month Advance said that it had hired GVA Williams of New Jersey, Parsippany, to fill the building’s vacant space. GVA Williams’ SVP Bryn Cinque and associate director James Bailey are heading that effort.

“Our renovation program will create a dynamic mixed-use environment for tenants,” according to Martie. On the retail side, “responding to present occupants, the leasing and marketing efforts will target a variety of users that will provide the services demanded by today’s sophisticated occupants,” Martie says.

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