DALLAS-A series of trophy office deals has cordoned off 39,723 sf for a 2% gain in occupancy in the 1.3-million-sf Crescent, often touted as the best building in the West and one now with a decided foothold on the financial services industry. The top-draw names signed 10-year leases for the Uptown space.

Tony Click, vice president of leasing for owner Crescent Real Estate Equities Co., says the deals were kept under wraps until the last one was inked. The back-to-back deals raise occupancy to 95%, with move-ins set to begin by month’s end and wrap up in March 2005. By and large, move-ins coincide with lease expirations at other top-line assets in the city. For nearly two years, the building’s quoted rent, $32 per sf to $36 per sf, has held firm.

Lehman Brothers Inc. took the largest block, 15,754 sf, and will be the first in the door. Click says the keys turn Oct. 29 to three-fourths of the fourth floor in the 200 Building. Lehman, vacating Chase Tower in the CBD, is merging a group with Neuberger Berman Management Inc., which has been a longtime tenant in 5,800 sf on the building’s 13th floor. Before the shuffle can take place, an existing tenant already has committed to backfilling the space, Click says.

By year’s end, Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. will take over 11,939 sf on the 13th floor of the 300 Building, returning after a four-year hiatus from the trophy complex. The inbound group has been carved from teams at San Jacinto Tower and the Galleria and new hires, including catches from Credit Suisse First Boston, for a specialty practice aimed at high-net worth accounts, according to Click, who says the lease has been under negotiation for six months.

In March 2005, Houlihan, Lokey, Howard and Zukin also exits Chase Tower for a 12,030-sf office in an expansion move that will play out on the 19th floor of the 200 Building. The firm is taking over space being vacated by Ewing Management, which plans to move in early first quarter 2005 to a building it bought in Oak Lawn, Click says.

And, there’s a fourth lease: an 8,000-sf renewal by a hedge fund, the details of which are locked down. Click says “three or four” existing tenants are in the expansion mode, creating a domino effect in the three-building block at 200 Crescent Court. Three more leases–all financial services companies–are nearing the final stretch of talks, he says. Meanwhile, he says “I’m still fishing at Chase Tower.”

Lehman Brothers was represented by Jay Annand with CB Richard Ellis Inc.’s Dallas office. Steve McCoy with NAI Stoneleigh Huff Brous McDowell negotiated for Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. Jeff Staubach and Carl Ewert from the Staubach Co. ran the Houlihan, Lokey, Howard and Zukin talks. Crescent’s team consisted of Mike Lewis, vice president, and Click.

“The addition of these firms to the prestigious roster of 64 financial firms in the Crescent only strengthens the Crescent’s position as the financial center of the Southwest,” John Zogg, the REIT’s senior vice president of asset management and leasing, says in a press release.

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