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ATLANTA-Amidst the eruption of commercial real estate activity here in the past several months, Barry Real Estate Cos. has stolen the spotlight this week. The drivers of this attention are twofold: Its plans to build the second largest office complex Downtown and its signing of Bank of America Tower tenant Ernst & Young to an estimated 15-year, 137,000 sf lease.

E&Y, whose 10-year lease for 212,033 sf at Bank of America Tower expires in 2007, will occupy the second 349,560-sf, 14-story building in the planned four-building Allen Plaza. The project is a 1.2-million-sf office, retail and hotel complex envisioned for a site just four blocks from Centennial Olympic Park Downtown.

Sources close to the project tell GlobeSt.com that the tenant selected Allen Plaza largely for its 27,290-sf floor plates that would accommodate its various divisions on approximately five single floors.

A deal for an operator to handle the planned 250-room hotel is pending, according to Hal Barry, chairman of Barry Real Estate Cos. Ground-floor retail will total 10,000 sf. Jon Pickard, a principal at New Haven, CT-based Pickard Chilton, is the project architect.

Area brokers familiar with Downtown rents tell GlobeSt.com the estimated value of the Ernst & Young lease is $51 million, based on an effective rent of $25 per sf. Barry Cos. didn’t disclose lease terms.

The E&Y deal is not the first newsmaker signing at the Barry complex. Southern Co. previously signed a 12-year, 130,000-sf lease at an estimated aggregate rent of $31.2 million, or an estimated effective rent of $20 per sf, in the first, 260,000-foot, 30 Allen Plaza, as GlobeSt.com previously reported. Southern is considering leasing additional space “before construction is completed,” sources close to the project report. That building will have 10,000 sf of retail.

Southern will be relocating from Richard Bowers & Co.’s 270 Peachtree St., where the utility company has been the anchor tenant since 1995, occupying 162,500 sf. The new Southern Building is under construction and expected to be ready for occupancy by December 2005.

A tentative ground-breaking for the E&Y building at 55 Allen is set for March 2005. Construction on the third building is scheduled to begin in 2006 or earlier, Barry Cos. officials tell GlobeSt.com. The company is negotiating with a lead tenant. The third planned building at Allen Plaza will be 34 stories and have 600,000 sf of gross leasing area plus an undetermined amount of showroom-type space.

Financing for the Southern Co. Building is complete, and funding for the Ernst & Young building is nearing completion, Barry officials say. They decline to disclose the lender until the deal is done. Financing for the planned 250-room hotel at 45 Allen is in the preliminary stage.

At a total 1.2 million sf, Allen Plaza will be the second largest office site next to the 55-story, 1.3 million-sf, 1,023-foot tall Bank of America Tower Downtown.

Barry purchased a three-acre Downtown site earlier this year from Los Angeles-based TCW (Trust Co. of the West) Land Fund I for $6 million. At $47 per sf, the tract was the third largest area land deal closed in 2004. The Southern Co. building and 50 Allen will be built on that acreage. The hotel and the E&Y building will be built on adjacent land owned by Atlanta-based Selig Enterprises. Barry has a 99-year ground lease on the Selig property.

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