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PHILADELPHIA-Despite a highly competitive leasing environment, by the end of June, Bell Atlantic Tower will be approximately 70% leased, according to Roger McManimon, senior director of the local office of Cushman & Wakefield. The remaining vacancy includes the approximately 225,000 sf the Dechert law firm will abandon when it relocates to Cira Centre at the end of this year.

McManimon and Gilbert Pierce and Paul Garvey, also C&W senior directors, were assigned by Verizon last summer to fill just over 500,000 sf of excess capacity under the company’s master lease in the Center City trophy. This year alone, the property obtained 110,000 sf of new leases, actually subleases, and agreements for another 90,000 sf are “imminent,” McManimon says.

They came at a price. “We have been very aggressive, offering most of the space at below $20 per sf, which is the same as A- and B+ office rates,” McManimon tells GlobeSt.com. “It’s a bit of a roll of the dice for tenants,” he acknowledges, since the Verizon master lease expires in August 2012, “but also an opportunity to realize the inherent value in obtaining trophy space at a great rate for the next seven years.”

Bell Atlantic Tower is among several trophy office properties faced with high vacancies as major tenants downsize and Cira Centre and, later, Comcast Center enter the market. A partnership that includes New York City-based Blackstone Group owns 55-story Bell Atlantic Tower at 1717 Arch St., which has an aggregate of just over 1.5 million sf. It was designed and completed by a Bell Atlantic affiliate in 1991, after which Bell Atlantic, now Verizon, leased the entire building.

Key to the successful lease-up, McManimon says, was a “re-stacking” by Verizon prior to the C&W team’s marketing efforts. “They developed an internal plan to reconfigure the vacant space to make it more leasable.”

Among the new large-space tenants is Saint Ives Burrups, a UK-based financial printing company, that will take 21,666 sf, a full floor and relocate from Suburban Station. David Jarjisian and Nicholas Gersbach of the local office of CB Richard Ellis represented the tenant. CDI Corp., also a locally based tenant, takes another 21,666-sf floor, and was represented by Michael Ahnell of United Systems Integrators, based in Iselin, NJ.

Norfolk Southern Railway Co. leaves Commerce Square for 14,201 sf in a lease the C&W team negotiated with Brad Mills of the local office of Studley, who represented the tenant. Chicago-based Navigant Consulting Inc. expands from about 7,000 sf to 15,410 sf, the full 48th floor. Dan Fist and Scott Goldman of Equus in Chicago, negotiated for Navigant.

New York City-based Hunter Roberts Construction Group opens a 12,000-sf office in the building. McManimon negotiated the lease in cooperation with C&W’s New York office. Of the other leases, a majority is in the range of 5,000 sf to 6,000 sf.

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