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AUSTIN-Thomas Properties Group Inc. has jumped into an aggressive preleasing campaign for the first phase of office development in the 333-acre, mixed-use Four Points Centre in the northwest submarket. The game plan is to withhold a construction start until the 280,000 sf of class A office space is at least 50% committed.

The Los Angeles-based Thomas Properties has put local firm, Colliers Oxford Commercial, in charge of the find-and-sign campaign, hitting the streets with a $22 per sf triple net rate for pre-certified LEED space. Meanwhile, the six-year owner is in talks with prospective partners to joint venture on a 30-acre tract entitled for an additional 120,000 sf of retail and 250 more residential units, John O’Neal, senior project manager for Thomas Properties’ only Austin holding, tells GlobeSt.com. With 64 acres already built out, Four Points Centre, positioned at the intersection of Rural Route 2222 and US Highway 620, has a 275,000-sf, Target-anchored shopping center and two multifamily projects totaling 550 units. The development docket also includes room for a 250-room hotel.

O’Neal says the first office phase will be a pair of 100,000-sf, three-story office buildings on a 7.3-acre tract and an 80,000-sf structure on a 5.3-acre site. Austin’s Page Southerland Page has designed buildings with three sides of open space and Texas Hill Country views. The local office of DPR Construction Inc. is the general contractor. But, construction isn’t ticketed to start much before midyear 2007, according to O’Neal.

The office component calls for 1.2 million sf at full build-out. “We’ve been monitoring the market, Vacancy rates have steadily declined and rental rates are starting to increase,” O’Neal says. “Austin has added 26,000 jobs this year. All of that begins to support the reason to build office.” The Colliers marketing team consists of Brett Arabie, Glen Sorrel and Mark Greiner.

Multi-tenant office construction of the same caliber is running $190 per sf to $230 per sf to build. Thomas Properties, a leader of LEED-certified construction, has been at the forefront of California’s green construction, setting up a “high-performance fund” for projects. “Our analysis and experience has been that you can silver certified with very little or no premium cost,” O’Neal explains.

At BOMA International’s 2006 Congress in Dallas, Thomas Properties’ Craig Sheehy said the $500-million fund has been earmarked to acquire and develop 500,000 sf of LEED-certified space. One of the myths is that it costs more to create green space than traditional. The reality is energy costs can be cut 15% to 20% through “low-cost, no-cost measures,” Sheehy explained. “It’s not all about capital expenditures.”

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