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DALLAS-Metropolitan Real Estate Investors LLC is undertaking a series of changes to its seven-week-old purchase, the 1.5-million-sf Bank One Center. The play is starting with a new leasing team, but the more significant changes will be the addition of ultra-luxury amenities to the Philip Johnson-designed CBD landmark.

“We are going to make sure this is a success,” Haim Melo Revah, chairman and CEO of the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan, tells GlobeSt.com. “We will invest as much as we need to make it right, whatever it takes to achieve our goal. It has to be the best to keep up with the architectural aspects of that building. I love this building.”

The Metropolitan team locally and in L.A. will be working to land a national premier spa operator and upscale restaurateur, both new names in Dallas, as well as a coffee shop and local art galleries for rotating exhibits in the 1717 Main St. trophy. The lobby’s new eye candy will be furniture, art pieces and seating areas. Plans include lighting the building’s crown and base so that it’s an obvious part of the Dallas nightscape. But, the most dramatic change will be construction of a 2,000-sf, climate-controlled “annex” with French doors leading to an al fresco dining area, setting up 8,000 sf in all for a top-tier restaurant.

“We are evaluating with our architect how to make better use of the outside plaza,” Revah says. “Our options are open, but we have to remember, it’s an office building.” And those options extend to the six-story atrium, the lion’s share of inherited space from Chase Bank’s purchase of Bank One. The bank’s 350,000-sf lease, of which 100,000 sf is subleased, expires in 2010. The atrium could stay office or could roll, at least in part, to retail.

Revah recently selected Cushman & Wakefield of Texas Inc. to lease the 60-story trophy, with its long-time leasing agent, Don Dowell, becoming part of the firm with the change. He’s teamed with C&W senior director Tracy Fults on the assignment. Continuing as the building’s manager is former minority owner, Fort Worth-based Crescent Real Estate Equities Co.

Fults and Dowell are planning to court corporate America with naming rights to the 84%-leased building since Chase Bank’s executive branch has indicated it will vacate when the 11-floor lease is up. “Things change in the real estate world and they may come to us and say they want to stay,” Fults says. Until they do, the leasing team is dangling the naming rights as incentive.

In addition to the Chase Bank space, there are four floors in two 50,000-sf blocks on the market for $21 per sf to $24 per sf plus electric. Two floors are contiguous to TXU Energy Co.’s five-floor lease for 130,000 sf, now up for grabs on a sublease. TXU’s lease ends in 2011.

The high-rise directory is filled with multi-floor tenants who’ve been in place at least 10 years. Dowell, under the Trizec Properties Inc. flag, filled in the building’s roster with tenant-oriented services like TransPerfect, which has translators for any language; forensics accounting firm; high-end copying service; and chiropractor, dentist and occupational therapist. The garage houses a dry cleaners and detail shop while Bank One Center’s 10,000 sf of tunnel retail has a convenience store, shoeshine and repair shop and two restaurants. Dowell says a health club could be part of the mix one day.

The previous owners “were trying to put all the support services in here to accommodate the tenants we have,” Dowell says. The new owner is ready to add the crowning pieces. “It really took an entrepreneurial owner such as Metropolitan Real Estate to do this type of a transaction,” he says about the upcoming uba-style additions. “It’s not for institutional-type owners.”

Revah’s vision for Bank One Center couldn’t come at a more opportune time. John Crawford of Downtown Inc. recently held a charrette, which has resulted in a new retail incentive committee being led by Jack Gosnell of United Commercial Retail/ChainLinks in Dallas. The goal is to develop a unified retail strategy for the first full blocks of “face retail” to become available in nearly a decade in a CBD niche anchored by Neiman Marcus’ flagship store and the office trophy.

The special committee’s charge is to analyze and prospect the market to merchandise the pocket with a mix of neighborhood support retail and upscale. “It’s similar to the way you’d merchandise a mall,” Gosnell says. “We want it compatible. We’re not trying to make everything couture or lifestyle retail. We want to build a sustainable, viable and active Downtown.”

Gosnell, one of the CBD’s leading retail pros, is chasing tenants for roughly 62,000 sf at the Mercantile and neighboring Wilson Building. And, it’s his restaurant client who’s being courted for the Bank One opening, which is being eyed for a $1.2-million cap-ex for the infrastructure alone. Dowell says it will take nearly nine months to ready the space for finish-out so it’s not projected to open until 2008, right in line with the end of construction at the Merc and a city-built mini-park.

“Metropolitan understands retail and marketing,” Dowell emphasizes. “They’re willing to do what it takes to ensure the building’s future success.”

With Los Angeles and Chicago now on his radar screen, Revah says he’d been looking nearly two years for the right Dallas deed–a long-term hold for the company. “The rebirth of Dallas is real,” he says. “We are looking for more opportunities in Dallas, but it has to be the right opportunity.”

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