PHILADELPHIA-The law firm of Dilworth Paxson LLP has signed a 16-year lease for 72,000 sf in the East Tower of Centre Square. Executives of Comcast Corp. currently occupy the space on the three top floors and will vacate on completion of Comcast Center, now under construction at 1600 JFK Blvd.

Comcast now occupies approximately 400,000 sf in the 1.8-million-sf, two-tower Centre Square property, which is located at 1500 Market St. The Dilworth Paxson lease absorbs nearly 20% of that pending vacancy. The aggregate value and rent rate of the new lease are undisclosed. According to a report from the local office of CB Richard Ellis, the average asking rent rate in the Market West submarket closed 2006 at $25.10 per sf.

“The Center City office market is rapidly changing in a positive direction,” Christian Dyer, a first VP in the local CBRE office, tells He, EVP David Jarjisian, and first VP Nick Gersbach, represented the owner, HRPT Properties Trust, in the lease negotiations.

Of the entire Center City office market, Dyer adds, “In contrast to a couple of years ago, there are now very few large blocks of space available. Overall rent rates have increased about 10% within the past 12 to 18 months, and we expect another 10% increase over the next 12 months.”

He says Center Square is currently 85% occupied, which includes the Comcast occupants. “Net, net, we’re already doing deals for that space,” he says. Lincoln Financial, which now occupies two floors aggregating 58,000 sf in the complex, has announced that it will relocate some offices to suburban Radnor, but Dyer says the net loss is still unknown.

Newton, MA-based HRPT acquired Centre Square from Met Life for $183.5 million in 2002. A $25-million renovation is reaching completion at the complex, which is often called “the clothespin building,” in reference to the Claus Oldenburg Clothespin sculpture at the front plaza that links the 40-story and 32-story, class A properties. They were built in 1973.

Dilworth Paxson will relocate from its current quarters at Mellon Bank Center, which is also owned by HRPT. Dave Campoli, HRPT VP, who is located here, says the law firm “has always been an important tenant in our Center City portfolio. We’re pleased that they elected to relocate to another HRPT building.”

Dyer says the building’s views, location and amenities tipped the firm in favor of the new location, while, in a statement, Stephen Harmelin, the firm’s managing partner, credits the location and renovation. Bert Sanders and Kristi Schofield of Atlanta-based Newkirk Knight Frank represented Dilworth Paxson in the transaction. The law firm also has offices in Harrisburg; Wilmington DE; Washington, DC; and Neptune and Cherry Hill, NJ.

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