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DALLAS-Spire Realty Group LP has tapped Jones Lang LaSalle to be at its side for upcoming changes in its 1.8-million-sf office portfolio. The leasing switch is yet another aftershock from the CB Richard Ellis-Trammell Crow Co. merger.

Caleb S. Smith, president of the Dallas-based Spire, tells GlobeSt.com that the best and final pitted JLL against Transwestern after interviewing practically every major brokerage house in the metroplex. JLL’s vice president Ted Headings caught the owner’s attention, but the firm’s addition of managing directors Jon McNeil and Matt Craft were the closers, according to Smith.

Smith says the changing of the guard is just the beginning of this year’s plans for his local real estate: the 1.1-million-sf Bryan Tower at 2001 Bryan St. in the CBD; 449,251-sf Mockingbird Towers at 1341 W. Mockingbird Lane in the Stemmons Corridor; and 250,963-sf Park Stemmons at 8700 N. Stemmons Freeway. Smith confides he bought an 87,000-sf parking lot two days ago, pushing his ground holdings to five acres behind the Plaza of the Americas and nearly seven acres in all in the CBD.

Smith says the company, conceivably the owner of the largest block of raw land in the Downtown, intends to keep the acreage for public parking for now although his team is fielding several calls per week from developers who want to buy or partner on building out the dirt. “We are entertaining offers, but we’re not actively marketing it to sell,” he says.

What is more concrete is Spire’s plan for Mockingbird Towers, 12-story twins that it’s owned since 1991. Smith says a leasing strategy that began quietly last year has filled nearly 40,000 sf of the East Tower’s space with medical office users. Now, he’s taking the strategy public by ticketing the tower for medical office use while keeping the West Tower for general office tenants.

Mockingbird Towers are 60% leased. Smith says Headings’ knowledge of the Stemmons submarket put JLL into the finals for the leasing contract. “His knowledge will be invaluable to use,” Smith stresses. “We really see that as a medical corridor and we’re trying to stay ahead of the curve.”

Mockingbird Towers will be renovated, the extent of which has yet to be determined. Smith says work will start in the summer.

The four-story Park Stemmons, now 75% leased, has undergone $3.5 million of upgrades in the past five years. The 82%-leased Bryan Tower is on the “to do” list, with plans calling for the addition of a “cool zone.” Smith says the plan is to attach a climate-controlled structure to the 40-story building’s Federal Street entrance, primarily aimed providing a comfortable place other than the lobby for pedestrians waiting to catch a DART light-rail train.

McNeil and Craft, former TCC executives, have been assigned to Bryan Tower. “We’re very excited to get Jon McNeil back on the property,” Smith stresses, “and Matt, who we’ve dealt with before. He’s always been a pleasure to deal with. Both have experience on both sides of the fence so it will make our leasing more aggressive and less adversarial.”

Smith says Bryan Tower, which has its own parking garage, was the reason that Spire started to buy the lots behind Plaza of the Americas in 2001 to provide additional parking for tenants and visitors. “Then, I realized it was developable land. I don’t know if I am going to keep it, develop it or sell it,” he says.

The newest lot in Spire’s land bank was bought from Ross Avenue Associates of Dallas. The five-acre, ell-shaped assembly constitutes a full city block with three hard corners and bordered by Hawkins Street on the east, Leonard Street on the west, San Jacinto St. on the south and Ross Avenue on the north. The fourth corner holds a five-story building that SBC Communications uses as a switching site.

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