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GREENWICH, CT-In an expansion initiative, AQR Capital Management, LLC has signed a lease for 65,000 sf of space at 33 Benedict Place here, according to executives at Cushman & Wakefield. The hedge fund will retain its current 31,000-sf office at 2 Greenwich Plaza and at Greenwich Office Park (approximately 7,000 sf). The deal at 33 Benedict is the largest lease signed so far in 2007 in the Greenwich Central Business District, they add.

A knowledgeable source says that AQR has the right to expand their leased space at both Greenwich Plaza and Greenwich Office Park. AQR Capital Management, which has more than $35 billion of total assets under management, relocated to Greenwich from New York City in 2004.

Jay Hruska, executive vice president of Cushman & Wakefield and exclusive leasing agent for the property, along with Hines vice presidents Frank Saphire and Bart Swenson represented the building owner, a partnership of Hines and the Willett Cos. David Hoffman Jr., executive managing director/principal of Colliers ABR Inc. and Patricia Frisch of Frisch & Frisch, represented AQR.

The Willett/Hines partnership acquired the 126,810-sf office building in June 2005 in a sale-leaseback transaction with Unilever for $87.5 million. Unilever Home & Personal Care is currently the building’s sole tenant and will begin vacating the building in early 2008.

“Given the strong demand for premium office space in Downtown Greenwich, procuring a large block of space in this market environment is practically a contact sport,” Colliers’ Hoffman says. “AQR perceived the value of partnering with a top quality landlord and building management company and seized the opportunity to remain and grow in Greenwich for the long term.”

C&W’s Hruska adds, “We’ve got an exorbitant amount of interest in the balance of the space.” He notes that talks are under way with firms “of all shapes and sizes” that are interested in leasing space at the property.

The ownership plans to undertake a major multimillion-dollar interior and exterior capital improvement program at the property once Unilever vacates the building next year. The renovation, designed by Roger Ferris + Partners of Westport, will feature a glass portal sculpture covering a grand main entry stair, new landscaping, reconfigured main lobby and garage lobbies and new finishes for the common corridors and restrooms. The electrical service will be upgraded to accommodate the requirements of high density trading firms, C&W officials state.

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