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ST. PAUL-Educational Credit Management Corp. is in the market for more than 100,000 sf for its new headquarters. The company, with 320 employees working out of nine floors at the 361,000-sf US Bank Center Downtown, is considering three to four sites here or in the suburbs.

Dick Boyle, CEO, tells GlobeSt.com that his college loan firm is expanding every year. The firm has a little more than a year left on its lease, and is looking for some good space. “Our opportunities include taking an existing building that is empty and renovating it for our use,” he says.

He would not divulge the sites being considered, but says he may still consider staying at the US Bank Center. However, Downtown has a few problems to overcome, Boyle says. “For example, we pay for parking for our employees now, that’s about $425,000 a year,” he says. “Also, many of the options Downtown are not big enough. In the suburbs, we may be able to have all of our employees on one or two floors, parking that’s free, and retail that’s available in the morning and at night.”

Charles Caturia with CB Richard Ellis is helping Boyle find space. He admits that the suburbs are a better draw. “There’s really limited class A space available Downtown, there’s a lot more class B. Also, generally speaking, real estate taxes are higher Downtown than in many of the suburban markets,” Caturia tells GlobeSt.com. Office lease rates Downtown range from about $9 per sf for class B space to mid-teens for class A space, Caturia says. The exact rate that ECMC is paying now was unavailable, but the average lease rate for the US Bank Center is $10.50 per sf, net.

The city doesn’t want to lose the company, though, and has been working with Boyle to retain the firm. “We had determined that it would cost us about $2.5 million more per year to stay Downtown, but the mayor has helped us get the difference down to $1 million. It’s not an apples to apples comparison, we could pay more to stay. However, over a 10-year lease, $1 million per year is a lot of money,” Boyle says. “We could have made a decision to leave Downtown six to eight weeks ago, but the mayor has responded very aggressively to entice us to stay. St. Paul needs its businesses to be a vibrant city. We’d like to see the city grow and stay healthy.” The decision should be made early in the first quarter, he says.

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