PITTSBURGH-Natural gas company Equitable Resources is leasing 257,000 sf at 625 Liberty Ave. here in a move that comes with nearly $3 million of incentives from the commonwealth’s Department of Community and Economic Development. In a release, the company says it has outgrown its current 150,000-sf space at 225 North Shore Dr. Patrick Greene, SVP with CB Richard Ellis’s Pittsburgh office, tells GlobeSt.com the move will bring occupancy at the 32-story, 623,000-sf office tower to 97%, up from about 60% at present.

Greene says he is unable to discuss terms of the lease; however, CBRE’s website lists a rate of $24 per sf for 625 Liberty. The release from Equitable says the company will relocate its production and midstream business units to 625 Liberty, while maintaining its Equitable Gas Co. gas subsidiary, a utility company, at 225 North Shore. According to a release from DCED, the move, scheduled to take place during the spring and summer of 2009, will keep 772 jobs in Pittsburgh and create 354 new ones.

“Although we are anticipating a good bit of growth outside of Pennsylvania, we’re happy to be keeping our corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh,” says Murry Gerber, Equitable’s chairman and CEO, in a prepared statement. “The unregulated gas drilling and transportation segments of our business have been driving our development.”

Gov. Ed Rendell says in a statement that “this was a competitive project and several other states were hoping that the large private investment and hundreds of jobs would be going their way.” Equitable will be getting a $2.8-million incentive package that includes a $1.4-million opportunity grant, $350,000 in job training assistance and $1.06 million in job creation tax credits, according to the DCED release. The company may also consider developing a training and research facility at a separate site, Rendell says in a statement.

According to published reports, David Koch of Fischer & Co.’s Pittsburgh office represented Equitable, and the company considered other sites within the city as well as outside Pennsylvania in a two-year search. Equitable reportedly has not yet made a decision on the disposition of its unused space at 225 North Shore. Calls to Koch were not returned by deadline.

As reported by GlobeSt.com in 2005, the Blackstone Group paid $45.2 million at a sheriff’s sale for 625 Liberty, then known as Dominion Tower, and hired CBRE to lease it up. Completed in 1987, the tower was 40% vacant when Blackstone purchased it. Dominion Resources, the building’s namesake tenant, had greatly reduced its space at 625 Liberty and finally moved out altogether in 2006.

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