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(Crystal Proenza is associate editor of Real Estate Florida.)

WESTON, FL-Duke Realty Corp. has inked more than 270,000-SF of high-credit tenants at its West Broward offices. Ed Mitchell, senior vice president of the Indianapolis, IN-based company, says the healthy activity in the Broward region is a result of the area’s labor pool, housing and highway access as an alternative to the Miami market.

“Miami is doing very well despite the downturn because Latin America is doing well,” says Mitchell, pointing to the county’s numerous multinational tenants. “A lot of what you see in Western Broward is an offshoot of Miami.”

One example of that type of growth is Marriott International’s lease of 11,000 sf at Weston Pointe I at 2400 N. Commerce Parkway in Weston. The hotel giant will employ about 60 employees at the space, which will serve as its Latin American and Caribbean headquarters. CB Richard Ellis’ Jim Warstler and Peter Livaditis represented Marriott in the long-term lease transaction.

There are also tenants moving to West Broward from Miami to take advantage of the area’s fundamentals, says Mitchell, adding that if employees have to go to Miami, it’s only a 30-minute drive. “More and more, tenants are seeking office developments that appeal to employees and their lifestyle in an effort to decrease workers’ commute times and gain access to restaurant, shopping and fitness amenities in a park-like setting,” he says of the West Broward market.

The US General Services Administration (GSA) has recently relocated from the Airport West submarket to lease 128,944 sf next door to Marriott International at Weston Pointe buildings II and IV. The space will serve as a regional office for Justice Department use, explains Mitchell. The four-building Weston Pointe office park is now 96.5% leased with average rental rates of $35 gross, according to Duke Realty. Richard Levinson and Noel Steinfeld of CBRE represented the GSA in the transaction.

Duke Realty has also attracted two high-tech firms to West Broward. The names of the design engineering companies have not been disclosed, but the leases were signed for 40,000 sf at Duke’s Sawgrass Pointe I and 92,000 sf at Sawgrass Pointe II, which is currently under construction and expected to be delivered this fall. Both buildings are located within Sawgrass Corporate Park in Sunrise, and are 91% and 100% leased with average rental rates between $26 to $28 per sf at building I and $32 to $33 per sf at building II. Upwards of 600 employees are expected to be work within the newly-leased space says Mitchell.

The long-term leases signed in West Broward bring Duke’s local office portfolio occupancy to 93%. Also in the region, the company is currently planning a 120,000-sf class A office building at Pembroke Corporate Center at 550 SW 145th Ave., with an expected delivery of May 2009.

“South Florida remains a growth market from both a macro and commercial real estate perspective,” says Mitchell. “We expect West Broward to maintain this momentum as other South Florida markets rebound.”

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