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(Carl Cronan is editor of Real Estate Florida.)

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL-AutoNation Inc., the nation’s largest automotive retailer, has signed a lease with Stiles Corp. to move its corporate headquarters into 105,000 sf at 200 Las Olas Circle. The locally based company expects to move next summer into Stiles’ new 17-story mixed-use building from nearby 110 Tower on SE Sixth Street.

AutoNation, which originated in Downtown Fort Lauderdale, will occupy five full floors on a 12-year term, says Terry Stiles, chairman and CEO of the Fort Lauderdale-based development and investment firm. The new building allows for various operating efficiencies and includes both green-friendly and hurricane-resistant elements, he says.

“We are working with several large-space users who recognize the opportunities in this dynamic market,” Stiles stated in a press release. He added that AutoNation’s lease signing will have a “multiplier effect” in attracting similar deals to the Fort Lauderdale central business district.

Situated near the city’s riverfront along SW First Avenue, 200 Las Olas Circle has 186,516 sf of class A office space, along with 17,538 sf of ground-level retail shops and six levels of parking. AutoNation will become one of the building’s largest tenants, joining Bank of Florida and others there.

Marc Cannon, AutoNation senior vice president, tells GlobeSt.com that the company is not concerned about committing to a long-term lease at a time when the auto industry appears to be struggling along with the overall economy. While credit is more difficult to obtain these days, he says vehicles are still moving off the lots at AutoNation’s 239 franchises in 15 states.

“The bottom line is that we have a very profitable business, we’re solidly in the black and this new headquarters puts us in a solid position for the upturn,” says Cannon, whose company posted sales of $17.7 billion last year. “We want people to know that there are companies that are still planning for the future, and we’re one of them.”

Cannon adds that other landlords made various pitches to AutoNation to relocate its base elsewhere within South Florida, but it chose to remain in Fort Lauderdale, where it currently has at least 300 employees. Mike Jackson, the company’s chairman and CEO, echoes those sentiments.

“This community has supported us with its outstanding talent, its business-friendly policies, its welcoming spirit, and that special combination of factors is a leading reason why we’ve been able to grow as quickly and as successfully as we have,” Jackson stated in a release. “This is home for us, and we’re looking forward to calling it home for many years to come.”

Stiles oversees more than 37 million sf of commercial properties throughout the Southeast. It is moving ahead with design and site-plan approval for another office project in Downtown Fort Lauderdale, where it already has ownership interests in several other buildings.

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