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FAIRFIELD, NJ-By creatively utilizing concessions, the owners of Fairfield 80 Office Center here increased occupancy at the 111, 360-square-foot building from 71.3% to 88% in an 18-month span. The occupancy rate stands at 80% in the overall Route 46/Route 23 submarket.

In July 2007, a JV between Cofinance Inc. and RiverOak Investment Corp. LLC acquired the property from Bergman Real Estate Group for $13.3 million. Cofinance is an investor/developer focused on opportunistic investments in the US and Europe. RiverOak is a private equity real estate fund.

James J. Maurer, president of Cofinance, tells GlobeSt.com that the leasing plan began even before the JV had closed on the property. Prior to taking control of the four-story building, the new owners, working with the seller, signed Konica Business Solutions for 14,850 square feet and consolidated and extended the lease of lead tenant Aetna, which occupies 31,050 square feet.

After taking ownership, the joint venture signed Continuity Logic for 3,550 square feet in early 2008 and GZA GeoEnvironmental took 7,500 square feet in June of last year. More recently, First Evergreen/Savoy List Management inked a deal for 5,100 square feet late last year.

According to Maurer, Cofinance uses concessions, such as free rent periods and TI allowances, to capture tenants, yet still make market-rate deals that are advantageous to both the landlord and the occupant. “The goal is to gain occupancy,” he says. “It’s better to have a paying tenant than vacant space.”

Rents in the building range from $21 to $22.50 per square foot, while rental rates in the vicinity of the building go from $19.50 to $25 per square foot, Maurer says. Morgan Property Management LLC, an affiliate of Cofinance, is the property manager. Michael Staskiewicz–managing director of the Rutherford office of Newmark Knight Frank–has been the leasing agent since March.

In conjunction with its leasing efforts, Cofinance has completed several renovation projects, including upgrading the lobby, installing new carpet and plants and opening a fitness center. A signage upgrade is also planned. The complex also features flexible floor plates, an on-site café and access to I-80.

In the past 24 months, Cofinance has completed acquisitions in New York City, Northern New Jersey and Florida totaling $110 million. More may be coming, Maurer says. “We are seeing some interesting opportunities and the gap between buyer and seller is narrowing,” he says.

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