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

CORAL GABLES, FL-After weighing its options throughout the region, Kraft Foods Latin America has decided to keep its headquarters office at the 224,049-square-foot 355 Alhambra building. The firm originally relocated its regional headquarters from Rye Brook, NY to Coral Gables in 2004, and has now renewed its agreement in one of the largest office lease deals in the city during the last 12 months, says Taylor and Mathis’ Brian Gale.

As one of the ten largest tenants in the City of Coral Gables, the lease renewal is especially important to the region, says Gale. “In today’s market, if you lose a 30,000-square-foot tenant, it will take a while before you find a tenant or several tenants to backfill that space.”

Kraft Latin America’s new lease agreement is for 30,000 square feet, about 11,000 square feet less than its original deal four years ago, says Gale, who represented landlord AEW Capital Management in the recent transaction. The value of the lease is over $5 million, or in the mid $40s per square foot gross, Gale tells GlobeSt.com.

Like most tenants in the marketplace, Kraft definitely shopped their deal, says Cushman & Wakefield’s Alan Kleber, who represented the tenant in the transaction. “There were many options on the table given the environment we’re in and what was unique is they were able to get some contractual flexibility that permitted them to modify their special obligations based upon their own business objectives,” he explains about the building giving the tenant expansion and contraction rights.

Kleber tells GlobeSt.com it is especially important that the City of Coral Gables was able to retain Kraft’s Latin American headquarters because if they had relocated to an alternate submarket such as Airport West, it would have been a signal to the market that a decision was made based on price. “That would have opened up other multi-national companies to scrutinize operating costs on real estate if such a big name picked up and moved.”

Built in 2001 by JP Morgan and developer Armando Codina, the class A office building was purchased by Boston-based AEW Capital Management last summer, and is currently 95% leased. The direct vacancy rate in Coral Gables is 14.6% overall with average rental rates for class A space at $43.36 per square foot, according to Cushman & Wakefield data.

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