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

MIAMI-The Miami Herald Publishing Co. has found an office tenant for the 50,000 square feet available at its headquarters, One Herald Plaza. Brown Mackie College, a subsidiary of Pittsburgh, PA-based Education Management Corp., has signed a 10-year lease valued between $18 million and $20 million. The deal is the biggest office lease of the year to date, according to Cushman & Wakefield, which represented the tenant in the transaction.

Brown Mackie College currently shares space at its sister school, the Art Institute at the Omni building across the street from the Miami Herald headquarters. Their newly leased space will serve as the college’s Miami campus.

The higher-education provider chose the space within the Miami Herald building because of its convenient location, visibility and contiguous space availability, says Alan Kleber, co-manager of Cushman & Wakefield’s Miami tenant advisory practice. “The space enabled them to be on one single floor plate, and the lease provided some contractual flexibility in regards to growth,” Kleber tells GlobeSt.com. He adds that the site’s proximity to a Metro Mover stop was also important in the decision.

In a market where large deals are a rarity, it’s not uncommon to see the higher education industry expanding and taking on space. “If you look through history in terms of dips in the economy, what happens with early job layoffs typically is that there is a package provided to go back to school and gain new skills,” says Kleber. “Higher education becomes a growth industry.”

The Miami Herald put the entire sixth floor of its 750,000-square-foot building up for lease last September, after the paper made significant layoffs from its staff. On June 16, Herald owner McClatchy Co. announced that it would cut 10% of its employees nationwide in order to restructure due to a difficult advertising market. The local newspaper then consolidated operations and assigned Coral Gables-based Continental Real Estate Cos. to lease the space.

There is still about 30,000 square feet within the building that is being made available for lease, says Steven Hurwitz, senior vice president with CREC. “We’ve been entertaining prospects, including several user groups in the range of 5,000 square feet up to 30,000 square feet,” Hurwitz tells GlobeSt.com. Whether or not more space will become available remains to be seen, as the paper announced today that another 19%, or 175 employees, will be laid off.

“It was a very strategic and positive move for the Herald, and you’ll start to see this type of deal more and more,” adds Kleber. “What we’re hearing throughout corporate America is there are no longer any sacred cows. Everything is up to be scrutinized and there is no more legacy.”

Just because a company has been in one location for many years does not mean they are counting out real estate changes in order to manage expenses, he explains. “This is a creative way for owner occupiers to monetize real estate.”

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