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DOWNERS GROVE, IL-News this week that DeVry Inc. has leased 144,500 square feet of the recently completed Highland Landmark V at 3005 Highland Pkwy. reflects a trend that has been one of the few bright spots in a lagging office market for the past year: Schools and educational firms have been expanding, in part because the recession is driving more laid-off workers to return to school to bolster their credentials for existing careers to to enroll in classes for career changes. DeVry has been one of the most active in this sector, but other educational institutions, trade schools and technical training centers from coast to coast have been expanding as well. Some are nationwide chains, like DeVry, while others are local or regional operations.

In San Diego County, for example, Bridgepoint Education leased 300,000 square feet of space last year to serve as the company’s headquarters for at least the next 10 years at Los Angeles-based Kilroy Realty’s Sabre Springs development. Bridgepoint, an independent, private higher education company based in San Diego, also signed an 11-year deal for 250,000 square feet at Sunroad Centrum in the Kearny Mesa area of San Diego County. The Centrum office tower is a new development built by Sunroad Enterprises, a privately owned firm based in San Diego.

On the East Coast, Jonas Bronck Academy recently agreed to relocate to 50,000 square feet at Fordham Place, a $120-million mixed-use complex in the Bronx. The progressive middle school has signed for a 20-year lease at the Fordham Place development.

Other DeVry deals have included its $11.8 million purchase of a 110,000-square-foot building at 300 Bauman Ct. in Wood Dale, IL and a 47,500-square-foot build-to-suit in Long Beach, CA.

In Wood Dale, DeVry will expand its online operation from its existing headquarters in Naperville. In Long Beach,the university signed an 11-year lease with San Francisco-based Newcastle Partners and Rreef for the build-to-suit campus, which will take shape at a Newcastle/Reef Douglas Park office development. The deal includes an option for DeVry to expand into an adjacent 20,000-square-foot building. The lease represents a strategic move for DeVry, which will have room for future growth with its option to expand into the adjacent 20,000-square-foot building. DeVry will be relocating from its nearby Long Beach campus where it occupies 98,000 square feet.

In another Southern California expansion, CNI Vocational College has consolidated two Orange County locations and expanded by 7,000 square feet in a seven-year, 35,462-square-foot office lease in two buildings at the Town & Country Office Park in the City of Orange. The fast-growing vocational college was already occupying 12,000 square feet of space at the Town & Country project and 16,000 square feet at a location in Costa Mesa. It sought the additional square footage to accommodate its consolidation as well as its expansion. CNI trains students for healthcare careers such as surgical technology and vocational nursing.

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