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CHICAGO-Cozen O’Connor has leased 27,000 square feet, taking the entire 19th floor at 333 W. Wacker. The Philadelphia-based law firm’s 10-year lease, which will commence later this year, is the first step for building owner Hines in filling 150,000 square feet that will be vacated next month by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, another law firm. Cozen will relocate to the 868,000-square-foot office tower from 222 S. Riverside Plaza, where the firm leases a similar amount of space.

“Cozen O’Connor was able to take advantage of the existing conditions in Skadden’s space, which allows them to enter the building in a cost-effective manner,” says Tom D’Arcy, SVP of leasing with Hines, which owns and manages the building. Asking lease rates there range from $20 to $22 per square foot net, according to D’Arcy. Amenities include a fitness center, conference center and food service.

The 36-story office tower was acquired by Hines in April 2006 for around $223 million, sources say. Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates and constructed in 1983, the building is located on a triangular site along the Chicago River, bordered by Wacker Drive and Franklin and Lake streets. The property offers tenants four levels of underground parking.

The building is about 92% occupied now, but will drop down to about 78% leased when Skadden moves out at the end of its lease in late June. The firm will relocate to about 180,000 square feet at the John Buck Co.’s 1.1-million-square-foot tower at 155 N. Wacker, which delivers this summer. Asking lease rates at Buck’s new 46-story West Loop office tower range from $26 to $35 per square foot net.

D’Arcy says Hines is in talks with about six firms interested in taking some of the remaining space Skadden is vacating. The property is in the West Loop submarket, where average asking lease rates range from $32 to $38 per square foot, according to Grubb & Ellis’ Q1 office market report. D’Arcy says the submarket’s occupancy rate is around 84%.

“The West Loop is softer than it was 12 months ago but we’ve had significant activity because of the existing conditions in our law firm space,” D’Arcy tells GlobeSt.com. “Construction costs have gone down a little bit, but it’s still expensive to move and people who want to move are focused on finding previously improved, good condition law firm space. That’s why this space has seen so much activity, because there’s not a lot of high quality, class A law firm space available.”

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