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(Carl Cronan is editor of Real Estate Florida.)

CORAL GABLES, FL-Brokers with locally based Flagler Real Estate Services closed 900,000 square feet of new and renewed lease transactions in Florida during the first quarter, topping the same period last year by 20%. The firm believes the pace sets a positive tone for the remainder of 2009.

The activity was highlighted by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida’s decision to renew 103,476 square feet at the Westside Plaza I office building in Doral. Flagler represented landlord Prudential Insurance Co. of America in lease negotiations.

“Despite predictions of declining activity in the commercial real estate industry, Flagler ended the first quarter with a stronger portfolio of new deals,” says Jose Hevia, Flagler president and CEO. “I congratulate ever member of the brokerage team for starting 2009 on a high note.”

Other key transactions during the quarter included industrial renewals in Miami by Custom and Trade Services Inc. for 65,144 square feet at Flagler Station, Riverdale Farms Inc. for 32,090 square feet at Beacon Centre and Tairo International renewed its lease for 32,000 square feet at Beacon Industrial Park.

New leases around Florida include Sparta Special Servicing LLC, which took 29,624 square feet of office space at Lakeside Two in Jacksonville, and US Technology of Miami and South America, which leased 17,988 square feet of industrial space at Beacon Centre in Miami.

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