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RALEIGH, NC-Locally based Highwoods Properties Inc. says it has forged a build-to-suit lease with the General Services Administration to develop a $45-million Federal Bureau of Investigation field office in Charlotte. The regional office REIT will build the new FBI office in a joint venture with San Antonio, TX-based USAA Real Estate Co.

Plans call for a 171,000-square-foot, five-story class A building and annex, with structured and surface parking, on nearly 12 acres being acquired by the joint venture. Construction is scheduled to start early next year with completion targeted for the second quarter of 2011.

This will be the eighth GSA project that Highwoods has taken on over the past several years, receiving more than $200 million in long-term leases for 1.2 million square feet. Highwoods is currently building a $35-million, 110,000-square-foot FBI field office in Jackson, MS and previously built one with 138,000 square feet in 2006 for the bureau in Tampa, FL.

“We are pleased to be developing a third field office for the FBI and further expanding our relationship with the GSA,” Ed Fritsch, Highwoods president and CEO, stated in a release. “I congratulate our team for their hard work and continued success in leveraging our extensive knowledge and experience in working with the GSA to secure another 100% pre-leased development project.”

Per federal government requirements, the Charlotte FBI field office will be submitted for certification under the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. Earlier this year, USAA Real Estate earned LEED “platinum” certification for its existing FBI building in Chicago.

Highwoods will have a 10% ownership interest in the JV and will also receive a fee for developing the building. The total stabilized cash return to Highwoods, including fees, is projected to be 11.5%.

Highwoods is the largest owner and operator of suburban office properties in the Southeast, with full or part ownership in 378 properties totaling at least 35 million square feet. The REIT also owns 580 acres of development land in several states.

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