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ATLANTA-Two local office and industrial tenants have agreed to trade spaces within the Northeast submarket in order to avoid expensive lease terminations. Rockwell Collins Satellite Communications Systems Inc. is leasing a total of 175,000 square feet at Northmont Distribution Center in suburban Duluth, while Stiefel Laboratories Inc. will move into 71,000 square feet at Satellite Place, also in Gwinnett County.

Rockwell Collins, a defense contractor formerly known as DataPath, worked with Atlanta-based Colliers Spectrum Cauble to consolidate its existing operations, gain relief from current lease exposure and reduce operating costs. The company occupied four locations, including 70,000 square feet of class A office space at Satellite Place, owned by London-based Strategic Real Estate Advisors, along with a 102,000-square-foot distribution center.

At the same time, Stiefel occupied a 108,000-square-foot flex build-to-suit at Northmont, owned by Atlanta-based Seefried Industrial Properties Inc. The pharmaceutical firm’s needs evolved and called for a class A office environment where it could consolidate its personnel.

After searching for a year, Stiefel and tenant rep Jones Lang LaSalle initiated contact with Rockwell Collins last October about the possibility of exchanging space. The deal was made even more complicated by the buyout of Stiefel by GlaxoSmithKline during negotiations.

Eventually, Stiefel took Rockwell Collins’ space at Satellite Place while Rockwell Collins took on Stiefel’s Northmont facility plus 65,000 square feet of adjacent space. Rockwell Collins’ lease at Northmont includes 31,000 square feet of offices plus distribution and R&D components.

The transaction also involved each company acquiring the others’ office furnishings and accepting buildouts. The value and terms of both transactions was not disclosed.

“What initiated as a search for class A office space and a new regional headquarters morphed into an opportunity to also gain cost savings for Stiefel and GlaxoSmithKline,” says Rob Metcalf, managing director with Jones Lang LaSalle in Atlanta. “This type of transaction with corporate users swapping large blocks of space is practically unheard of, but ultimately it was a great success for all parties involved.”

The complex transaction also benefits both landlords, with Seefried increasing occupancy at Northmont and StratReal attracting a blue-chip tenant to Satellite Place. StratReal’s property manager, Atlanta-based Carter, and leasing agent LaVista Associates assisted in the process.

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