Monday, January 18, 2010

Towers still towers over Market St.

This is a great article about Tower's merger but it also mentions many of the big leases coming up in the next 3 years. It also has a mention of much anticipated American Commerce Center Building. (2.2 million square feet)

"Towers Watson & Co., the post-merger name for the company that was known as Towers Perrin, is poised to sign a lease that would keep 1,000 jobs in Philadelphia.

The merged professional services company that works with clients in human resource, risk and financial management, is expected to sign a long-term lease on 260,000 square feet of office space in Centre Square, where employees are now located.

The deal comes as Towers Perrin and Watson Wyatt Worldwide completed this month a $3.5 billion merger creating Towers Watson. It’s one of at least seven high-profile lease deals coming to a head this year.

There were questions about whether the merged entity would seek to relocate its local operations since Watson Wyatt has its headquarters in Arlington, Va., with Towers Perrin in Stamford, Conn. The combined company is headquartered in New York City.

Negotiations on the lease are still ongoing and Centre Square is one of its leading options, said Dave Duncan, director of corporate real estate at Towers Watson. “We still haven’t finalized the deal,” Duncan said. “Until things are finalized, anything could happen.”

The lease at Centre Square is imminent and likely will be completed this month, according to real estate sources. Duncan anticipates a deal will be done sometime during the first quarter. The company has been at the building since 1975, he noted.

“It’s a good option and a good landlord,” he said. HRPT Properties Trust owns the complex, which is often referred to as the Clothes Pin building.

Towers was formed in Philadelphia in 1934 and had considered relocating to Camden in 2004 when it was being courted with an enticing financial incentive package by New Jersey economic development officials. After a series of negotiations that pitted New Jersey and Pennsylvania against each other, Towers decided to stay in Philadelphia. At the time, it received about $3 million from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and it only tapped $1.5 million of that through an opportunity grant, according to DCED. At that time, it signed a five-year lease that began in 2006 and is scheduled to expire in 2011, prompting the new lease.

This time around, the search and eventual deal weren’t as dramatic, though the company did look again at Camden, Philadelphia’s suburbs, and other Center City buildings, Duncan said. Towers Watson is in discussions with the state and city on financial incentives. “We’re not sure how that will pan out,” Duncan said. The company doesn’t expect the number of employees in the city to change from the current 1,000.

The lease — expected to be one of the biggest of the year — is an early positive note for the Center City office market at a time when activity is likely to be off.

Cozen O'Connor still hasn’t decided where it will go. The big law firm is looking for about 200,000 square feet. While it found Bell Atlantic Tower attractive, it hasn’t been able to work out a deal because of complications stemming from a master lease that Verizon has on the tower until 2012, according to real estate sources. The firm occupies space at the Stock Exchange Building at 1900 Market St., where its lease expires at the end of the year. The firm couldn’t be reached for comment.

KPMG is reportedly nearing a deal to renew on 125,000 square feet at 1601 Market St. and the White and Williams law firm, now in 125,000 square feet at One Liberty, is looking for space. Beneficial Savings Bank is reportedly trying to renew on 125,000 square feet at Penn Mutual Towers. That’s after it flirted with leasing space at the former Rohm and Haas Co. building at 6th and Market streets. One other company out in the market is Janney Montgomery Scott, which is in the market for about 150,000 square feet.

Perhaps the biggest wild card will be GlaxoSmithKline, which has major operations in Center City. The company has a lease that expires in 2013 for about 650,000 square feet at One Franklin Plaza from HRPT Properties Trust. It leases another 220,000 square feet at Three Franklin Plaza from Liberty Property Trust, and that lease runs out in 2014.

GlaxoSmithKline’s decision has the potential to kick off a new downtown building. While the company could stay where it is at One and Three Franklin Plaza overlooking the Vine Street Expressway, it could seek 900,000 square feet of space. If it keeps all of that space in Center City and decides to move, the company would have to relocate into a building that has yet to be built. One office project on the drawing board is the American Commerce Center, a 2.2-million-square-foot proposal for 18th and Arch streets that would create the tallest building in Philadelphia. It would need at least two years of construction time to get out of the ground."

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