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The South's Tallest Tower Targets Techies

San Francisco's Shorenstein Properties Repositions Aging Bank of America Plaza in Atlanta to Appeal to Hip Tenants
July 31, 2018
It's not easy to overlook a 1,023-foot-tall tower on Peachtree Street in Atlanta, but the city's technology community seemed to do just that with Bank of America Plaza.

In the past decade, the 55-story building, by far the tallest office tower in the U.S. South, lost its luster and several key tenants as other parts of Midtown Atlanta blossomed into Atlanta's hottest market. As the center of Midtown's tech alley shifted north toward 14th and Peachtree streets and west along Spring Street, the iconic Bank of America building was left stranded on an island between Midtown and Downtown Atlanta.

Determined to make the tower relevant to technology and creative firms, San Francisco-based real estate investor Shorenstein Properties committed millions of dollars to create spec offices aimed at the technology and creative tenants fueling Atlanta's real estate boom.

All told, Shorenstein spent $10 million to renovate the 1.33 million-square-foot tower and create "high-tech loft space" at the building dating to 1992. The vacancy rate has dropped to more than 40 percent recently.

The upgrades also included replacing a dark-and-dreary cafe area with a food hall featuring chef-driven offerings to try to appeal to millennial workers. Shorenstein hired the CBRE landlord representative team of Jeff Keppen and Nicole Goldsmith, who have a track record of signing tech tenants in Midtown, to lease and market Bank of America Plaza.

The investment is starting to pay off. On Monday, Shorenstein said it signed several new tenants for the building's new "high-tech loft space" and as a result immediately would start building out more of the creative space on a speculative basis.

Other signature office towers also are making major changes to appeal to technology tenants and their growing millennial workforces. In New York, owners of the Empire State Building - the fourth-tallest office tower in the U.S. at 1,454-feet high - spent $550 million in 2014 to upgrade the tower to attract more tech tenants. Improvements included a new gym and restaurant. At Willis Tower in Chicago, the second-tallest U.S. office tower at 1,730 feet tall, Blackstone’s Equity Office Group invested money to upgrade the former Sears Tower's connectivity. As a result, Willis this year earned a Platinum-level Wired Certification from WiredScore, a company that works with landlords and tenants to help them improve digital connectivity in their buildings and office spaces.

At Atlanta’s Bank of America Plaza, the largest of its new tenants is Revel Systems, a San Francisco company that offers a point-of-sale system for fast-food chains, gas stations and retailers. Revel leased 25,547 square feet of loft-style offices on the tower's 38th floor.

Christopher Caltabiano, senior vice president of asset management at Shorenstein, said the new leasing activity validates the company's attempt to reposition the office tower as a high-tech haven. "The demand for these next generation workspaces also coincides with the roster of new dining, retail and entertainment destinations in close proximity to Bank of America Plaza, creating one of the most dynamic work environments in the U.S.," Caltabiano said.

Shorenstein said two other tech firms leased space in its new spec suites. Groundfloor, a marketplace for investors to participate in real estate loans on a fractional basis, took 7,746 square feet, and Florence Healthcare, which develops software that enables hospitals, researchers and drug companies to exchange information from clinical trials, leased 4,106 square feet. Both Groundfloor and Florence Healthcare will relocate from incubator space at Centergy at Tech Square.

As for Revel, it will open a new regional office at Bank of America Plaza and plans to create more than 170 new tech jobs in Atlanta over the next two to three years. "Atlanta is a city brimming with new tech talent," Revel Chief Technology Officer Erick Kobres said. "Our state-of-the-art software engineering center will not only support innovation initiatives but also will open up new opportunities for the Atlanta workforce."

The new leasing activity at Bank of America Plaza has prompted Shorenstein to accelerate development of more spec suites. The next block of 15,000 square feet is expected to be ready this fall.

Tony Wilbert, Atlanta Market Reporter  CoStar Group   

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