Stamford Advocate

Class A space in Norwalk - OperationsInc likes new home

By: Richard Lee

OperationsInc, a human resources outsourcing firm, has been growing. Because of that, its founder, David Lewis, knew he had to find a new home, but never thought that he would be so fortunate to sign a lease for the Class A office space in Norwalk where his burgeoning firm expects to move in early August.

Lewis will move the headquarters and its 37-member staff from 992 High Ridge Road in Stamford to 535 Connecticut Ave., where it will occupy 7,900 square feet, more than doubling its current space. He signed a seven-year lease.

KABR Real Investment Partners and Blackpoint Partners, which bought the 175,000-square-foot building in January, is anxious to make deals and is being aggressive in the marketplace, said Steven Greenbush, senior vice president Stamford office of the CBRE Group, who represented the landlord.

"The current owner bought it at a price where they can be very aggressive," he said, adding that lease asking rates are $25 per square foot.

The building is more than 60 percent occupied, according to Greenbush, who said KenCast, a digital content provider, moved there from Stamford in April, occupying 10,000 square feet. Among the other tenants are the University of Phoenix, Vale Petroleum, UBM Medica, Cancer Care and Masonicare.

KABR and Blackpoint acquired the building in a foreclosure proceeding for $11 million, allowing the new owners to offer tenants attractive opportunities to lease space in a building with a gym, cafeteria, a meeting room and covered parking. The previous owner, Transwestern, bought it in 2006 for $25.6 million.

"We got a great deal. We had landlords (in OperationInc's search area) bending over backwards to make their buildings attractive," Lewis said. He credited John Hannigan, co-founder of Choyce Peterson Inc., a corporate real estate brokerage firm focused on tenant representation, for finding his company's new headquarters and negotiating an agreement. "The owners actually came to me and made it a very compelling situation. We took 33 percent more space than we went into the market looking for. Within three years, we'll be talking with the landlord about looking at contiguous space."

The building is ideally suited for OperationsInc, said Hannigan, who touted its amenities and the landlord's willingness to work with him and Lewis.

"We toured buildings in Stamford and Norwalk from I-95 to the Merritt Parkway. When the ownership of 535 Connecticut Avenue was purchased by strong sponsors, I recommended to David Lewis, president of OperationsInc, that he visit 535 Connecticut Ave.," he said. "We got a generous amount of free rent and low-base rent. The landlord is using his dollars to modify it to my client's exact need."

Companies continue to be concerned about their expenses and are looking at their leases to help control their costs, Hannigan said.