Stamford Advocate

MetLife division acquires Norwalk office Complex

By: Richard Lee

Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., through a subsidiary the new owner of one of Norwalk's Class A office complexes, is emphasizing the building's amenities to help lure new occupants after acquiring it in a foreclosure.

MLIC Asset Holdings II LLC, a unit of MetLife, acquired RiverPark at 800 Connecticut Ave., just east of the Darien town line, in February, in a ruling issued by Judge Douglas Mintz in State Superior Court in Stamford against River Park Property Owner LLC and Fifth Street Owner Corp.

No financial terms of the transaction were available. Among the tenants at the sprawling 412,000-square-foot complex is, the online travel service giant.

"This is a well-known, high quality office complex in the area, and we are now actively looking to bring additional tenants into the property," said MetLife spokesman Christopher Breslin, adding that MetLife's portfolio of properties totals about $8 billion. "River Park has a number of amenities, including a prime location, that we believe make it an attractive property for businesses in the area."

Breslin did not comment on the vacancy level at the complex or the per-square-foot lease rate, but John Hannigan, a principal in Choyce Peterson, a Stamford-based commercial real estate brokerage firm that represents tenants, said about 91,000 square feet of space is available.

One sublease of 16,500 square feet also is available, he said, adding that the total availability level equates to about 25 percent, about the same for office space in Norwalk.

"Historically that's a high vacancy rate," said Hannigan, who commented that a new landlord typically first examines the infrastructure to determine if any improvements are necessary. "I'm very pleased that it's in the hands of MetLife, a very recognizable name as a landlord across the country. It's a great building. It's one of the largest buildings in the region -- certainly in Norwalk."

The building is ideally situated to attract tenants, said Tad Diesel, Norwalk's director of marketing and business development.

"It's a beautiful complex in a great location. It's an all-star complex," said Diesel, commenting that having as a major tenant could be attractive to potential tenants.

Other tenants include Muehlstein, Hitachi Capital America, Stolt-Nielsen, Paychex, Georgia Pacific, Octagon and Softel-USA.