Stamford Advocate

New owner lurking for vacant Stamford office complex

By: Richard Lee

A long-vacant office building that once was an icon in the Stamford central business district seems finally on the verge of having a new owner.

Norwalk-based Building and Land Technology is buying the 581,000-square-foot Financial Centre at 695 E. Main St. from Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., according to three people familiar with the deal.

Lehman became the sole owner of the sprawling glass building in February of 2010 after a federal bankruptcy court in New York City approved a plan for realignment of properties held by the bankrupt investment bank.

The former home of General Reinsurance Corp., the location has been without tenants for about two years.

A spokesperson for Building and Land Technology, developer of the 80-acre Harbor Point mixed-used project in the south end of Stamford and other properties in the region, didn't respond to requests for comment.

Laure Aubuchon, Stamford's director of economic development, said she would welcome the building's sale to BLT.

"It would be terrific because they (Building and Land Technology) are clearly committed to spending money in terms of building refurbishment," said Aubuchon.

"They would make it into a world-class site. There's a lot of deferred maintenance in that building."

Aubuchon estimated that the office vacancy rate in the city is 25 percent, and said the building represents 7 to 8 percent of that figure, so renovating the complex and aggressively marketing it would promise to significantly reduce the level of available space.

General Reinsurance left the 300,000 square feet it was leasing in late 2009, after Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy a year earlier. GenRe is currently housed at 120 Long Ridge Road in Stamford.

John Hannigan, principal in Choyce Peterson, a Stamford-based firm that represents corporate tenants, said that if the report is true, a refurbished Financial Centre would be a boon for his clients, creating more competition among landlords.

"It's a great opportunity for large blocks of space," he said, commenting that Class A office space near the Stamford Transportation Center commands rents per square foot in the mid-to high-$40 range. "It's one of six Class A buildings in Stamford that have 100,000 contiguous square feet of space available. There aren't a lot of those tenants in the market."

To fill the building, it will be essential to land an anchor tenant and then attract smaller tenants, Hannigan said.

"The challenge will be creating suites for medium-size tenants, as well," he said, adding that Building and Land Technology has a solid track record in building, reconstructing and marketing commercial space.