New owner gives new life to former home of IBM in Boca


Nearly 20 years after IBM closed the doors on its Boca Raton complex, a new owner has a new vision for the property.

The Boca Corporate Center & Campus is emphasizing its campus-like feel and amenities, as companies seek out extras to offer employees. The property has been spiffed up with new lobbies, and the new owner is boasting its fitness center and walking paths. Additional amenities are being eyed, too.

Next Tier HD, which paid an undisclosed price for the property in January, is eager to boost occupancy of the 1.7-million-square foot complex, now about 55 percent leased. The goal is to push that rate up to 85 percent to 90 percent during the next three years, said Danielle Vennett, Next Tier HD managing director and Boca Corporate Center property manager.

Aggressive rental rates starting in the high teens, plus tenant improvement dollars, also are signs the owner wants to lease the place.

Already, there have been some big deals.

The most recent one: Verizon Wireless, which is moving to 29,000 square feet of space in the center, from smaller space at a nearby building in Boca Raton. The Verizon Wireless space is a sales office.

The deal follows the recent announcement that Avid Technology will expand its North American administrative headquarters to the Boca Corporate Center by taking 20,000 square feet of space. Avid Technology, based in Burlington, Mass., is a provider of audio and video technology for the media and entertainment industry.

Since Next Tier took over, it has secured 110,000 square feet of new leases and 68,000 square feet of renewals. Leasing is handled by Jeff Kelly, senior vice president for CBRE in Boca Raton.

Tenants include Lexis/Nexis, Tyco Security, Bluegreen Corp. and RN Networks, to name a few.

When IBM sold the property for $46 million in 1996, subsequent owners had mixed results finding tenants and branding the site.

The property became the Blue Lake Corporate Center, then the T-Rex Corporate Center, when an ownership group bought it from the Blue Lake group for $138.65 million in 2000.

Private equity fund Blackstone Group bought the site for $192.7 million in 2005 and renamed it the Boca Corporate Center & Campus. That name has stayed, although some tenants haven’t.

In the years since IBM left the building, the area around the complex has matured. A Tri-Rail station sits just to its east, and buses take commuters directly to the corporate center. In addition, a lively strip of retail shops now fronts the building along Yamato Road.

Tenants shouldn’t judge a book by its cover when it comes to this building. Despite its industrial-style design, the center is a fortress of safety from storms, built to withstand hurricanes.

The property also is uniquely capable of withstanding the elements. It has its own backup generator. “For a company that is sophisticated and wants a 24-7 operation, we can provide that to them,” Vennett said.

Most importantly, the property has large blocks of space, an increasing rarity as office buildings fill up and large spaces become difficult to find.

More West Palm Beach jobs

A telecommunications company is doubling the size of its West Palm Beach sales office — and it plans to double its workforce there, too.

Granite Telecommunications’ jobs in West Palm Beach pay an average of $80,000 a year — or more. “These are good jobs. I have some people making $1 million-plus a year,” said Greg Giambalvo, regional vice president in West Palm Beach.

Granite Telecommunications is a Quincy, Mass.,-based telecommunications company. It provides telephone and data services, plus equipment, to business customers of all sizes, including Fortune 100 companies.

In 2013, Granite moved into 7,500 square feet of space at the Reflections twin-building office complex, at 400 and 450 Australian Avenue. The company moved with nine people, thinking there would be plenty of room for the company’s growth, said George Meegan, facility director at the company’s headquarters in Quincy.

Granite officials were wrong. “We are out of space, I kid you not. We have cubicles in the conference room now,” Giambalvo said.

So Granite just inked a deal to lease 15,000-square-feet of space on two floors in the 400 building, said Peter Reed, managing principal of Commercial Florida Realty Services in Boca Raton. Reed handles leasing for Reflections.

The company has 57 employees working in West Palm Beach now but expects to double that number by year-end. Giambalvo said employees come from “all over. … We’re a very sought-after company.”

Giambalvo said the company looked around downtown West Palm Beach to buy a building but had no luck, losing out on one building to a particularly active buyer from Palm Beach named Jeff Greene.

Space in other buildings was too expensive, Giambalvo added: “Because there’s not a huge supply (of office space) downtown, some of the prices were off the charts.”

Reed agreed. “Space is filling up in West Palm Beach,” he said. As the central business downtown has filled up, companies are looking slightly west of the downtown for space, and that’s boosted interest in the Australian Avenue corridor, Reed added.

Although Granite could have looked elsewhere in the county, Giambalvo said West Palm Beach was the preference. The is a midway point for employees. While some employees work in Palm Beach County, others work in Broward or Martin counties, Giambalvo said.

In addition, “The (Tri-Rail) train station is right next door, and you can immediately get on and off of (Interstate) 95,” Giambalvo added. “It’s the convenience factor.”

Alexandra Clough writes about the economy, real estate and the law.


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