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Wachovia to lease space at Metro Square Office Park

Metro Square Office Park reports that Wachovia Corp. intends to lease a two-story, 110,000-square-foot building, boosting the Philips Highway complex to an almost 75 percent occupancy rate.

Metro Square developer and landlord Craig Meek said Monday that he expected Wachovia to move into the building in December or January. He referred other questions about Wachovia's operations to the financial services company.

However, he said the lease calls for more than 600 parking spaces and that the building, which faces Interstate 95, will carry the name Wachovia Bank.

"For the office park, it just means good things. It puts us at a level of occupancy that is clearly at a level of good health," Meek said.

A Wachovia spokesman said Monday he would provide more information when available.

Metro Square is at Philips Highway and Emerson Street, along I-95, about 2 miles from downtown. Opened as Philips Highway Plaza in 1960, the mall struggled in its later years as residential and commercial development moved south and east.

Southpark Corporate Center LLC rebuilt the mall as an office complex in 1999-2000.

Meek said the Wachovia move will help the South Metro Community Development Association Inc. district along Philips Highway, generally from Philips Highway and Atlantic Boulevard south along I-95 and Philips to University Boulevard.

"It is a very positive piece of development for this region that is continuing to go through some incredible changes," Meek said.

Meek said the eight-building, 471,000-square-foot complex, including SkateWorld, will be 74 percent occupied upon Wachovia's move. Other than some small spaces, Meek said that Metro Square will have a single-story, 74,000-square-foot building remaining for lease.

"We have held firm not to split that" into separate rental spaces, he said. "It is quite an asset having such a large floorplate." Such a size can be attractive to tenants who need that amount of space in one building.

To date, Metro Square is anchored by Baptist Health, MHF Insurance, ACT Advanced Career Training and First American Title, Meek said.

Meek said brokers Bert Smith and Forrest Gibson of Grubb & Ellis/Phoenix Realty Group represented the landlord in the Wachovia lease negotiations. Meek said that broker Scott Hanigan represented Wachovia on behalf of two companies: CB Richard Ellis and Commercial Jacksonville, which he joined in October as senior director.

Meek said that Wachovia was working on the design and permitting for the renovations.

Metro Square began taking shape 45 years ago when developer Food Fair Properties Inc. broke ground on Philips Highway Plaza on Aug. 27, 1959. Montgomery Ward & Co. and Food Fair Stores were the initial anchors of the 42-acre project. Plans for the plaza were announced in late 1957 and it opened in 1960.

... Today's Jacksonville shoppers who wonder when Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and other retailers not in the market might arrive, it's worth noting that the Nov. 17, 1957, front-page story about the new Philips Highway shopping plaza noted that Saks Fifth Avenue was interested in the mall. No Saks. Yet.

karen.mathisjacksonville.com, (904) 359-4305

This story can be found on Jacksonville.com at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stor..._16446699.shtml.

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