Akerman's West Palm Move Leaves Leasing Hole To Fill

, Daily Business Review

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222 Lakeview Ave.
222 Lakeview Ave.

Considering the small size of the West Palm Beach office market, a move by one of Florida's largest law firms to a competitor's building could easily represent a difficult hole to fill.

In a city with only four Class A buildings, the vacancy left behind is a coveted space, especially when demand is growing and the supply remains limited.

"Ideally between now and then we will find a large user to fill the entire space, but we are also exploring multiple options, among them dividing the space into smaller offices" said Anthony Librizzi, vice president of CBRE Inc., the broker for the Esperante Corporate Center at 222 Lakeview Ave., where Akerman was a tenant for 15 years.

Librizzi denied rumors the landlord is considering giving a break on its rent price to attract more tenants. The Esperante, which is on the market, has a 74 percent occupancy rate, which will be drastically reduced once the law firm leaves.

If sold, the new owner would face major renovations including the 39,000 square feet Akerman is vacating. The building also has a floor with 11,000 square feet available. Lease rates are $20 to $29.75 per square foot, according to LoopNet.

"Law firms have changed dramatically in the last five to ten years. They don't need the huge libraries they had before, lawyers require less support from paralegals, and everything is more efficient and in less space. That's why the old space was not very efficient," Librizzi said. "The firm had to decide if they wanted to live through one year of renovations or leave, and they chose the path of least resistance."

This is a general trend in the market, according to Mathew Cheezem, vice president of Cresa South Florida, who brokered Akerman's 12-year, $25 million deal.

"Everyday business climate has changed dramatically. Businesses interact more externally, and there is a big push to create efficiency," he said. "It's very different than how things were done years ago."

'Great Opportunity'

Akerman's new lease covers 40,000 square feet and almost three floors—the 11th, 10th and most of the ninth floor—in the west tower at the Phillips Point building. The firm, whose local office has grown from 10 to 48 lawyers since opening in West Palm Beach in 1995, plans to move Sept. 1, 2014.

Akerman is the building's largest tenant signed by Taylor & Mathis of Florida LLC principal Brian Gale, exclusive leasing agent for the complex.

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