Atlanta’s tallest tower nets a big new tenant

Atlanta’s tallest skyscraper just got a big dose of good news.

Bank of America Plaza

The Bank of America Plaza building at the cusp of Midtown and downtown is Atlanta’s tallest tower. AJC File photo

The CDC Foundation, the philanthropy associated with the Atlanta-based government health agency, has agreed to move its offices from a building near Woodruff Park to Bank of America Plaza.

It’s the first major new office lease for BofA Plaza in a number of years and follows the building’s recent purchase by San Francisco-based Shorenstein Properties.

BofA Plaza, where Midtown meets downtown, is an emblem both of Atlanta’s skyline and the arc of the region’s economy since the 1990s.

The tower’s construction was a symbol of Atlanta’s aspirations and rise as an international city in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s the trophy office tower that fetched a record price in the heady real estate boom of the 2000s. Then it became an emblem of the city’s economic fall when its former owner lost control four years ago.

The tower was nearly full when Atlanta’s Cousins Properties sold the tower during the boom, but the giant building is currently about half-empty.

In a blog on its website, the CDC Foundation said it focused on “proximity to CDC’s Atlanta campuses; a location near the airport for out-of-town guests; access to major interstates and public transportation for our staff who travel from throughout the Atlanta area to work; and space to accommodate expansion as needed.”

A new leasing team from CBRE that helped turn Atlantic Station into a bustling hub for creative companies was recently hired to do the same for BofA Plaza.

The strategy hinges on major corporate targets but also goes beyond them. The CBRE team also has marketed some of the space to creative firms.

While Midtown has become a hot market for relocations and business expansions – particularly among technology firms – BofA Plaza has failed to win their business.

But that is perhaps soon to change with CDC Foundation taking up residence. The foundation is expected to take about 35,000 square feet of space — which is about a floor and a half.

Pierce Nelson, a spokesman for the CDC Foundation, said the group will take up about a floor and a half of the 55-story tower for a term of 12 years. The foundation has about 150 employees, including about 50 to 60 stationed at its Atlanta offices.

The foundation was founded by Congress in the 1990s to help extend the mission of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and to help the CDC connect and work with nonprofit and private sector partners.

Major supporters of the CDC Foundation have included Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and corporations including General Electric and UPS.

CBRE brokers Jeff Keppen and Elliott Grand represented Shorenstein. JLL brokers Ian Henderson and John Winter represented CDC Foundation.

Keppen said the building has gotten renewed attention with new ownership. Shorenstein, a well-known national real estate company, has the money to finance major building improvements and has big plans for the tower.

“Midtown is super hot right now,” Keppen said, citing innovation labs and corporate relocations happening in the area around Georgia Tech.

With space tightening, BofA Plaza is likely to get even more attention.

Matt Knisely, an executive with Shorenstein, said the firm is “delighted to welcome the CDC Foundation, a highly regarded nonprofit doing great work, to Bank of America Plaza so soon after acquiring the building.

“We think this is a location that more tenants will now want to be part of and we’re excited to follow through on our vision for this iconic building,” he said.



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