Tenancy may be over, but Bank of America legacy could linger on

By Jennifer LeClaire | January 21, 2010 01:13PM

After losing its anchor tenant, the Bank of America Tower at International Place Miami has a new name, which its owners hope won’t be in place very long.

Fairchild Partners, the management team for newly christened Miami Tower, is actively negotiating to find a new tenant that could assume the lucrative naming rights, after Bank of America’s departure, but the current climate may yield few results.

Management for Miami Tower — acclaimed for its changing palette of exterior lighting schemes — will give the first tenant to sign a lease for at least 80,000 square feet the naming rights at no additional cost. Miami Tower can offer up to 76,000 square feet of contiguous space per floor.

“We are looking for credible, viable tenants whether it’s a bank or a financial entity or a Latin American company headquarters. Any of those would work,” said Tony Puente, senior vice president of Miami’s Fairchild Partners, the commercial real estate services firm that manages leasing and marketing for Miami Tower.

Puente and Miami Tower’s owner, Wealth Capital Management, expressed optimism about the prospects of a namesake for the landmark office building in the heart of Downtown Miami, but industry watchers aren’t convinced that Miami Tower will change its name any time soon.

That means that on a practical level, the building — named “Building of the Year” for the last three years by the Building Owners and Managers Association — will remain the Bank of America Tower in common parlance, despite its anodyne new moniker of Miami Tower.

One challenge is the market.

Beyond the rising vacancy rates and 2 million square feet of new office space coming online this year, the market features few mega leasing deals these days. It’s a small- to mid-sized tenant market, said Steve Hurwitz, senior vice president at Continental Real Estate, a full-service commercial real estate firm in Coral Gables. There are a limited number of potential tenants for 80,000 square feet of space.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if, at the end of the day, the criteria for extending that signage is altered somewhat because there are more tenants looking for 40,000- to 50,000-square-footers, and will be for the next couple of years,” Hurwitz said. “Traditionally, less than half of South Florida tenants lease more than 5,000 square feet. So even in a good market there aren’t many tenants to choose from.”

Jim Soble, a partner at the law firm Ruden McCloskey in Tampa, is not convinced Miami Tower can even find a 60,000-square-foot tenant in a down market. Miami Tower’s best bet may be another bank, he said. Banks typically want the privilege of naming rights and the presence of the bank tends to draw professional services firms to a building.

“Some smaller, community banks are expanding, as are international banks,” Soble said. “It’s possible that Miami Tower could attract a foreign bank into the marketplace, and that might be an attractive tenant. In any case, I am sure there’s going to be a lot of new rules with respect to tenancies and naming rights and length of leases because of the current market.”

Despite the name change, it’s possible that Bank of America, which in March vacated 90,000 square feet of office space in Miami Tower to consolidate in its existing space at 701 Brickell Avenue, may continue to reap the benefits of having been the building’s anchor tenant for so many years. Just, as many still call Chicago’s Willis Tower by its original name — the Sears Tower –many international and local investors and residents may continue to think of the iconic building as Bank of America Tower at International Place Miami for years to come.