After a strategic slowdown, a new Brickell office tower reinvents itself

The market was on the edge of the abyss. Brickell was a sea of empty condominium towers and unfilled retail spaces. Office towers 1450 Brickell and the then-Met 2 Financial Center were on track for completion. But looking forward, and at the time unburdened by debt, the developers of one Brickell office tower — 600 Brickell — decided to slow things down.

Now, as the only new construction in Brickell, it is nearly finished. Following its strategic slowdown, along with a reorientation towards technology, the building is on track for an August 2011 completion date in its new orientation as Brickell World Plaza.

“We made a decision in early 2009 and realized that the state of the market, where it was at that time, we made a strategic move [to slow down],” said John Breistol, president of Foram Group, the developer of the 600,000-square-foot tower. “Doing deals and signing contracts at the bottom of the market was not a good business strategy for us, so we said — how do we alleviate that?”

600 Brickell began leasing a little more than two weeks ago, and Breistol said a number of tenants who had originally committed to the project were beginning to finalize their agreements for space. The tenants include two in the restaurant business, he said.

The tower had been scheduled for completion in October 2009; surveying the scene, 600 Brickell decided to “put the brakes on,” he said.

“We said, we’re never going to stop construction, and we made a commitment to ourselves and to contractors. With that, we realized that the market would be a lot better than it was then,” Breistol said.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

With the slowdown came another refocus: the building would overhaul its technological infrastructure, and get a green upgrade.

“[The slowdown] meant that we had the opportunity to go from [LEED] gold to platinum, said Loretta  Cockrum, founder and CEO of Foram. “We also discovered that we had the basic infrastructure, with the capacity and the core of the building to be able to bring this fiber to our building and connect it to the world — not just wirelessly, but hardwired.”

What a state-of-the-art fiber installation means is that tenants can choose their own providers, which Breistol says is unique among any office building anywhere.

“What we have is two redundant fiber paths that connect us to the NAP of the Americas,” he said. “We carry that redundancy throughout the entire building, and all the switches and all the equipment throughout the building is designed to be incredibly robust as well as scalable.”

The LEED platinum designation is the first for a new office tower south of Charlotte.

Brickell World Plaza still faces competition from its two main rivals, 1450 Brickell and the Wells Fargo Financial Center, which together added 1.3 million square feet of office space to the Brickell submarket. Breistol and Cockrum said that naming rights were still an option as well.

“We’re not putting our name on the building, so that’s always an option,” Breistol said.