NYC developer looks to double down on WWE’s new Connecticut home

<em>From left to right: George Comfort &amp; Sons president and CEO Peter Duncan and Thomas Madden, director of economic development for the City of Stamford, with 677 Washington in the background</em>
From left to right: George Comfort & Sons president and CEO Peter Duncan and Thomas Madden, director of economic development for the City of Stamford, with 677 Washington in the background

The WWE could be getting some company at its new Stamford headquarters.

Peter Duncan of Manhattan-based George Comfort & Sons sees the looming relocation of wrestling empire to the former UBS headquarters as the jumping off point for bigger plans.

George Comfort became managing partner of the property last year following the $33 million sale of 677 Washington Boulevard in December 2017 to Beverly Hills-based AVG Partners. George Comfort took on operating and leasing responsibilities for the 700,000-square-foot office property when it became a joint venture partner with AVG.

The tag team between AVG and Duncan’s firm has now begun charting a repositioning of the 12-acre property, which is adjacent to Stamford’s Metro-North station.

“The asset comes with additional air rights,” Duncan told The Real Deal. “We are, preliminarily, looking at putting in a boutique hotel and potentially another mixed-use building [at the property].”

George Comfort, which has previous experience in Stamford through its ownership of the 780,000-square-foot Shippan Landing office park, is also looking at adapting the property’s existing structures to accommodate multiple occupants. The former UBS site includes a 13-story office tower, a seven-story pavilion that once held the world’s largest trading floor and a 16,000-square-foot retail building.

“This is a unique asset and we are positioning it as such. We think it stands out and it is going to attract high-caliber tenants,” said Duncan, who serves as president and CEO of George Comfort. “We hope to meet their demands for space in Stamford and Fairfield.”

Global accounting firm KPMG has moved its Stamford office to the complex, as has architectural firm Perkins Eastman. The latter has drawn up preliminary plans for the proposed mixed-use site envisioned by George Comfort that will include retail, residential and office components, Duncan said.

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A new cafeteria and lobby have already been added to the property, and Duncan said that a new gym and conference center are under construction. George Comfort expects to wrap up its conceptual plans for the site by the fall.

While Stamford’s office sector has struggled in recent years due to a spike in Fairfield County vacancies, Thomas Madden, Stamford’s director of economic development, said the work done by George Comfort at 677 Washington is a prime example of how the city can become a hub for digital media and other companies looking to capitalize on its resources.

“We have this great infrastructure that was left behind by financial services [firms] — all that high-speed internet…  [And] as of late, we have had a number of biotech companies moving out of New York and moving into Stamford,” said Madden, noting that his city’s centralized location adds to its allure.

According to Choose Stamford, a website run by the city’s economic development arm, of the 89 local leases inked since the first quarter of 2015 for more than 2,500 square feet, only 26 have been signed for space outside the downtown area.

After WWE, the last four office tenants to sign leases in the city were Diageo, Charter Spectrum, Finacity Corporation and Guardian Life Insurance, which respectively signed a new lease for 38,000 square feet, an expansion totaling 118,391 square feet, a new lease for 16,032 square feet and a lease renewal for 12,914 square feet.

Madden noted that the growth of Stamford’s housing stock has helped attract new office tenants to the city.

“If you’re looking at the current development map, we have put in close to 10,000 new apartments,” he said. “We’re building this giant workforce here that companies are looking at, because we have all these young people living up here.”

Madden claimed there is approximately $1 billion of new development under construction in downtown Stamford alone and almost $6 billion in new development happening throughout the city.