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Next challenge for the Banks? How to fill the office tower

| Cincinnati Business Courier | by Tom Demeropolis

Now that the Banks development team has finally landed a hotel for the riverfront project, executives are turning their attention to another piece of Phase I yet to be complete: a 235,000-square-foot office tower.

The topic came up during Commercial Real Estate Women Inc. of Greater Cincinnati’s luncheon Tuesday at Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati. Dan McCarthy, project executive for master developer Carter, gave a presentation on the 18-acre project.

Developers are still looking for an anchor tenant to kick off 180 Walnut at the Banks, the office building that is planned for the southeast corner of Second and Walnut streets.

“We want to build 180 Walnut,” McCarthy told me in an interview after the event.

I asked McCarthy if Carter has considered building the office tower, which is expected to be 10 stories with roughly 25,000-square-foot floorplates, on a speculative basis, meaning no signed leases with tenants.

“Whether or not we would pull the trigger, a lot has to do with the lending market,” he said.
But McCarthy said there aren’t a lot of options for 20,000- to 30,000-square-foot office users looking for high visibility and class A+ space.

At this point, McCarthy also said there is no set threshold for when Carter would start construction of the phase I office tower based on how much of the building has been pre-leased.

During a brief question and answer session, an attendee asked McCarthy what the biggest challenge is since he’s taken on the new role. He jokingly replied, “finding a quarter million square-foot office tenant.”

The only office tenant that could take the majority of that building on its own that was said to be out looking is Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, which is said to be looking for 165,000 to 170,000 square feet of space.

John Eckert and Scott Yards, first vice presidents at CBRE, are the listing agents for 180 Walnut at the Banks.

Aside from this office pad, Carter is working on a feasibility study for phase 3 of the Banks, which will add 690 parking spaces on the lot directly south of General Electric’s U.S. Global Operations Center and a new apartment complex currently under construction. The private development above that parking garage is expected to be up to $125 million and include up to 400,000 square feet of space.

“We have other phases we can do,” McCarthy said.

The last remaining portion of phase I that Carter is still working on is the restaurant pad just west of Yardhouse. McCarthy said the space is getting a lot of “heavy interest, especially after ICSC.”

That’s a reference to the International Council of Shopping Center’s Global Retail Real Estate Convention in Las Vegas, an annual event that draws thousands of retailers and developers. With national groups, local leasing agents are first selling restaurants on Cincinnati, then on location, McCarthy said.

“One of the great responses out of ICSC is that a lot of groups are sold on Cincinnati,” McCarthy told me.

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