AT&T to vacate downtown St. Louis high-rise next year [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Sept. 12--Updated at 4 p.m.
ST. LOUIS --AT&T plans to move its employees out of one of downtown St. Louis' biggest office towers over the next year, the company and a top union official confirmed to the Post-Dispatch.
The telecommunications giant informed workers this week of plans to vacate One AT&T Center, its 44-story tower on Chestnut Street, by 2015, and move the roughly 2,000 people who still work there into other company facilities downtown and in St. Louis County.
An AT&T spokeswoman confirmed a "multi-year plan to consolidate employees" from One AT&T Center to other facilities in the area, which include two neighboring buildings downtown and two buildings in Town and Country.
Spokespeople for St. Louis City and St. Louis County said they did not yet have any information on the moves, and AT&T spokeswoman Katie Nagus didn't specify how many employees would move to St. Louis County. She did say that AT&T's local workforce is increasingly working from home and other non-office locations.
An official with the Communication Workers of America Local 6300, which represents workers at the company, said he'd received an email Thursday notifying him of the moves.
"They said they'll be dispersing people out of One Bell Center and moving them to other buildings," said Mike Mehringer, president of the union local.
Until recently, AT&T has had 4,500 employees in three downtown buildings. Nearly half work in in One AT&T Center, the largest of the three. AT&T and its predecessor Southwestern Bell have occupied the building since its construction in 1986.
Nagus said no employees are losing their jobs as a result. But there have been cuts at the company's yellow pages division -- now separately owned YP Holdings, Inc. -- which has long been based in that building. In March, YP announced it was laying off 120 people, which would leave it with fewer than 400 employees downtown.
The shift would leave one of downtown's largest office towers empty. AT&T has been reducing headcount in the building for years but still has a lease for the entire structure through 2017. It was unclear Thursday if that would change and a new tenant could move in.
Jim Mosby, senior managing director at commercial real estate broker Cassidy Turley, said he believes potential tenants other than AT&T have toured the building recently. Although designed as a single-tenant office tower, the building could be modified to house multiple tenants, Mosby said.
Representatives of the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis have been discussing with AT&T officials options for the company's complex of buildings.
Missy Kelley, the partnership's spokeswoman, said her group is aware that AT&T's lease of the 44-story building expires in 2017 but added that the partnership had not been informed of the company's decision to vacate the structure.
One AT&T Center is downtown's third-tallest structure, trailing only the 630-foot Gateway Arch and -- by 5 feet -- the 593-foot Metropolitan Square building on Broadway.
It is flanked by two company-owned buildings -- a data center completed in 1990 and the historic office tower opened in 1925 as the headquarters of Southwestern Bell.
Employee cutbacks at One AT&T Center are nothing new. In 2012, the tower's owner negotiated a property tax break from the city because AT&T had already cleared out half the the building.
One AT&T's owner, a holding company affiliated with one of the nation's largest real estate trusts, convinced the city assessor the building had plunged in value because AT&T occupied only half the structure's office space.
MB St. Louis Chestnut LLC is the owner of record for the property, which was acquired in 2006 for $204.9 million by Minto Holdings Inc. of Florida and Inland American Real Estate Trust of Oak Brook, Ill.
In 2012, MB St. Louis, Inland's affiliate, convinced St. Louis assessor Ed Bushmeyer the AT&T tower was worth $135 million -- an approximately $70 million decline in six years.
MB St. Louis argued that the building's value plummeted because AT&T had slashed the size of its workforce there, adding that low occupancy cut the building's market value.
Bushmeyer initially contended that occupancy levels had no effect on the structure's value because AT&T leases the entire 1.2 million-square-foot building, regardless of the space it fills. But Bushmeyer eventually agreed with the landlord's argument that the relatively short period left on the lease, along with potential renovations needed to accommodate multiple tenants, justified a lower assessment.
AT&T and the city reached an agreement that dropped the building's value in 2010 to $155 million. The agreement also lowered the 2011 and 2012 values to $135 million from the city's original assessment of $191.5 million.
City records show that the property tax paid on the building for 2012 was just over $4 million, compared with nearly $5.6 million for 2009.
(c)2013 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Visit the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at www.stltoday.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
[ Back To Technology News's Homepage ]