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Phoenix Unit To Stay Downtown

By KENNETH R. GOSSELIN | Courant Staff Writer

August 29, 2008

Here's the kind of corporate tenant that downtown Hartford wants to keep.

Phoenix Investment Partners said Thursday that it has signed a lease for two floors at the 100 Pearl St. office building, saying it chose the city rather than the suburbs because of the amenities downtown has to offer.

It also means downtown will hold onto 140 workers it might otherwise have lost.

George R. Aylward, president of Phoenix Investment, said the lease gives the company, which will become independent later this year, a headquarters "with everything we need to build a new company."

"We have a diverse work force, which means some employees will be taking mass transit and others will take advantage of the highway system and nearby parking," Aylward said. "The location also has access to a variety of restaurants for lunch and to the cultural and entertainment venues that Hartford offers our employees after work."

Phoenix Investment, the asset management subsidiary of The Phoenix Cos., will become independent later this year in a spinoff. Phoenix Investment expects to move into the new space 32,000 square feet by the end of the year. Its current quarters at 56 Prospect St. in downtown Hartford is now on the market and near the Phoenix Cos. landmark Boat Building.

Phoenix Investment signed the eight-year lease as the building's new owners, The Silverman Group of Short Hills, N.J., is investing in lobby renovations, a new cafe and a revamped conference center.

John M. McCormick, executive vice president at commercial real estate services firm CB Richard Ellis and a broker in the leasing deal, said Phoenix Investment will provide a strong anchor to help build momentum for 100 Pearl and keep workers that patronize restaurants downtown.

For years, 100 Pearl consisting of a 17-story mid-rise tower and a six-story low-rise tower was 90 percent or more occupied. But the loss of PriceWaterhouseCoopers last year caused a decline in the occupancy rate.

With Phoenix Investment's lease, the 281,000-square-foot building is now 70 percent occupied, McCormick said.

The Phoenix Cos. announced in February it would spin off Phoenix Investment Partners, which now has $33.4 billion under management. The spun-off company will take the Latin name Virtus once it becomes independent.

The struggling asset management company was depressing Phoenix's return on equity, and the parent company doesn't want to invest more money in it.

Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez said his office worked to keep the business downtown. "We congratulate Phoenix Investment Partners for recognizing all that the capital city has to offer," Perez said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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