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Published: Friday, 12/29/2006

Fifth Third seems poised to relocate

BY HOMER BRICKEY
BLADE SENIOR BUSINESS WRITER
The riverfront tower has been half-empty since O-I left. The riverfront tower has been half-empty since O-I left.
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Fifth Third Bank seems poised to move its headquarters into One SeaGate, but any announcement won't come this year.

That leaves the half-empty downtown Toledo office tower with no new tenants since Owens-Illinois Inc. vacated its quarters in September, despite repeated indications from parties involved that the space would be filled soon.

Fifth Third officials say they are still interested, and tenants of the 32-story structure say it's just a matter of time before a deal is struck. Fifth Third apparently would take over about a quarter of the building's space and likely would be a lure for other tenants.

Bank officials have inspected the building recently, and one building tenant, lawyer Joseph Pilkington, said, "They were looking at the configuration of the walls and windows."

Fifth Third spokesman Karen Fraker said yesterday the company is still exploring possibilities and remains interested. But, she added, "A lot of things have to fall in place before we act."

She declined to elaborate, but has noted the bank did not make a decision by last month, as its top local executive thought three months earlier would be the case.

Key, apparently, is that the bank wants to dispose of its 17-story downtown headquarters, Fifth Third Center, at Huron Street and Madison Avenue, and may need plans for its Monroe Street offices in Sylvania Township. The bank, if it moves into One SeaGate, is expected to relocate most employees in those two buildings to the riverfront tower.

The owners of One SeaGate are hopeful. "We're tremendously optimistic about the future of the building and the [possibility] of getting a major tenant," said Darrel Seife, spokesman for RVI Group Inc. The Stamford, Conn., insurance firm took title to the structure in September.

A holiday party in the building this month attracted several hundred tenants and their em-ployees, as well as a number of city officials. "There was wonderful feedback from the tenants," Mr. Seife said.

Prospective tenants have been shown the building, including some for the basement level that had been occupied by retailers and food outlets, said Nancy Lehmann, an agent with Michael Realty Co. who is helping to lease the space.

"I think Fifth Third has made it clear they would like to be in the building, and they're working hard to make it happen," she said.

Building manager Cushman & Wakefield Inc., of New York, is ready to roll out a national marketing campaign for the building, which has total rentable space of 707,000 square feet.

Andy Ferrara, manager of real estate for the city of Toledo, said, "We hear a decision will be made by Fifth Third sometime [soon], either positive or negative. They will not tell us until the final decision has been made."

The city is offering cash incentives for companies willing to lease in the downtown. The incentives have been given to four existing tenants at One SeaGate.

One new tenant may soon take the offer, a Detroit coffee-shop firm that is interested in setting up a unit in the concourse, Mr. Ferrara said.

Contact Homer Brickey at: homerbrickey@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.



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