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Published: 1/24/2007

Fifth Third will move into O-I's old home; downtown tower to be renamed

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
The move should help RVI Group Inc., which owns One SeaGate, lure other tenants into the tallest offices downtown.
The move should help RVI Group Inc., which owns One SeaGate, lure other tenants into the tallest offices downtown.
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Downtown Toledo's signature office tower has a signature tenant coming: Fifth Third Bank will move its local headquarters into the 32-story One SeaGate structure this year.

The announcement yesterday means the bank will replace Owens-Illinois Inc. as the prime tenant and fill perhaps as much as half of the building's vacant space. O-I moved its global headquarters to Perrysburg last summer.

It has not been determined how much of the glass tower next to the Maumee River the bank will lease, but it will be renamed Fifth Third Center at One SeaGate.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but bank officials said they did not receive financial incentives from the city.

The move should help RVI Group Inc., which owns One SeaGate, lure other tenants into the tallest offices downtown.

Fifth Third will move its downtown headquarters from a few blocks away, as well as 350 employees, into One SeaGate by year's end, RVI and the bank said. The bank told The Blade nearly a year ago it was interested in the office space, several months after O-I said it would leave for the suburbs.

But a key was what to do with its 101-year-old regional headquarters in Fifth Third Center at Madison Avenue and Huron Street. Now, RVI of Stamford, Conn., will purchase it.

Robert LaClair, president and chief executive of Fifth Third Bank (Northwestern Ohio), said his firm didn't want to leave the bank's home since 1931 with an unknown fate.

"That was always the issue," he told The Blade. "It was a very complex transaction, a very complicated negotiation."

One SeaGate, built for $100 million in 1981, has 707,000 square feet of leasable space. Fifth Third occupies about 110,000 square feet on eight of the floors in its 17-story Fifth Third Center, and intends to keep a branch there.

O-I said in spring, 2005, that it would vacate One SeaGate, where it leased 200,000 square feet on eight floors. The Fortune 500 firm, by contract, had control over the building but gave notice that it would not extend its lease when it expired Sept. 30, 2006.

It moved 330 downtown workers to an office complex it had in Perrysburg by August. Some smaller tenants in the downtown tower also left.

When the structure's landlord couldn't make the final $32 million mortgage payment, insurer RVI Group took over. But despite the notice by O-I, no new tenants had been announced.

Fifth Third, based in Cincinnati but the largest bank in metropolitan Toledo, said it would move about 300 employees from its downtown office and relocate 50 from a 50,000-square-foot building on Monroe Street in Sylvania Township. Two months ago, the bank said it had 340 people in its headquarters and 82 in Sylvania Township.

The company plans to keep operations in Sylvania Township, but who will own and occupy the Monroe Street building has not been worked out, officials said.

"Our intention is to stay out there," said Fifth Third's Mr. LaClair. "It's been a great facility for us."

RVI Group is to finalize soon a One SeaGate lease with Fifth Third, and construction to alter space for the bank in the tower and on the ground level will have to be done before employees can move in, said Douglas May, RVI Group president and chief executive. The landlord continues to look for more tenants. "We all have a lot of work yet to do," Mr. May said.

The city of Toledo has allocated $250,000 in cash incentives to help attract businesses to the city's central business district, and $75,000 is earmarked for One SeaGate's ground floor, which once was lined with restaurants, stores, and services.

"This is the signature building in the central business district," Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said. "One SeaGate will be full again."

Existing tenants in the tower were relieved.

"We're very pleased that they're firming up their agreement and coming over here," said David Nunn of law firm Eastman & Smith Ltd., currently One SeaGate's largest tenant.

Said Dan Frick of accounting firm of Ernst & Young: "It will be great to have Fifth Third down here."

Michael Realty Co., a Toledo commercial real estate firm, will continue working to lease space in the building and help lease space in Fifth Third Center, officials said.

The two office buildings will not compete, said RVI spokesman Darrel Seife. "It's a different tenant base," he said.

Office space in One SeaGate goes for $20 a square foot per year, but it is at least $6 less at Fifth Third Center, estimated Nancy Lehmann, an agent with Michael Realty.

Fifth Third has spent about $6 million in five years renovating the building.

"We're really looking forward to working with that building as well," Ms. Lehmann said.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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