Chase Tower going after new tenants

ctruman@herald-leader.comOctober 16, 2013 

Chase Tower would like Lexington's office-space community to give it a second look now that it's had a million-dollar update.

The 40-year-old, 14-story tower, which looms over downtown Lexington, is showing off a renovation that includes its common spaces, outdoor plaza and fifth floor.

The renovation includes new, smaller office spaces, upscale furnishings, and lighting and decorative flourishes. Ouside, new pavers were installed around the fountain, and there are new planters and furnishings.

Mukang Cho, chief executive officer of In-Rel, the Florida real estate company that bought the tower this year, said his company has "a long history ... of acquiring underperforming assets" and turning them around.

"The market has bottomed in Lexington, as it has in most markets where we have a presence," Cho said. "We are upwards and trending."

He said the renovations give the building a modern flair and will make it "one of the premier assets in downtown Lexington."

The lobby now houses modern curved furniture where before there was open space. A touch-screen information center offers facts on everything from tenant location and amenities to available office space in the tower.

"A tenant, especially in today's marketplace, will always have options," Cho said. "... We provide superlative service."

The office tower was sold for $11.95 million in January. It opened in 1973 as headquarters for First Security Bank, then one of Lexington's dominant banks.

When In-Rel bought the building, it had an occupancy rate of around 60 percent and 85,000 to 90,000 square feet of vacant space, Cho said.

He said In-Rel knew the building "needed to be re-positioned and turned around." Cho aims to see occupancy rates at Chase Tower in the high 80-percent to low 90-percent range, he said.

In 2007, JPMorgan Chase announced that it would realign its regional loan operations and eliminate more than 400 jobs.

Chase is still the building's largest tenant; other tenants include the McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie and Kirkland law firm.

The site has 406 parking spots, plus 50 in a surface lot.

In-Rel also has properties in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Plans call for the nearby CentrePointe development to have a 10-story office building.

Fayette County PVA David O'Neill said that sales in the office condominiums/office building segment have been down, but he attributed much of the drop to fewer sales of office buildings.

Cheryl Truman: (859)231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman.

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