Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Long Beach Port Staff Could Find New Home In WTC

Port of Long Beach officials on Monday discussed the possibility of moving the port's roughly 375-member staff from their 51-year-old administration building to the city's landmark World Trade Center.

The 27-story WTC, located just blocks north of the port, was opened in 1989 and is one of the premier office towers in the downtown Long Beach skyline.

Conducted behind closed doors, Monday's briefing by port staff presented the pros and cons of the WTC as a viable option for a new port headquarters to port commissioners.

The port had planned to build a state-of-the-art $300 million showcase administration building on port property adjacent to the current building. However, despite the port planning to use no tax revenue or city funds, Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster last year nixed the idea. Foster questioned the wisdom of the autonomous port authority building a new headquarters while his City Hall administration struggles with a city budget racked by projected deficits and dwindling revenue streams.

In lieu of the new building, port officials have been looking at various locations throughout Long Beach that could be leased or purchased to serve as a replacement for the current six-story headquarters. Reports over the years have indicated that the current port building would not fare well in a major earthquake as it was built to late-1950s building codes and has not received seismic retrofits.

The port would require at least 90,000 square feet of office space to match the current administration building.

The WTC currently has more than 110,000 square feet of office space available, split among six vacant floors. The going rate to lease the six floors would run the port roughly $275,000 a month.

One drawback is that the vacant WTC floors are not contiguous--located on floors 3, 9, 10, 17, 22, and 24.

Another option for the port would be to purchase the WTC outright.

The building traded hands in 2003 for $113.7 million, and changed hands again to the current owner, private investment group Legacy Partners, in 2007 for $148.9 million. Given the current property market conditions, it may be possible for the port to purchase the building on very favorable terms if the owners are willing to sell. Legacy Partners does not have the building listed as "for sale." Based on currently listed leasing opportunities in the WTC, the building has an occupancy of between 65 and 70 percent.

If the port administration did move to the WTC, it would be somewhat of a full circle, as the port was one of the original financial sponsors of the WTC project in the 1980s.