|By Richard Lee, Connecticut Post,
BridgeportMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
December 8, 2009 --When management at Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide saw the amenities at 333 Ludlow Street, in Stamford, they realized that it was just the right place for the hospitality company's new headquarters.
Starwood visited many office complexes in a three-year search led by Newmark Knight Frank Real Estate, said Chief Administrative Officer Ken Siegel. The 500,000-square-foot building in Stamford's Harbor Park and not far from the train station was ideally suited for the company's home offices, now located in two buildings at 1111 and 1133 Westchester Ave., in White Plains, N.Y.
Starwood is expected to move 800 employees to the building in January 2012 and will occupy 250,000 square feet. The company operates 982 hotels in nearly 100 countries under nine brands, including Sheraton, Westin, St. Regis and W hotels. It has about 145,000 employees.
"We were looking for several hundred thousand square feet, but we had limitations from a budget standpoint. We needed an area that is culturally stimulating," Siegel said, adding that proximity to a transportation facility was essential, as well as space to expand.
Since the fourth quarter of 2006, Newmark Knight Frank had worked on the Starwood account on a daily basis, said Senior Executive Vice President Neal Golden.<>"There was a tremendous amount of due diligence done by the Starwood team. They showed a high degree of patience in evaluating the market. Our responsibility was to work with Starwood to deliver the best economics we could," said Golden, who partnered with Newmark Managing Principal John Goodkind on the assignment. >
Goodkind touted the access to New York City, Boston and Hartford and airports serving those cities, as well as the convenience of the Stamford Transportation Center.
There was a chance that the region would lose Starwood until the Ludlow Street building, which has expansive views of Long Island Sound, came along.
"We looked at multiple cities up and down the East Coast and cities across the United States. Connecticut didn't become a viable alternative until the middle point of this year. The rent differential in Connecticut and White Plains is enormous. Westchester is much less expensive," Siegel said, estimating that the typical per-square-foot rent for Class A office space in Westchester County is in the high $20s to low $30s.
Prior to the economic downturn, rents for Class A office space in Stamford were more than $50 per square foot, he said, commenting that Starwood was able to take advantage of a precipitous decline in rates and financial assistance from the state of Connecticut.
"Gov. (M. Jodi) Rell reached out and gave us tax incentives and loans. They did a great job," Siegel said. "We're bringing in a multi-million-dollar payroll into the state. We think Stamford is a terrific place to be."
The package includes a $9.5 million loan and up to $75 million in Urban and Industrial Site Reinvestment Tax Credits from the state Department of Economic and Community Development, as well as up to $5 million in sales tax exemptions on building materials through the Connecticut Development Authority.
The Ludlow Street address adjoins Building and Land Technologies' $3 billion mixed-use Harbor Point project, which Starwood sees as an opportunity for one of its hotel brands.
"It gives us an opportunity to bring a hotel to Stamford. There are two or three locations we're looking at in the South End. We're excited with what they are doing in that area of Stamford," Siegel said.
Harbor Point was a key factor in luring Starwood to the city, according to Golden.
"Stamford becomes a very competitive alternative to cities across the U.S. One of the exciting features of this relocation -- we're talking about one of the largest revitalizations in the U.S. when you're talking about Harbor Point," he said.
Having Starwood in Stamford is a boon to the state and the city, said Carl Kuehner III, chief executive officer of Building and Land Technology.
"Any time you have a company coming across the border is big for Connecticut," he said.
The arrival of Starwood also could result in attracting companies to Harbor Point, according to Kuehner, who sees it as an endorsment of the project and the city.
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