New Office Project Started in Albquerque

Aug. 13--Construction is scheduled to begin this week on a speculative building at John Mechenbier's high-profile office project on Pan American NE, between Montano and Comanche.

The 24,400-square-foot building will be immediately north of the Berger Briggs building, which is expected to see its namesake company move in during September.

Designed by Dekker Perich Sabatini, the second building will follow the architectural style and substance of the first. The $5 million building is expected to be completed by mid March, Mechenbier said.

Viewed from nearby Interstate 25, it's a wonder that the site hasn't been built up before this year. Look a little closer and the challenge is the way the site straddles the bank of an old gravel pit.

"Everyone driving by saw a difficult site. The vertical grade dropped 18 feet," Mechenbier said. "We saw a site (perfect) for tenants interested in interstate exposure."

The answer to the drop in vertical grade was to build the two office buildings on top of parking garages built into the dirt bank. At Mechenbier's speculative building, the parking garage will be secure.

One unusual upshot is that the one-story office building will have an elevator to connect it to lower-level employee parking. Customers or visitors will park in spaces in front of the building along Pan American.

Each building site requires an extra step to stabilize the soil because of its location at a backfilled former gravel pit.

Mechenbier said 64 holes were drilled 40 feet deep and two feet wide, then immediately filled with concrete, for each building. The process, called auger-cast piers, costs $210,000 apiece.

Both buildings are designed for energy efficiency, but without any certification as a green building. Dan Hernandez of Berger Briggs Real Estate and Insurance Inc. said, "We did not go out on any technological limb. It's practical green."

Berger Briggs plans to move into 15,000 square feet in the first building by the end of September. The arrangement is for Berger Briggs, currently located Downtown, to buy the first building from Mechenbier upon completion.

The 9,000 square feet of available office space in the first building was originally marketed at an asking lease rate of $24 a square foot, full service. The asking rate has since been dropped to $23 a square foot to be competitive, said Hernandez, who is marketing both buildings.

Space in Mechenbier's second building is being marketed at an asking lease rate of $22.75 a square foot.

SPEC BUILDING ON LOMAS: Undertaking their third commercial real estate project, two Albuquerque attorneys are planning a 12,000-square-foot speculative office building on the 800 block of Lomas NE.

Billy Burgett and Allan Wainwright expect construction to begin in the next month or so on the twostory building on what is now a vacant lot.

The attorneys, who have separate practices but share a leased suite of offices Downtown, bought the just over half-acre lot from Bernalillo County in 2003.

The location could lend itself to a variety of uses, Burgett said.

"We looked at residential, this kind of office, that kind of office," he said. "We looked at retail on the first floor, residential above. We went round and round."

In the end, a straightforward office project made the most sense, with the ultimate goal being a single tenant -- likely a larger law or other professional firm.

"We're going to have a unique standalone building," Wainwright said. "The way we're going to market it is this can be your signature building."

In other words, a higherprofile alternative to leasing space in a high-rise "where you walk off the elevator and you have a little sign there," he said.

The building will be built next to the sidewalk on the south side of Lomas, with the main entrance facing a rear parking lot with 35 spaces.

Designed by Nick Pirtl of Design 2 Function LLC, the exterior will be earth-tone stucco with accents such as stone facing and raised bands.

"We're trying to pull in elements of the courthouses and office buildings in the area," Pirtl said.

The project will cost an estimated $1.2 million and take six to seven months for the building shell.

Burgett, also a licensed real estate broker, is marketing the space on his own at asking lease rates in the $18-$22 range with a standard office build-out.

"We think we have enough contacts to market it ourselves," he said. " We've gotten a lot of feedback from people saying, 'Call us when you get it going.' ''

Burgett and Wainwright have previously collaborated on the development of two industrial buildings, one in the North I-25 corridor and the other in Rio Rancho. This is their first office property.

UPTOWN TO DOWNTOWN: Hunt Development Group, which has had a temporary office in 1,150 square feet in Uptown, is moving Downtown.

The developer of ABQ Uptown is opening a permanent office in 4,000 square feet at Albuquerque Plaza, the 22-story office tower at 201 Third SW.

"We selected Downtown because it is the financial and government center. ... Our business requires interaction with the public sector and banking and legal communities," said Hunt's lead developer in New Mexico, Gary Sapp, in an e-mail.

"The adjacency of the Hyatt (Regency) hotel is also very attractive for out-of-town visitors," he said.

Copyright (c) 2007, Albuquerque Journal, N.M. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.