AutoTrader.com Inks Largest Office Lease Yet in 2009
Atlanta Business Chronicle, October 9, 2009
Online classified powerhouse AutoTrader.com plans to consolidate several offices and move to the 3003 Perimeter Summit, where it would park at least 1,200 employees.
AutoTrader.com, a division of Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises Inc., has been one of the city’s fastest-growing companies since it was founded in 1997. Its offices were spread out across five different buildings.
AutoTrader.com has signed a letter of intent to move to 3003 Perimeter Summit, company spokesman Mark Scott said.
Cox wanted to build a nearly 30-story office tower for AutoTrader.com last year, but the company nixed those plans in 2008 as the economy weakened.
AutoTrader’s 20 percent growth in recent years was reflected by its real estate decisions, Scott said.
“The company has grown so dramatically that finding one space for all of us was a top priority,” he said. “We always needed two more floors here, and another floor there.”
AutoTrader.com plans to take anywhere from 350,000 to 400,000 square feet in 3003 Perimeter Summit, an 18-story building owned by GE Asset Management.
AutoTrader would essentially take the entire building.
Several tenants are moving out of 3003 Perimeter Summit, including sixth-floor tenant Hewitt Associates Inc. (NYSE: HEW), a human resources outsourcing firm.
Their departures cleared the way for AutoTrader to move in.
It would mark the largest office lease since InterContinental’s 360,000-square-foot lease at Ravinia III in 2007, according to real estate brokerage firm Cushman & Wakefield of Georgia Inc.
AutoTrader also plans to consolidate AutoTrader Classics and AutoTrader Latino in the building.
Both are new divisions and growing despite the downturn, Scott said.
AutoTrader.com’s growth remains flat, “but in this economy, flat isn’t that bad.”
AutoTrader and the other business lines are currently housed in the Peachtree Dunwoody Pavilion office complex and the former CompuCredit Corp. building.
AutoTrader plans to begin moving into 3003 Perimeter Summit in 2010. The transition should take about nine months, Scott said.
“Cox Enterprises has a major presence in this market, and the number of employees it’s keeping in Central Perimeter is a huge asset,” said Yvonne Williams, president and CEO of the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts.
“We’ve worked very hard to increase these types of investments.”
AutoTrader and GE still have to work out the final negotiations on the new lease.
Several Atlanta building owners were trying to land AutoTrader, including Rubenstein, the owner of 64 Perimeter Center East.
AutoTrader was looking for a new building, and 3003 Perimeter Summit is only nine years old, real estate observers said.
A few Atlanta developers also thought Cox might relocate AutoTrader.com to Buckhead, where Cousins Properties Inc. has most of its new 25-story Terminus 200 building available for lease.
But, the lack of parking complicated that idea, real estate observers said.
Cousins never reached the point of negotiations with AutoTrader, sources familiar with the deal confirmed.
Cox and Cousins have a history of teaming up on projects.
Cousins was tapped to build the 28-story tower for AutoTrader before Cox shelved those plans.
It would have been the largest office tower developed in the area around Georgia 400 and Perimeter Mall in years.
“I can’t say exactly what buildings we were interested in, but I do know we looked across the Atlanta market,” Scott said. “We’re only moving about a block and a half. And, we’re going to have reasonable access to MARTA.”
Commercial real estate CB Richard Ellis Inc. is helping advise Cox. John Shlesinger of CB Richard Ellis could not be reached for comment.
CB Richard Ellis handles leasing assignments at Perimeter Summit, the 83-acre office and retail complex on Ashford-Dunwoody Road at Interstate 285. Seven Oaks Company LLC leads development.