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October 26, 2017

44 Old Ridgebury in Danbury Fills Up in a Hurry

The NewsTimes
Chris Bosak

DANBURY — The transition from a former General Electric building to successful multi-tenant office space didn't happen overnight for 44 Old Ridgebury Road and its owners, Allegiance Realty Corp.

GE Capital fully occupied the 126,000-square-foot, Class A building until 2009 when it restructured and left the building vacant. GE also moved out of buildings at 40 and 42 Old Ridgebury Road.

Allegiance Realty, which is headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., and has a strong presence in the Danbury area, purchased 44 Old Ridgebury Road from Building and Land Technology in November 2010. 

The building is now 92 percent leased following the recent signings of six new tenants, including General Motors. Six months ago, however, it was a different story as the building was only 45 percent leased.

Now called Ridgebury Corporate Center, the building underwent millions of dollars of capital improvements and is currently in the middle of another major upgrade.

The owner's faith in the building never wavered, even as it was more than half-empty despite millions of dollars of capital improvements and amenities such as quick access to Interstate 84, fitness center, conference rooms, scenic setting with patio overlooking a large pond with a fountain, and cafeteria operated by a popular local bakery.

"They always maintained course here and stuck to the business plan," Jay Lapham, asset manager for Allegiance, said. "If something wasn't working it was re-evaluated to put the property in the best position to attract tenants. Sometimes you fill space quicker than anticipated and sometimes it takes a little longer. But we always thought this would be a successful property."

The long term

Todd Payne of Goodfellow Commercial Real Estate is the exclusive leasing agent for 44 Old Ridgebury Road. He jokes that he may have worked himself out of a job by bringing the lease rate up from 45 to 92 percent since the beginning of 2017.

"(The building owners) are committed to making improvements and making this quality office space," he said. "They did it right. This will be a fully leased or nearly fully leased building for a long time. For this market, anything over 90 percent is considered stabilized."

Allegiance Realty is considering building out some space for an office of its own in the building. Chris Smith, the CEO of Allegiance, is also the CEO of Maplewood Healthcare, which builds medical offices for various specialties and has several buildings throughout northern Fairfield County. It is a division of Maplewood Senior Living. 

"With us being committed and well capitalized, nothing was going to happen with this property," Smith said, adding that he did not consider selling the building as it struggled to attract tenants years ago.

Ridgebury Corporate Center, like many other class A buildings in Danbury, has benefited from the exodus of companies from the Matrix Corporate Center, a 1.2 million-square-foot building located less than a mile away in west Danbury. The Matrix, built in 1982 as the headquarters for Union Carbide, now sits largely empty following the departure of companies such as Praxair, Boehringer Ingelheim and several smaller firms.

Personal touch

General Motors will be the next big-name company to move as it will occupy 26,000 square feet at 44 Old Ridgebury. Claris Construction is building out GM's new space, with the move expected to take place early next year. The new space will feature an open floor plan along the perimeter and several conference and break-out rooms. 

"GM goes from being a small tenant (in the Matrix) to the largest tenant in this building," Lapham said. "They'll get a more personal touch from the management and operational side here."

Current Matrix tenants Chipman Mazzucco, Jack Morton Worldwide, Agency 720 and Martin Retail Group have also signed leases to move to 44 Old Ridgebury Road. 

While the future of the Matrix is clouded, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said he is thankful the tenants leaving the building are signing leases elsewhere in the city.

"As long as those companies who are deciding to move out are staying in Danbury, we're happy," he said.

Ridgebury Corporate Park has also played a large part in the success of Mothership Bakery, a popular local business that recently expanded with a location on Main Street in downtown Danbury. Owner Anna Llanos started the bakery in 2012 operating out of a silver Airstream trailer parked at the building.

It was so popular that Mothership Bakery became the operator of the large cafeteria on the ground floor of the building. The bakery there is open to the public. Mothership opened its location on Main Street last November.

"They are awesome," Lapham said of Mothership Bakery. "They started as a food trucked parked out front here."


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