Meidinger Tower may be a sign that downtown vacancy is improving - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Meidinger Tower may be a sign that downtown vacancy is improving

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- After downtown Louisville office space hit a 20-year high in vacancy rates, new companies are moving in and real estate professionals say things are looking up.

Meidinger Tower recently entered into a lease with Computershare, a financial services firm based in Australia. One year ago, the building was only half full. Today, commercial real estate broker Mark Wardlaw says the building is at 70 percent occupancy and growing.

Computershare is now taking up three floors of the building. It's part of an occupancy boost that commercial broker Mark Wardlaw says was the result of new owners and $1 million in renovations.

"With all of those amenities and a very aggressive ownership, we've turned that around," said Mark Wardlaw of the NAI Fortis Group. "In less than a year, we've seen our vacancy rate go from 50 percent to less than 30 percent. We're now at 70 percent occupancy."

In 2013, the vacancy rate in downtown Louisville was more than 19 percent. So far this year, it dropped to 15.8 percent. But it's still far from the single digits it once knew.

"We are seeing rates much higher than the past and much higher than anyone would like for the economic driver of Kentucky," Wardlaw said.

Wardlaw claims the vacancy isn't always because companies leave, they're just using space more efficiently and letting employees work from home.

"We're seeing corporate users footprints shrink," he said. "Mercer went from 150,000 square feet to 80, but they didn't lose any jobs. They just went to a lot less space."

Still, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer says recent out-of-town interest is filling more and more empty cubicles.

"We're seeing a lot of interest in Louisville from companies in New York, Chicago...high cost cities," Mayor Fischer said.

Australian-based Computershare picked Louisville, creating 250 new jobs, paying no mind to the fact that downtown isn't quite full.

The statistics would tell you that, yes, the vacancy problem at downtown office towers is improving -- and real estate professionals tell us things are looking up, but the fact is there are still entire floors left empty.

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