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Options for emptying downtown building being considered by new owner


Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. began the relocation of approximately 2,000 employees last week after the Des Moines City Council approved a certificate of completion for the company’s new office building at 1200 Locust Ave.

About 1,600 workers will be relocated from 700 Fourth St., said Ryan Squire, a planner and project manager in Nationwide’s corporate real estate department, adding that the company has been leasing back the space since selling it to Wells Fargo Financial Inc. on Dec. 21, 2006.

When the short-term lease expires on March 31, the 227,000-square-foot building may be unoccupied, said Todd Millang, a broker with CB Richard Ellis/Hubbell Commercial, who represented both parties in the sale.

“We are taking a flexible approach,” Millang said, adding that Wells Fargo has no immediate plans to move any employees to the Fourth Street location. In what he called a “package deal,” Wells Fargo purchased a second property from Nationwide at 1963 Bell Ave. on the same day, which is occupied by Wells Fargo Financial.

Steve Carlson, Wells Fargo’s assistant vice president of communications, confirmed that both properties have been put back on the market, and if the Bell Avenue location is sold, the company will “relocate those team members to another location,” he said.

Though Wells Fargo declined to be interviewed regarding how its plans for the properties may have changed in the last two years, or how the company’s growth has potentially been affected by the economic downturn, Carlson said in an e-mail that the company’s “corporate properties group is constantly assessing (its) physical space needs and making adjustments to match the changing needs of the business.”

Ideally, Millang said, 700 Fourth St. would be sold to a developer or occupier and Wells Fargo Financial would continue occupying the Bell Avenue site. The intent, he continued, is for Wells Fargo Financial to use the facility that doesn’t sell.

“At this time,” Carlson said, “our existing home office complex – consisting of four interconnected buildings totaling 1 million square feet – adequately meets Wells Fargo Financial’s current and anticipated near-term requirements for downtown office space.”

Squire said the sale of the properties is part of Nationwide’s “strategic growth initiatives,” which includes consolidating local employees into a central location owned by the company.

When asked if Nationwide’s newest facility in Central Iowa will adequately fulfill its space requirements, including the influx of 400 employees from its Nationwide Sales Solutions office on Westown Parkway, Squire said the company is always looking for “efficiencies that can be gained in real estate” in various locations across the country.

When considering new construction, he added, Nationwide begins looking at its options anywhere from one and a half to five years before breaking ground.

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