Real Deals

Injury law firm to live large

Staff WriterJune 18, 2009 

Have you been injured in a commercial real estate deal? At least one landlord might have to call The Hurt Line after this one:

The Law Offices of James Scott Farrin are expected to fill a high-profile office in downtown Durham. It's a deal that tells of the times in law and real estate.

The personal injury firm, known for its television commercials urging victims to call its toll-free number for a free consultation, is close to a deal that would put it in at least 50,000 square feet at Diamond View II, beyond the outfield of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. That's at least 25 percent more than the space it leases at Imperial Center, off Interstate40. The firm is expected to move out of most of its Imperial offices later this year or early next.

The growth might have something to do with an increase in claims in a down economy. The lease almost surely has something to do with the downturn.

Farrin has a few years left on its lease at Imperial. But because few other companies are growing, landlords are offering more perks to plug holes in their buildings.

As part of the Farrin deal, Diamond View owner Capitol Broadcasting is offering a few months of free rent. And Capitol is expected to cover some of Farrin's rent at Imperial until a tenant can be found to sublease the space. And Farrin may get its name on the building, facing the hundreds of thousands of fans who visit the ballpark each year.

Brokers for Farrin confirm that the firm is prowling for space, but they say that no deal has been signed.

The Imperial space would pose competition to other landlords. Sublease rates are often much lower, as former tenants are eager to fill the space, often at a discount, to cut losses. Some Triangle tenants are asking sublease rates almost 40 percent below what their landlords are asking.

At the same time, the Farrin spot could be coveted because it too offers naming rights in a building visible from I-40.

The Diamond View II deal would fill the last big office vacancy at American Tobacco. There are plans for a Diamond View III.

But don't expect dirt to churn unless a big portion of the building is pre-leased.

Williams Mullen, the law firm that expanded its Research Triangle Park division as demand for technology-related legal advice increased, is trying to sublease about 5,000 square feet at Imperial Center's Carslile Place building. That's about one-quarter of the space it agreed to lease there in 2007, the year after patents issued to North Carolina inventors hit a five-year high.

As venture capital has dried up, the number of patents has been off that peak, according to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

jack.hagel@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8917

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