Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., the oldest privately held financial institution in the country, is moving to a historic building in Boston’s Financial District, signing one of the largest leases in the city in recent years.
The company will relocate its nearly 2,000 Boston employees, now spread among several properties, into a newly renovated tower at 50 Post Office Square. The deal adds to strong leasing activity in the Financial District and fills most of a prominent building that has been empty since Verizon Communications Inc. moved out in 2010.
Brown Brothers’ employees are expected to take occupancy next fall, following substantial upgrades to the interior and exterior of the building, which overlooks a bustling park in Post Office Square.
“This deal underscores the fact that the Financial District is reemerging as a place where people want to be,” said Richard Galvin, a developer who is renovating the building in partnership with real estate investment firm Bentall Kennedy. The partnership bought the property in 2008 for about $192 million.
Brown Brothers will occupy 410,000 square feet of the Art Deco tower, which was originally constructed in 1947 as a home for Verizon’s predecessor, the New England Telephone & Telegraph Co. Verizon moved most of its employees out two years ago, but still has a small presence in the building.
‘This deal underscores the fact that the Financial District is reemerging.’
“This is likely the largest lease that will be completed in Boston this year,” said Andy Hoar, managing partner for CBRE New England, which represented the building’s owners in the transaction; Brown Brothers was represented by the real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield.
An executive with Brown Brothers, which provides investment management, corporate banking, and advisory services, said the new offices will consolidate its Boston employees in a single location and give the firm room to grow. The company’s local operations are currently housed in buildings on Milk, Franklin, and Water streets.
“We decided to stick with our roots and stay in downtown Boston,” said Douglas “Digger” Donahue, managing partner of Brown Brothers. He said the firm considered four or five other real estate options, including some properties in the suburbs, but preferred to remain part of a downtown area that is undergoing something of a renaissance.
The Financial District itself has attracted a number of new office tenants in recent months, including the online payment giant PayPal, Partners HealthCare, and several technology and digital communications firms.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who has been pushing for the area’s revitalization, said in a statement that the Brown Brothers lease will help to preserve and refurbish one of the Financial District’s signature buildings. “We are thrilled they are staying and growing in our city,” he said.
In recent months, the Post Office Square building, previously known as 185 Franklin St., has attracted several new retail tenants, including the British prepared foods chain Pret A Manger, as well as storefronts for TD Bank and TD Ameritrade. Two other retail spaces are being planned, and the building will also get extensive lobby renovations and a 100-space garage.
Donahue, the managing partner for Brown Brothers, said the company will renovate the building’s interior with several new atriums and add modern employee and client spaces that will take advantage of its unusually high ceilings.
“It will be tastefully done,” he said. “A few [Brown Brothers Harriman] flags out front. But no Jumbotrons.”