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Independent Bank in talks for tower naming rights

Independent Bank hopes to open its first retail branch in Downtown Memphis by year’s end at One Commerce Square as part of a deal that would give the Memphis-based bank signage on two sides of the 29-story Downtown office tower.

The two parties — Independent Bank and Memphis Commerce Square Partners LLC — have worked on the deal since late last year before signing a letter of intent late Tuesday, says Independent’s co-chairman and president Susan Stephenson.

Exact terms of the lease will still need to be ironed out over the coming weeks and months, but the letter of intent is a significant step in negotiations and for the storied structure.

“We’re really excited to do something in Downtown in the spirit of such a fabulous, iconic building,” says Stephenson. “I’ve wanted us to have a presence Downtown for a long time.”

Cushman & Wakefield/Commercial Advisors Asset Services represented Memphis Commerce Square Partners. Kelly Truitt, president of CB Richard Ellis Memphis, and Michael Morgan, associate broker with CB Richard Ellis’ Tenant Advisory Group, represented Independent Bank.

As a part of the deal, Independent would lease about 3,800 square feet of ground floor space in the northwest corner of the tower for its retail branch.

Another 3,000 square feet of office space on the 23rd floor will be for bankers to provide commercial lending and private banking services, Stephenson says.

Gary Prosterman, development partner for Memphis Commerce Square Partners, says the deal with Independent will bring One Commerce to a little more than 75 percent leased.

“A bank is a good addition for both current and future tenants,” Prosterman says. “It’s convenient to have banking services in a major office building.”

For Independent Bank, it was just as important to get signage rights on the east and west sides at the top of the tower, Stephenson says. It’s now been more than three years since One Commerce Square, among the tallest structures in Downtown Memphis, sported signage at the top. SunTrust Bank removed its name as it prepared to depart the building in 2008.

Stephenson joked she’d like to get the signage at the top as big as possible and still be in compliance.

“The No. 1 driver is to do something that enhances the building,” she says. “We want to work as we go forward with the owner to make decisions for the greatest good.”

The pending lease with Independent Bank comes on the heals of anchor tenant Pinnacle Airlines Inc. signing a 170,000-square-foot long-term lease last December in the 475,082-square-foot building at Main and Union. That deal, which had been rumored for months and watched closely by the business community, has served as a catalyst for other development and leasing to move forward in the property and the area, says Truitt.

“An anchor tenant always makes a project feasible and builds momentum,” says Truitt, whose firm also represented Pinnacle in its lease negotiations.

Independent and One Commerce will now work to iron out the particulars of the deal. Meanwhile, Stephenson and Independent are moving along as if a leasing deal were inked.

LRK, the long-time design firm for Independent Bank, has already been picked for the job along with general contractor Grinder, Taber & Grinder Co. Inc., Stephenson says.

First on the agenda will be to begin work on the office space closely followed by, if not simultaneous with, work on the retail branch, Stephenson says. She has the goal of opening by the end of the year.

“By golly we’re going to build fast,” she says.

Independent Bank President: Susan Stephenson Address: 5050 Poplar Ave. Phone: (901) 844-5050 Website: www.i-bankonline.com

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