Harmony project goes vertical with office space

FORT COLLINS – A new and lofty architectural stamp will be put on the Harmony Road corridor in Fort Collins with the construction of a five-story office building that developers are calling “Class A-plus.”

Everitt MacMillan Development Inc. plan the sale of space in the 50,000-square-foot building to office users willing to pay the $200-plus per square foot purchase price for the twin benefits of location and visibility.

Both come together on the south side of East Harmony Road, between the historic Preston farmhouse and Wells Fargo Bank, where Everitt MacMillan plan to build Harmony One, as the building has been called during its design process.

The proposal is the latest reflection of the growing trend in Northern Colorado for high-end office users to own, rather than lease, their space.

“What we’re seeing in the marketplace is interest in being in the right location, coupled with opportunities for outright ownership or partnership,´ said Dave Everitt, vice president of Everitt Macmillan.

The formula is similar to the one that is driving the first Everitt MacMillan project, a four-story office building at the 2534 business park in Johnstown where floors have been purchased by some of the region’s most prominent businesses, including Burns Marketing and Communications Inc. and LBN Insurance Agency LLC.

Development company president Stu MacMillan said the similar venture on Harmony Road would depart from the usual scenario for office space development.

“This concept started for me about three years ago, as I was looking at the office products that are offered in Northern Colorado,” MacMillan said. “There’s always retail up in front, and then office in the back. There are lots of businesses that would like to have their signs along a main thoroughfare, like Harmony, and have them up front.”

MacMillan said several business users had expressed interest in the project, even before designs for it began to evolve.

During the past several years, as interest rates have sunk to historic lows, interest in ownership of new office space has become so strong that nearly every new construction proposal is based on the notion.

At the same time, older, vacated space lingers on the lease market longer than in years past. In fact, the cheaper the space in most Northern Colorado locations, the higher the vacancy rates.

Commercial brokers say the Fort Collins office market likely will absorb a project of the scope and scale that MacMillan envisions.

“There’s not a ton of stuff coming on line, so I think there will be a market for that,´ said Peter Kast, a broker with Realtec Commercial Real Estate Services Inc. Kast has among his listings the 116,000-square-foot, five-story LSI Logic Inc. building, just east and across Harmony road from Harmony One.

“I don’t really see that as direct competition,” Kast said. “LSI is suited more for large floor-plate technology users.”

So far, the only users committed to the building are Everitt and MacMillan themselves, who plan to take third-floor space, MacMillan said.

The 10,000-square-foot first floor might suit yet another Harmony Road bank branch, with accommodations for a drive-up window easily worked into the Vaught-Frye Architects plans for the building.

The pricey top floor, with decks offering sweeping views over the two- and three-story neighboring buildings, will likely go to the highest-visibility office users.

MacMillan said he had The Group Inc.’s Harmony Road headquarters in mind when he first hatched plans for Harmony One.

Group Chairman “Larry Kendall’s idea was, we’re an entity that wants to be out front, for everyone to see,” MacMillan said. “Well, they’re not the only company that wants to have that exposure. You can do all the marketing in the world, but if you want your business to be prominent one of the best ways is for everybody to see you.”