CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids company hibü plans to relocate approximately 650 employees from the southeast outskirts to the city’s central core, making it one of the largest employers in the downtown district, city officials said.
The digital marketing services provider and directory publisher, which was formerly known as Yellow Book, has signed a five-year lease with two multiyear renewal options to move from 6300 C Street SW to the Town Centre building, 201-221 Third Ave. SE, by May 2017.
Several months of renovations are planned to the three floors and 85,000 square feet of space before occupancy in the spring, said Kevin Jasper, CEO of hibü, noting company officials considered several locations in recent months.
“A central location, the convenience, the amenities along with the excitement of everything going on downtown today made this the right choice for our team and our organization,” Jasper said.
Transamerica, which owns the building at 6300 C Street SW, notified hibü in August it plans to relocate some 1,300 employees from its offices at 4333 Edgewood Road NE, forcing hibü to find other accommodations. The insurer said it plans to sell the company’s five-story, 100,000-square-foot Edgewood Road complex, which includes an adjoining building at 4600 42nd St. NE.
City officials are celebrating the move as a sign of confidence in the downtown just weeks after the city fended off the second worst flood on record.
“(This) shows they have confidence in this community,” Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett said. “They have confidence in their long-term plan for Cedar Rapids. Downtown is an attractive place for workforce and workforce development.”
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Corbett said the city’s steps to better protect itself following the 2008 flood, and the city’s quick and largely successful response to the 2016 flood has “boosted the confidence from the business community.”
Jasper said they thought seriously about the possibility of flooding, but largely agreed with Corbett’s sentiments.
“The way the building is set up and with backup power, we became increasingly comfortable that if there is a flooding event we’d have minimal disruption,” Jasper said.
City leaders said they are appreciative of hibü for sticking with the city.
“It would have been easy for a company looking for a new headquarters to say, ‘No, I think I will go somewhere else,’ but that wasn’t the attitude of hibü, that wasn’t the attitude of Kevin Jasper or his associates,” City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said. “They saw the promise of downtown, they saw the vitality of downtown and they very much wanted to be part of Cedar Rapids and downtown Cedar Rapids.”
Approximately one-third of hibu’s more than 2,000 employees are based in Cedar Rapids. The company headquarters is in East Meadow, New York.
The timing is good news for the Town Center property, which is losing multiple tenants. The property is registered to Second Succession, which lists William P. Prowell as the organizer and primary agent, according to the Cedar Rapids Assessor and Iowa Secretary of State websites.
About 300 employees in the information technology department at Rockwell Collins occupied 82,000 square feet of space at 221 Third Ave. SE until they began moving back to the company’s main campus at 400 Collins Road NE in August. Other tenants, Bankers Trust and RSM McGladrey, are relocating to the new CRST Center.
Hibu is to take over parts of the second, third and fourth floors, including space used by Rockwell and RSM McGladrey.
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The downtown area as a whole should also come out of a series of business shufflings either the same or better off than before in terms of foot traffic, said Jasmine Almoayed, the Cedar Rapids economic development manager.
Hibu is to receive a standard large employer parking discount through Park Cedar Rapids, which handles many downtown parking ramps and meters. The discount knocks 50 percent off the monthly rate. The parking spaces are to be spread across multiple facilities.