El Paso Corp. staying downtown

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Houston-based El Paso Corp. has renewed its lease of 211,000 square feet in the Colorado Square Building at 2 N. Nevada Ave.

The news is the result of a coordinated effort by downtown development proponents to keep the company where it’s been located since 1994 after it announced plans to move north to Briargate earlier this year.

The company employs 500 people who play a key role in the vitality of the downtown economy.

El Paso’s departure would have meant grave economic consequences to the central business district and city as a whole, said University of Colorado at Colorado Springs economist Fred Crowley.

“Restaurants would obviously be affected – especially when you consider that at least one-third of the company’s employees probably go out to lunch on a daily basis. That’s thousands of dollars a day in revenue that generates sales tax for the city,” he said, adding that other areas such as parking, banking and retail purchases also would be affected.

“Talks began last year – and they were very engaged from the beginning,” Downtown Parntership Executive Director Ron Butlin said. “For us it’s all about the employees, the activity and keeping the lights on. I can’t imagine a building of that size sitting dark.”

Butlin’s concern was underscored by Paul Turner of Turner Commercial Research who determined that downtown’s office vacancy rate through second quarter 2009 stood at 8.5 percent or about 300,000 square feet. That amount would have increased by 66 percent if the building had been vacated.

Read more in tomorrow’s Business Journal.