When the 15-year lease at its St. Paul regional headquarters approached expiration, officials at Comcast Corp. shopped all over the Twin Cities for new space.
In the end, the media and technology giant decided to stay put at 10 River Park Plaza just across the river from downtown St. Paul — and to invest several million dollars into an office renovation at the site. The firm's new lease, signed earlier this month, runs through 2024.
"We looked at several buildings in the Twin Cities metro as possible locations, and time and again, our current location featured several traits that made it ideal for the final choice," said Jeff Freyer, regional vice president for Comcast Twin Cities. The "multimillion" renovation will "bring an entirely new look and feel to our workplace to meet our needs both now and in the future."
The news was officially revealed at the Minnesota Employment and Economic Development Summit on State Economic Competitiveness in St. Paul on Wednesday.
Freyer said the impending Comcast renovation, the exact cost of which was not revealed, will also help recruit new employees to Comcast. "It helps us grow in the future as a great place to work," he said.
Renovations will range from new carpet and workspace areas to updated heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. Work will begin this month, with a completion date set for this fall.
Comcast is currently leasing 164,000 square feet at 10 River Park Plaza, but after the renovation the total will be 125,000 square feet. Company spokeswoman Mary Beth Schubert said, "A significant part of the renovation centers around making more efficient use of our workspace, and creating a more user-friendly environment for employees."
A major reason the company decided to stay in its current location was access to public transit, including a bus stop right outside the headquarters, as well as the availability of free parking. The addition of the Green Line light rail this June will help commuters, too, Freyer said.
Comcast employs about 700 people at the site, and about 2,000 in the Twin Cities region. In addition to headquarters personnel and functions, the site serves as a major call center serving the western portion of the United States. Other work groups in the building include customer, engineering, technical and IT support.
According to a recent report on the Twin Cities office market by Colliers International, the vacancy rate in St. Paul's nearby central business district was 18.9 percent in the fourth quarter. However, Class A properties have a relatively low vacancy rate of 11.2 percent.
The St. Paul office market has seen Comcast, Lawson Software and U.S. Bancorp contract their space use by more than 200,000 combined square feet, the report said.
Comcast's decision drew praise from city, state and business officials on Wednesday.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said the city is "thrilled" with the news. "I am encouraged that Comcast's decision was driven in part by investments in much-needed infrastructure near the headquarters location," he said.
Katie Clark Sieben, commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development, said: "In today's highly competitive environment, Comcast could have moved their operations anywhere. We were thrilled and grateful to learn of the company's decision to stay in St. Paul and further their investment in Minnesota."
Philadelphia-based Comcast has other locations in the Twin Cities, including a call center in Minnetonka, a technical operations center in Brooklyn Park, plus sites in Mahtomedi and Woodbury.