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How to Get a Big Sign

Washington DC Office

Well-placed signage can be a contentious negotiation between landlords and tenants. So how do the two parties reach common ground?

Cresa tenant rep guru Tom Birnbach tells us signage is always a concession from landlord to tenant. It's usually a way to sweeten the deal as negotiations reach a tipping point, or to get creative when something else a tenant has requested isn't possible. But this isn't like a pro sports stadium naming rights deal: "I have never had a client pay a landlord for a sign," says Tom, who adds that the value received from having a company's name on a building varies. "There is some value for company branding, some value for attracting labor, and some for actual business development and advertising."

Signage was a big sticking point in CEB's recent 350k SF lease at JBG's Central Place office tower in Rosslyn (rendering pictured). Arlington County had a restriction on the project, limiting signs to 50 feet high, which JBG agreed to so it could build taller than the county usually allows. According to the WBJ, having the larger signs was a major factor in CEB's interest in Central Place, and the deal couldn't be signed until the issue was resolved. Arlington County stepped in and voted to lift the restriction, allowing the deal to go down and the arrival of 800 new jobs once CEB, in 2018, moves from its current digs at the nearby Waterview building.

In Chicago, signage was all over the headlines this summer, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel is considering putting bans on signs like the 20-foot high one the Trump Organization placed on its 96-story Trump International Hotel & Tower—the second-tallest building in Chicago and the 12th-tallest in the world. And that height is actually shorter than what the Chicago City Council approved originally. No bans have been put into practice yet, however.