Law Firm Flees Cramped Midtown Digs For 7 Hanover Square

The immigration-specialist law firm Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen and Loewy has signed the biggest new downtown lease in a 2007 that’s widely hailed as one of lower Manhattan’s strongest years ever.

The lease is for 117,000 square feet at 7 Hanover Square, the 24-year-old tower in between Pearl and Water streets, a source said. The law firm will take the 10th, 11th, 12th and part of the 8th floor, and is expected to move in by next winter.

“Clearly, it reinforces downtown as the center of financial and professional services,” said Kathy Wylde, the chief executive of the New York City Partnership. “The office market is absolutely flourishing, and all the fears that office buildings downtown would go to residential conversion were exaggerated.”

The new digs at 7 Hanover are shoved off to the side of the island near the East River, but they sure beat the law firm’s current crammed digs at 515 Madison Avenue in midtown, where makeshift desks have been thrown into a cafeteria.

Fragomen is expanding by nearly 50,000 square feet, so relatively cheaper rents downtown are a welcome prospect. The asking rents on the space at 7 Hanover are $45 per foot, but the deal was reached in the low $40’s, a source said.

The firm will completely abandon midtown for downtown, keeping up with a trend that has seen a 68 percent increase in leasing activity downtown versus this time last year, according to brokerage Cushman & Wakefield.

Legg Mason this past winter signed a lease of 97,276 square feet at the glob of a building at 55 Water Street, the year’s other big and fresh downtown lease.

John Cefaly and Don Preate of Cushman & Wakefield represented Fragomen in this deal. They would not be interviewed for this story.

Real Estate Weekly had reported about negotiations between the law firm and representatives at 7 Hanover.