Bank of America Renews Big Lease for Old Merrill Space at 717 Fifth

717fifth Bank of America Renews Big Lease for Old Merrill Space at 717 FifthEver since Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch in the woeful days of September 2008, the New York real estate world has remained riveted by speculation: Would it entirely abandon the Merrill space at Brookfield’s World Financial Center, consolidating all of its offices at the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park, thus leaving a gaping vacuum at the center of downtown’s office market?

The real estate folks at Bank of America/Merrill Lynch are finally making some decisions (though not the decision we’ve all been waiting for).

Bank of America has renewed its lease for 114,000 square feet at 717 Fifth Avenue. The news was first reported Monday on Observer.com.

The former Merrill sales office will remain at the slinky skyscraper, once owned by Sam Zell‘s Equity Office and now controlled by Stephen Schwarzman’s Blackstone, until at least 2014. Taking rents on the lease were not revealed, but 717 Fifth, during the boom, commanded rents of well over $100 a square foot. Given the economy and the tenants’ market Manhattan has become, it’s likely this lease was for much less.

“Essentially, that’s been the flagship New York store,” said Kelly Cishek, a spokeswoman for Bank of America. “We’ve been serving clients in that location in midtown for 20 years. We wanted to maintain our presence, maintain that history, and continue to serve our clients in midtown.”

Why the renewal for only five years? Ms. Cishek attributed it to the uncertainties inherent in the massive integration of Merrill Lynch into Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America. Good luck, y’all.

Peter Riguardi, president of New York operations at Jones Lang LaSalle, represented the bank in negotiations with Robert Alexander, chairman of CB Richard Ellis’ tristate region, who represented the landlord.

drubinstein@observer.com