BMW Financial Services, Hilliard’s third-largest employer, is considering moving its office out of the suburb

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By Tristan Navera | Columbus Business First

BMW Financial Services, Hilliard’s third-largest employer, is considering moving its office out of the suburb.

The company confirmed to Columbus Business First that it is looking at new locations. Its current office is located at 5550 Britton Pkwy. The building is 220,000 square feet of space and includes a cafeteria, coffee shop and gym.

Although BMW Group spokesman Phil DiIanni said the company has yet to decide on a new location, multiple sources tell Business First that the company is looking at the new Grandview Crossing office building under construction now, as well as Easton and the High North project proposed in Worthington.

Any deal with BMW would mark the largest office lease in the Central Ohio market this year. This would come at a time when the local office market has otherwise stalled while big employers contemplate how to return to work post-pandemic.

The office manages the financial operations for BMW products in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

BMW Group reported 562 employees in Central Ohio as of the first quarter of last year, according to Columbus Business First research. That’s down from the 639 it reported in 2017.

Only Verizon and Hilliard City Schools have more employees.

Grandview Crossing has two 125,000-square-foot office buildings under development, the first of which was topped out and is preparing for completion in fall 2021. Thrive Cos. and Gallas Zadeh Development are developing the $19.2 million office space as part of a 56-acre mixed use development that also includes retail space, a hotel and 1,000 residential units.

The $200 million development, which is partly in Columbus and partly in Grandview Heights, benefits from a 10-year, 75% property tax abatement from Columbus City Council.

Officials at Thrive Cos. declined to comment.

Easton has several significant blocks of space available, including 395,000 square feet put up for sublease last year by Alliance Data Services and Ascena Retail Group Inc. But its $500 million expansion only calls for a limited amount of new office, much of which has already been occupied by M/I Homes Inc. Officials at Easton declined to comment as well.

The $95 million High North redevelopment project at the Shops at Worthington Place is still undergoing reviews with the city. At the March 11 meeting of its architectural review board, David Watson, managing principal of Direct Retail Partners, said it had signed a confidentiality agreement with a prospective tenant, which he didn’t name. But the tenant’s “aggressive” schedule has motivated the developer to seek a hastier schedule for its first office tower to an early-2022 completion.

The project’s first phase would demolish 21,000 square feet of space on the mall’s northern edge and replace it with a tower with 125,000 square feet of office space atop a 542-space garage. But its project is competing with “the suburb to the east, and one to the south and west,” Watson said, according to the meeting minutes.

BMW first set up an office in Central Ohio in 1993 with a new building at 5515 Parkcenter Circle in Dublin. It moved to Hilliard in 2004, which created a bit of controversial at the time.

Since then, the Central Ohio suburbs generally agree not to poach companies using incentives. Exceptions occasionally are made if a company is considering moving out of the market entirely.

David Meadows, economic development director for Hilliard, confirmed the city is aware that BMW is considering alternate locations.

“BMW has been a great corporate citizen,” Meadows said in an email.

For more business headlines, go to ColumbusBusinessFirst.com.

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