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JPMorgan Chase plans big suburban operations center

At AstraZeneca campus

JPMorgan, Chase & Co., one of the Philadelphia region's biggest financial employers with more than 7,500 local employees in and around Wilmington, plans a bank operations center at AstraZeneca's partly vacant U.S. headquarters complex near the US 202 (Concord Pike) exit off I-95, later this year.

The bank would move Chase credit card and loan processing workers from leased space at 200 White Clay Center near Newark, two people familiar with the plan tell me. A government official says plans also call for moving some jobs from New York to Delaware, but stressed that arrangements are not complete. AI du Pont, the children's hospital, which is based down the street, had also been interested in the space, as was developer Ernest Delle Donne -- who has done jobs for Chase before.

Chase has agreed to spend a reported $40 million+ for the complex, which has 350,000 sq ft of built office space, enough for 2,000 people -- more with an evening shift -- and parking for 2,000, and a solar electric field, and has permits for 800,000+ more, see also news reports here and here. Chase spokesman Paul Hardwick declined to comment to me on the bank's plans. JPMorgan Chase earlier this week announced global cost-cutting efforts including 8,000 job cuts in mortgage and consumer loans and a transfer of some Manhattan-based workers to Brooklyn.

AZ built its U.S. headquarters on the former Atlas Chemical/ICI office complex with state aid in the early 2000s, but has in the past few years laid off thousands and moved operations to Massachusetts and elsewhere. AZ sold the former John Rollins office tower on the north end of the campus to Rocco Abessinio (owner of Applied Bank) for $10.5 million last year.

JPMorgan, Chase & Co. occupies two towers near the city's Amtrak station, which Chase's giant credit card division has used as its headquarters since absorbing Richard Vague's former FIrst USA Bank in the late 1990s, and has other buildings: at Iron Hill near Newark (on the former MBNA campus); at Christiana, where JPMorgan has operated a data-processing and backup center with its own power generator and many on-site data contractors since the 1980s; and at White Clay Center. Chase bought the Wilmington towers for $87 million last year from Radnor-based Brandywine Realty Trust and its investment partner.

Why is JPMorgan buying? "All corporate entities that have substantial properties leased are looking at acquiring them because anticipated changes in the Federal Accounting Standards Board regulations will give them more favorable tax treatment if they own the buildings, rather than lease them," reversing past policy, said Pete Davisson, principal at Jackson-Cross commecial real estate brokers in Wilmington, citing advice from his colleague Lou Battagliese, an industrial broker and real estate tax scholar.