Moving out, moving up
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Moving out, moving up

Why stay in Manhattan when taxes are lower and quality of life higher in nearby Greenwich? Financial institutions are overcoming their psychological bond with New York City and flooding into this leafy, wealthy suburb. Michelle Celarier reports on the burgeoning business community.

It isn't often that the opening of a foreign bank's US office is treated with a fanfare. But the dedication of the new US headquarters of Austria's Creditanstalt-Bankverein last fall was just such an event. In chic new quarters overlooking Long Island Sound in Greenwich, Connecticut, state governor John Rowland addressed an overflowing crowd of clients, bankers and local TV reporters. "We look at this as a flagship," said Rowland, referring to Creditanstalt's move from New York City to Greenwich, just 45-minutes north by train. The Austrian bank's relocation, he hopes, "will be the first of many other financial institutions".

Creditanstalt, which is destined to become part of Bank Austria, may be the first foreign bank to headquarter itself in Greenwich but at least eight others now based in Manhattan, including banks from Belgium, Germany, Mexico and the Middle East, are quietly scooping out space in what has become one of the area's most overheated commercial real estate markets. With 98% of the prime office space leased, Greenwich rents are now higher than those on Wall Street and almost equal to midtown Manhattan's. Greenwich zoning laws restrict high-rise buildings, so it's unlikely the town will be able to house major US financial institutions, or even the US offices of the largest European banks, such as SBC Warburg.

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