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Verizon to sell building at Post Office Square

Verizon Communications Inc. said yesterday it would put its 18-story building at Post Office Square on the market in August and plans to relocate workers to other Boston office space.

A spokesman said the proposal to sell the building is part of Verizon's ongoing evaluation of real estate holdings and reduction of operating expenses. In 2005, the company sold its headquarters at 1095 Avenue of the Americas in New York City.

"Verizon continually reviews work space needs and occupancy levels of buildings we own," Lee Brathwaite, vice president of real estate for Verizon said in a statement. "In today's competitive telecommunications environment, it is particularly important that we make the most efficient use of our facilities."

Verizon's Boston building has 875,000 square feet of office space and could fetch hundreds of millions if it is similar to other high-profile sales.

One Federal St., a prominent downtown tower, sold for $514 million, or $471 per square foot, in March 2006, which was a near-high for the time.

The Verizon building is located in the center of Boston's business and financial district, along prominent Congress Street, and has the acclaimed Post Office Square Park as its front yard.

"It's a triple-A location," said David I. Begelfer, chief executive of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties' Massachusetts Chapter. "Prices are reaching all-time highs. It's going to be very competitive bidding for that building."

The company said there would not be layoffs related to the potential sale, and the 1,700 employees who work in the building will move to other locations -- possibly a building the company owns in Chinatown or one in Bowdoin Square. The building contains a central office used to switch and route calls throughout the area, and the company will make provisions to keep that operation in the same space.

For now, the art deco building at 185 Franklin St. is like a slice of telephone history. In an alcove off the lobby, a small exhibit open to the public gives a history of the development of the telephone. A massive mural circles the lobby, showing the history of the telephone -- from Alexander Graham Bell's invention, to operators manning manual switchboards, to linemen working on phone poles.

Thousands of employees have worked in the building over the years. And the changing names of the companies that have operated from the site chronicle the ever-changing telecom landscape.

New England Telephone and Telegraph Co. built the downtown headquarters 60 years ago. In 1984, the company became NYNEX. In 1997, NYNEX merged with Bell Atlantic.

Finally, in 2000 Bell Atlantic and GTE merged, creating the company known as Verizon today -- a telecommunications firm that is facing a host of competition from cable and cellphone companies and providing phone, Internet, and video service, with a 55 percent share in Verizon Wireless.

"This is a development opportunity," Begelfer said. "Anyone coming in there is going to be looking at doing a serious upgrade on the property."

Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at cjohnson@globe.com., Thomas C. Palmer Jr. at tpalmer@globe.com.

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