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Investment group buys trio of Orlando skyline buildings
By Mary Shanklin•Contact Reporter
Orlando Sentinel

San Diego group instantly became downtown Orlando’s second-largest property owner with the purchase of three landmark buildings, including the 28-story Bank of America Center on Orange Avenue.

The 18-story Citrus Center at 255 S. Orange Ave. and 19-story One Orlando Centre at 800 N. Magnolia Ave. also are part of the $208.1 million sale. The three buildings — which define much of Orlando’s skyline — total 1 million square feet of office space in Orlando. The deal comes at a time when the district’s first office high-rise in more than a decade is planned and several nearby commercial properties have changed hands.

Longtime Orlando office broker Jeffrey Sweeney, of Cushman & Wakefield, said his group met with San Diego-based buyer Southwest Value Partners and found them to be “very bullish” on Florida and Orlando.

“They immediately become the second-largest owner in downtown Orlando,” Sweeney said of the investment group.
More than looking to redevelop properties, Southwest Value Partners has a track record of creating funds to purchase assets, this being their 18th such fund, he said.

Much like other office-centric downtowns, the Orlando core market has struggled but has strong dynamics with transit, entertainment and residential, said Trevor Hall, managing director of Colliers International in Orlando.

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Central Florida’s historic business center has seen mostly apartments built in recent years, but work is under way on the 28-story Church Street Plaza that will bring offices, retail sites and about 180 hotel rooms space to Church Street. In April, an affiliate of the Blackstone Group purchased the 55 West apartment tower for $105 million. A year ago, an investment group paid $15.5 million for the One South Orange Building with five floors. And in 2016, a Miami group paid $35.1 million for the two-block property that includes the Orlando Sentinel offices at 633 N. Orange Ave.

Cousins Properties, which merged last year with longtime Orlando resident James R. Heistand’s Parkway Properties Inc., is selling the three Orlando office buildings to Southwest Value Partners amid other deals that have given the Atlanta-based company about $558 million of gross proceeds from sales this year, Cousins said.

Cousins also sold its 20 percent interest in Courvoisier Center, a 343,000-square-foot office property in Miami, to its joint-venture partner for $33.9 million, which included its share of joint venture debt.

Shipley Hall, managing director for Cousins in Orlando, said earlier this year that the downtown Orlando office market has been focused more on renovations and adding amenities, such as fitness centers, than on building new towers. No one from the group was available to comment Friday.
Trevor Hall, executive managing director of Colliers International in Orlando, said the merger allowed the companies to segregate some Houston office buildings that were performing marginally and, with the sale this week, the group has capital to redeploy.

It remains to be seen whether the company will invest sale proceeds in markets where they have an ownership stake — Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Orlando, Tampa and Tempe. Hall said Heistand still “has sand in his shoes” and has remained active in Orlando commercial real estate circles, so it would not be surprising to see him reinvest in the region.

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