Shorenstein Properties paid $292 million last month to purchase Chicago’s 350 West Mart Center from Vornado Realty Trust, the Wall Street Journal reported. One of the nation’s largest commercial owners, Shorenstein Properties plans to put its Chicago headquarters in the recently purchased building, located in the city’s River North area. Currently 85 percent occupied, 350 West Mart houses retailers, wholesalers and some office tenants. In the next five years, Shorenstein will spend around $20 million to convert the building entirely to office space, according to Charlie Malet, Shorenstein’s executive vice president of investments. The purchase marks a return to the Chicago market for Shorenstein, which sold its last Windy City property five years ago. “We’re seeing good demand in cities like Chicago that have good public transportation and housing downtown,” said Malet. Late last year, the overall vacancy rate for office space in Chicago’s central business district market was 14.4 percent, down from 15.3 percent the previous year, according to Transwestern’s year-end market report.
Home prices in the Seattle area continue to tumble, the Seattle Times reported. Short sales accounted for more than a third of December home sales in Kings County, where Seattle is located, according to data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. The median home price in the area was $320,000 in December, down 13.5 percent from the same month of 2010. Condo prices, meanwhile, tumbled 18 percent year-over-year. Sales volume rose, however, likely due to the number of low-priced, distressed properties on the market. The number of single-family homes sold in December inched up 0.5 percent from the previous year, while the number of condo sales grew 20 percent. Lower prices are expected to keep sales volumes on the increase for much of 2012, the Times said. Distressed property sales “are having a huge drag on what I refer to as ‘real-people sales,’” said Tony Hettler, owner of the local residential brokerage John L. Scott Real Estate.
The Peachtree Data Center in downtown Atlanta sold for $94.75 million last month, CoStar News reported. A partnership led by Carter Validus Mission Critical Real Estate Investment Trust purchased the six-story, 290,000-square-foot facility from owner Peachtree Carnegie LLC. Located at 180 Peachtree Street, the complex sits on three acres and includes two parking garages. Carter Validus will oversee operations at the building, which underwent a $230 million renovation in 2010. The data center houses off-site data storage facilities for three Fortune 500 companies, among other tenants, according to the REIT.
Hollywood power couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie sold their Malibu home in December for $12 million to Ellen DeGeneres and her wife, Portia de Rossi, according to People magazine. The 4,100-square-foot spread, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean, consists of two separate houses, a pool and a tennis court. The top floor of the beachfront mansion was designed for Pitt and Jolie by environmentally conscious architect Christopher Sorensen. What could drag the glamorous Jolie-Pitts away from all this? According to the Daily Mail, Jolie recently surprised Pitt by purchasing him a waterfall near L.A. Pitt, an architecture buff, is planning to build an ambitious house over the falls in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. Pitt and Jolie also own homes in Hollywood, New Orleans, the Valpolicella region of Northern Italy and the South of France. DeGeneres and De Rossi, meanwhile, put their 12,000-square-foot Beverly Hills home on the market this fall for $49 million.
RREEF Real Estate, the real estate investment management arm of Deutsche Asset Management, sold its Northern California portfolio of industrial buildings in December for an aggregate price of $520 million, according to Reuters. PS Business Parks, a public real estate investment trust based in Glendale, Calif., was the purchaser. PSB also assumed $250 million of debt in the transaction. The portfolio consists of over 5.3 million square feet of warehouse and “flex” space properties in the San Francisco Bay Area. The properties were 82 percent leased as of December 2011, according to Deutsche. The bank has recently put several of its global asset management businesses, including RREEF, up for sale in light of “new regulation, rising costs and growing competition,” Reuters reported.
Oil money and wealthy purchasers from Mexico are invigorating the San Antonio luxury residential market, the Houston Chronicle reported. The median San Antonio home price between January and November of 2011 was $152,000, up from $149,800 in the same 11-month period of 2010, according to data released last month by the San Antonio Board of Realtors. The number of home sales through November 2011 — 16,516 — was nearly identical to the same period of 2010. But prices for luxury homes have fared better than the market as a whole, brokers said. Jason Glast of Keller Williams Luxury International said homes priced above $750,000 have risen about 3.3 percent year-over-year, compared to roughly 2 percent for the market at large. The volume of luxury home building is also improving, though it has not yet reached pre-recession levels. That presents a stark contrast to 2008, when the area’s luxury market was hit hard by AT&T’s move from San Antonio to Dallas, prompting a flood of “executive level” homes on the market. But recently, drilling in the local Eagle Ford Shale and an influx of Mexican money have turned things around. “All of these people who find themselves with a lot of money don’t want to put it all the in the bank and in stocks,” Glast said. “The most expensive stuff sells first,” said Charlie Hill, vice president of Cordillera Ranch Development Corp., which develops property near San Antonio. “It’s staggering. The bigger challenge for us is going to be to get the builders going quickly enough.”