Crocker and Greenfield sell “Darth Vader building” in West Palm for $98M

Crocker Partners and Greenfield Partners spent $15 million on renovations since buying the Northbridge Centre in 2016
By Keith Larsen | July 02, 2019 01:30PM

Crocker Partners Brett Reese and Northbridge Centre

Crocker Partners Brett Reese and Northbridge Centre

Crocker Partners and Greenfield Partners sold the Northbridge Centre in downtown West Palm Beach for $98 million, marking one of the largest office sales in the city’s history.

The partnership sold the 294,000-square-foot Class A office tower for $333 per square foot to Chicago-based Vanderbilt Office Properties and New York-based C-III Capital Partners, records show. The property is at 515 North Flagler Drive, at the base of the Flagler Memorial Bridge.

Boca Raton-based Crocker Partners bought the office property in a joint venture with Westport, Connecticut-based Greenfield Partners for $68 million in 2016. The joint venture then spent $15 million on renovations, including adding a new conference center, a cafe and a barista bar as well as upgrading the common areas and lobby.

The building is known to locals as the “Darth Vader building” because of its dark windows.

CBRE’s Chris Lee and Jose Lobon brokered the sale.

Brett Reese of Crocker Partners said that when the partners purchased the building rents averaged about $20 per square foot, but rents now range up to $42 per square foot due to the renovations.

Reese said he’s also seen a change in the tenant mix as West Palm Beach has evolved to become more of a destination for investment managers and private equity firms.

“Since we renovated, we brought in over 10 new family offices and private equity [firms] to the building,” Reese said. “Historically it has been a building where lawyers have gravitated to given its proximity to the courthouse. It’s now changed. We are seeing more financial services.”

Tenants at the office building include Qwest and Wells Fargo as well as a number of law offices. Reese said the building is currently about 60 percent leased.

There is high demand from investors for Class A office space in West Palm Beach. A lack of Class A buildings has hurt the city’s ability to attract more employers, according to economic development officials.

But that could soon change. In August, the West Palm Beach City Commission approved the controversial Okeechobee Business District, allowing Related Companies’ 25-story Class A office building to go forward.

Crocker Partners has acquired and managed over 149 properties since 1993, totaling 44.3 million square feet and $5.2 billion invested, according to its website.

Last October, Crocker Partners was part of a group that sold the Brickell City Tower in Miami’s Brickell neighborhood to New York Life Investors for $117.25 million.

Vanderbilt Office Properties, LLC is a privately held, real estate investment manager. Since 2014 it has invested more than $2.7 billion in real estate with 13 transactions, according to its website.

C-III Capital Partners has over $8 billion in assets under management. It is also one of the largest CMBS special servicers in the U.S., according to its website.