El-Gamal sells West 27th Street building for $65M

San Francisco's Walnut Hill Group buys Chelsea property from Park51 developer

The San Francisco-based Walnut Hill Group has purchased Sharif El-Gamal’s 12-story Chelsea office building at 31 West 27th Street.

It was the second purchase by Walnut Hill in Manhattan. In February 2011, the company acquired the Holiday Inn Express hotel building at 15 West 45th Street in Times Square, in a joint venture with minority partner Magna Hospitality Group.

El-Gamal, CEO of Soho Properties and the developer of the proposed Islamic cultural center, known as Park51, in Lower Manhattan, purchased the Chelsea building for $45.7 million in October 2009.  At the time, critics said that El-Gamal overpaid for the property.

The building, located between Broadway and Sixth Avenue, is in the booming Midtown South area, increasingly popular with technology firms. Walnut Hill already has some experience with tech firms. It owns a small, three-story building in Cupertino, Calif., leased entirely to computer maker Apple, data from commercial data firm CoStar Group shows.

A news report in February of this year said the Soho Properties’ profits would be used for the Park51 project, but El-Gamal said that was inaccurate.

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“The funds will be used to buy other office buildings and we are looking to grow our portfolio,” El-Gamal said. “It is incorrect to report that any funds will be used for Park51.

Albert Hwang, managing principal for Walnut Hill, citing company policy, declined to comment on the purchase.

Woody Heller, Will Silverman and Eric Negrin, all of commercial firm Studley, were the sole brokers on the transaction.

“It is a great result for both sides — the seller successfully exits a value-add investment, and the buyer has found an excellent, first office investment in New York, which plays to its strategic strengths,” Silverman said.