Top Fort Lauderdale Towers Change Ownership

In what likely will be the largest commercial real estate deal ever for downtown Fort Lauderdale, partnerships led by developer Terry Stiles have agreed to sell two adjoining high-rise office buildings to a Boca Raton company headed by Thomas Crocker.

Crocker's CRT Properties, a real estate investment trust, last week said it had a "definitive agreement" to acquire two "prominent" office buildings on East Las Olas Boulevard. CRT Properties didn't identify the buildings by name, but it's known in real estate circles that they are 350 Las Olas Centre and 450 Las Olas Centre.

The two buildings, with a combined 469,000 square feet of high-end space, together will likely fetch more than $125 million -- based on a square-foot price one broker pegged at more than $275.

That would smash the highest square-foot price ever paid for high-rise office space in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The Boca Raton office of real estate brokerage CB Richard Ellis lists the current high as $189.56, paid by a partnership affiliated with Atlanta's Lend Lease Real Estate Investments in its $42.7 million purchase of the Wachovia Center at 200 E. Broward Blvd. in 1998.

"They are great buildings and high-quality properties," said Thomas Kates, president of Stiles Realty, who added it's company policy not to comment on transactions until after closing.

Crocker couldn't be reached for comment.

The purchase would give CRT Properties control of almost 800,000 square feet in downtown Fort Lauderdale. It already owns the 24-story, 324,000-square-foot Broward Financial Centre at the southwest corner of Broward Boulevard and Federal Highway.

CRT Properties, through a subsidiary, and partner Investcorp Properties Ltd. in January acquired all of the partnership interests in Broward Financial Centre for $60.1 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Crocker was part of the building's previous ownership group.

CRT Properties, which changed its name from Koger Equity in July, owns or has interests in 134 office buildings with a combined 10.8 million square feet in the Southeast, Texas and Maryland. The trust's assets topped $1.1 billion on June 30.

Crocker has been actively involved in South Florida real estate for about 20 years. His development projects have included the landmark Mizner Park in Boca Raton. Before joining Koger in 2000, Crocker headed Crocker Realty Trust, which built a $500 million portfolio of 127 buildings totaling 6.1 million square feet.

CRT Properties last month announced plans to build, with The Related Cos. of New York, a $90 million office tower in West Palm Beach's CityPlace development. The 20-story, 335,000-square-foot office building is slated to be completed in 2007.

The trust generated about $41 million in revenue for the quarter ended June 30, up from $36.1 million for the same period last year.

Funds from operation, the trust's net income plus depreciation and amortization, was almost $13 million in the latest quarter, up from $11.1 million last year.

CRT Properties expects to close on the purchase of the Las Olas buildings by the end of this month, it said in a statement last week. The buildings were marketed for sale by the Miami office of Holliday Fenoglio Fowler L.P.

The two buildings CRT Properties is acquiring are 87 percent occupied, the company said in the statement.

The Las Olas buildings have been on and off the market in recent years, with the for-sale sign last going up in the spring.

Stiles' other downtown Fort Lauderdale properties include Las Olas City Centre, a 412,000-square-foot office and retail building at 401 E. Las Olas Blvd. It's anchored by Bank of America.