Columbia Pockets Tidy Sum on Baltimore Office Sale

Columbia Property Trust sold a 653,000-square-foot trophy office building in Baltimore for $187 million.

By Barbra Murray, Contributing Editor

100 E. Pratt, Baltimore - 2

100 E. Pratt St., Baltimore

Baltimore—Complete makeovers don’t happen overnight, so Columbia Property Trust Inc. continues to revamp its portfolio, non-core asset by non-core asset, and the trophy office building at 100 E. Pratt St. in Baltimore is the latest to go. Columbia sold the 653,000-square-foot office destination to Vision Properties, walking away with $187 million.

Baltimore doesn’t quite fit into Columbia’s portfolio-transformation program, which focuses on top-quality assets in high-barrier U.S. markets, but it certainly fits the bill for a host of other investors. There’s plenty to love. The property boasts a prime location in the city’s popular Inner Harbor District; it’s 98.5 percent leased; and it’s home to the headquarters of T. Rowe Price, which occupies 65 percent of the building, and the likes of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“Real estate fundamentals continue to be strong, and we had a number of options for the sale of 100 East Pratt, including both foreign and domestic capital sources,” Nelson Mills, president & CEO of Columbia Property Trust, told Commercial Property Executive. Commercial real estate and capital markets services provider HFF orchestrated the disposition on Columbia’s behalf.

Sited on an approximately 2-acre parcel, 100 E. Pratt started out as a 10-story building in 1975 and grew to its current size with a 28-story addition and a new 932-space parking facility in 1991. Columbia (in its former incarnation as Wells Real Estate Investment Trust II) had acquired the asset from Boston Properties in 2005, and the hefty price tag of $207.5 million reflected the pre-real estate market implosion climate. However, Columbia, which paid off the $105 million loan secured by 100 E. Pratt in 2015, is pleased with the amount the asset fetched. In a prepared statement, Mills said, “We achieved pricing well within our target range for the property, which reflects its overall quality and solid performance during our years of ownership.”

Columbia will utilize a portion of the disposition proceeds to repay a $119 million short-term bridge loan, leaving the remaining funds for repaying borrowings under its unsecured credit facility.

Columbia is seeing the fruits of its labor. With the sale of 100 E. Pratt, the company exits the Baltimore market and tallies up its successes since commencing its portfolio reinvention endeavor in 2011: 48 non-core assets sold for an aggregate $2.3 billion, and $2 billion in prime office properties acquired in the leading markets of New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Boston. Sell and buy, sell and buy. The company remains on the lookout for opportunities in its key markets, and current conditions bode well for the continued advancement of its portfolio conversion.  “Debt markets have softened from last year, and this appears to have narrowed the field of buyers for larger assets, which may give us better opportunities in the future to buy assets in the highly competitive gateway markets,” Mills told CPE.

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