FT. LAUDERDALE, FL-The Las Olas Centre, a two-building officecomplex spanning 469,353 square feet in the Las Olas corridor, hassold for $170 million. San Antonio-based USAA Real Estate Companyaffiliates US Republic Core Fund and U.S. Premier Office Equitiespurchased the towers from BF Las Olas, LLC, an entity ofWachovia/Wells Fargo.

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BentleyForbes paid $230.9 million for the complex in 2007, butlost the property to foreclosure after defaulting on a $166 millionloan to Wells Fargo. USAA Real Estate paid about $362 for thetowers, more than $100 a foot less than some analysts expected.Still, the class A property is the highest-priced office buildingtransaction in South Florida this year.

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"Downtown Fort Lauderdale, with its central location in theSouth Florida tri-county area, has remained an address of choicefor businesses," says USAA Real Estate Company Chairman and CEO PatDuncan. "Las Olas Centre embodies the quality in design andlocation that has attracted a stable tenant base, making the asseta premium addition to our portfolio."

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Located at 350 and 450 Las Olas Blvd, the 18- and 14-storytowers share street-level retail and parking space on Las OlasBoulevard. Huizenga Holdings, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, MorganStanley and the law firm of Akerman Senterfitt & Edison areamong the towers’ tenants.

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“Many investors have been sitting on a tremendous amount of cashwaiting for the right time and the right acquisitionopportunities,” Jack McCabe, principal of McCabe Research &Consulting in Deerfield Beach, tells GlobeSt.com. “We are startingto see early signs that potential buyers have determined prices areeither at or near the bottom. They see tremendous upside with anacquisition at today’s prices and a minimum hold time of five toseven years.”

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Los Olas Centre is about 92 percent leased, bucking the officetrend in Broward. Overall leasing activity, including renewals,totaled 353,163 square feet for first quarter 2010, down 22.3% fromthe 454,314 square feet recorded during first quarter 2009,according to CB Richard Ellis. The overall average asking directlease rate declined by 8.4% from the $18.08 per square footrecorded during fourth quarter 2009. With the lower basis, USAA canlower rents and still profit.

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The sale Los Olas Centre may be the first in a wave of class Acommercial properties to sell at below 2007 prices. “This is notthe last deal we are going to see where a lender takes back atrophy property and sells it,” David Moret, a vice president atContinental Real Estate Companies in Miami, tells GlobeSt.com.“When that trend is going to break loose and to what degree isanybody’s guess.”

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