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PHILADELPHIA-Stamford, CT-based Ashforth Co., with an affiliate of Norwalk, CT-based GE Asset Management, has bought a majority interest in 1818 Market Street.The 40-story, 981,743-sf trophy office property with retail space at ground level is in the heart of Philadelphia’s CBD.

Ashforth is launching a $5-million capital improvement program this month to upgrade and renovate the building, which was constructed in 1974. It will include upgrades of the façade, main lobby, plaza, parking garage and elevator lobbies. Work is expected to be complete by year-end 2003.

The seller is Atlanta-based Lend Lease Real Estate Investment, a global real estate financial services company. The price and size of the purchase was not disclosed, but Center City brokers tell GlobeSt.com the price was approximately $111 per sf.

The building is 80% occupied. Among the major tenants are Merrill Lynch; ABN Amro; Swiss Re; Zurich, Day and Zimmerman; Philadelphia Magazine; GE Capital and Booz Allen.

The Philadelphia office of Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle continues as exclusive leasing agent. According to a statement, more than 140,000 sf was leased in the building within the past year.

Louis Lombardi, who has managed the building for the past four years, isretained as property manager.

“We expect 1818 Market Street to become the building of choice for companies who want all the amenities and allure of a ‘trophy’ property at a more cost effective rate,” says Frank Kozak, vice president of Ashforth’s management services division, in a statement.

Area brokers tell GlobeSt.com the asking rental rate at 1818 Market Street is about $24 per sf.

This is Ashforth’s second significant investment in the Philadelphia-area market. In fall 2000, it acquired the Valley Forge Office Center in Wayne, PA for an undisclosed price. According to a statement from Ashforth, the company targeted Philadelphia two years ago as “one of several undervalued markets with significant potential for growth.” It also states that Ashforth will continue to invest in the Philadelphia area.

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