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HOUSTON-What began as a one-day, invitation-only auction for the 1.2-million-sf Enron Center South now heads into its third day amid persistent reports that the competitors are in a heated bidding war. GlobeSt.com has learned the would-be buyers’ ranks have been trimmed to Century Development of Houston and Crescent Real Estate Equities Co. of Fort Worth.

Mark Palmer, Enron spokesman, confirmed Houston-based Hines has withdrawn from the one-time five-firm face-off, but he wasn’t talking about who might be left in the race.

Another insider tells GlobeSt.com that Hines backed down because the bidding between Century Development and Crescent pushed the price too high. Talks are raging, fast and furious, and most likely will go through week’s end. The GlobeSt.com insider says Century Development has “upped the ante” and appears poised with the most viable proposal for scoring the win. Any decision, as is widely known, must be approved by the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

Enron Center South cost about $300 million to build. The best industry guesses leading up to the auction said the final price tag would be slightly more than $100 million. Now, it is anyone’s best guess.

Prior to Monday’s auction start, Crescent was rumored to be the frontrunner from the five firms invited to the fest being staged by Holliday Fenoglio Fowler LP of Dallas in the New York City offices of law firm, Weil, Gotschal & Manges. Crescent is the largest REIT in Texas and one of the largest in the US. It owns 73 office properties totaling 28 million sf, with large concentrations in Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, Denver and Houston. The Houston portfolio consists of 26 office properties for a bottom line of 10.3 million sf.

Century Development is the developer and owner of 1000 Main, a 36-story, 1.4-million-sf office building being constructed in Houston’s downtown, and developer of Houston’s 1.8-million-sf Wells Fargo Plaza at 1000 Louisiana. With Enron Center South at 1500 Louisiana, it is practically a next-door neighbor to Wells Fargo Plaza and positioned less than a half mile from 1000 Main. In all, Century has completed more than 40 million sf of projects, working as developer, project manager and investment builder while raising in excess of $2 billion in equity and capital for its undertakings.

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