HOUSTON-The jury is still out on what the new owner of 1.3 million sf of class A office space is planning for the Houston CBD, but one source close to the deal says the $55.5 million or $45 per sf price tag was “very rich pricing.”

Dr. Antonio Pacifico, a local cardiologist who leads the Texas Arrhythmia Institute, put together the investment group that bought Enron’s shuttered headquarters at 1400 Smith St. Pacifico didn’t return telephone calls by publication time for comment on the acquisition.

A source close to the deal tells GlobeSt.com that $45 per sf was “very rich pricing” for an empty building in the midst of an economic downtown and one with no parking facility to call its own. The source puts the cost of the parking lease, which has less than 15 years left on the term, at more than $3.5 million per year–a fee that must be paid to owner Trizec Properties Inc. regardless of the number of tenants in the building.

Richard Rudd with the Houston office of Granite Partners handled the sale on behalf of Enron. He says the building was very widely marketed and believes the “pricing reflects the market.” He wouldn’t comment on the inner workings of yesterday’s negotiations, but did say the auction was done by noon. For previous story, click here.

The highest price paid for an office tower in town was $167 per sf, which was shelled out three years ago by a Houston-based limited partnership for 1100 Louisiana. A year ago, Intell Management & Investment Co. of New York City paid about $85 per sf for 1500 Louisiana, formerly Enron Center South.

Tomorrow, attorneys for the seller and Harris County Appraisal District will face off in court over an objection filed to recoup unpaid taxes from the sale of Enron Center South. If the issue is resolved, Pacifico’s group is poised to close the 1400 Smith St. purchase within weeks.

Still, some Houston market watchers are just happy to be moving forward. “The purchase will help downtown by putting ownership in the hands of a single party that can take action,” says Laura Van Ness, business development director with Central Houston Inc.

Richard Zigler, director of research for O’Connor & Associates in Houston, says the news is positive. After several years of anticipation, “the situation is getting resolved,” he stresses.

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