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HOUSTON-A European investment group has raced past several would-be buyers of 2.5 acres of developable green space in the 3.3-million-sf Houston Center. Sources say the land sold without due diligence and crossed the finish line within a week’s time.

The Fort Worth-based Crescent Real Estate Equities Co., with more land under negotiation, is only saying that the two blocks, 126 and 128, passed to an out-of-state buyer. Sources’ best-guesses are Crescent got about $100 per sf for land listed in May through David Cook of Cushman & Wakefield of Texas Inc.’s Houston office.

Given the size and Houston’s office market, it’s not likely the land’s been bought for office development. “Condos make sense there,” one source speculates about the CBD land. “Obviously somebody could be buying the land to hold, but that’s pretty expensive land to hold.”

The locally based Hanover Property Co. was among those eyeing Crescent’s land listings in Houston Center, but dropped a contract for $144 per sf, as did another vying for block 126. The buyer “came out of the clear blue. No one knows anything about them, but it’s patient money,” another source confides. “They closed it in a week or less with little or no due diligence.” The blocks are east and north of the complex’s Parks Shoppes.

Crescent has more than 11 acres up for sale in the office complex. The City of Houston had optioned two blocks–one across the street from the convention center and one slightly north. The city reportedly was been in the market for a philanthropic buyer. However, it’s believed the city’s option ran out at the end of June. The land was priced at $105 per sf and $115 per sf. A downtown block constitutes 1.43 acres.

“Demand has been good,” Jane B. Page, executive vice president of asset management and leasing for Crescent’s Houston region, tells GlobeSt.com. “There have been several interested parties.” Crescent acquired the land about six years ago in conjunction with Houston office acquisitions. “And based on demand, we think we are selling at the right time,” she says.

The deal has closed just days shy of ChevronTexaco’s call for final offers on the only office tower not owned by Crescent inside Houston Center’s boundaries. The REIT, though, is widely rumored to be making a play for Chevron Tower at 1301 McKinney St., built as 3 Houston Center and subsequently sold to the oil giant. If successful, Crescent would own a full set with more than 4.5 million sf of class A space in five neighboring high-rises.

The San Ramon, CA-based ChevronTexaco brought the 1.2-million-sf tower to market after buying the 1.2-million-sf 1500 Louisiana St., also in the CBD. ChevronTexaco placed the contract 13 months after the high-rise, once Enron’s headquarters, sold at auction for $102 million to Intell Management & Investment Co. of New York City.

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