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DALLAS-Sarofim Realty Advisors, has sold the 105,167-sf Arboretum Marketplace to L&B Realty Advisors Inc., bringing an end to an 11-reign over a center with bragging rights to sales upward of $1,200 per sf and rents pushing above $50 per sf. The Saks Fifth Avenue-anchored jewel in Austin reportedly broke the per sf record for retail sales in Central Texas.

The Dallas-based buyer and seller are keeping a tight lid on the final price. Austin-area retail product this year has been commanding $230 per sf to $280 per sf–and no sales to date, say the involved parties, can match up to the trophy caliber of the 8.2-acre center at 9722 Great Hills Trail, which has 15 tenants, a 100% occupancy and the highest rents in the city. Based on recent market sales, the Arboretum Marketplace brought at least $30 million for its seller.

Ken Bendalin with Sarofim says the Arboretum asset was sold for the same reason as Westbank Market in Austin’s West Lake Hills in late March. “The pricing right now for retail properties is very strong,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “It’s a compelling time to sell retail. This is a core asset with long-term leases and high-credit tenants. We have one tenant with $1,200 per sf in sales and one tenant exceeding $1,500 per sf. That’s the compelling story of this property.” And though, he’s not discussing the price, he did say Sarofim had no debt resting against the 18-year-old center.

Bernadette Mussell, the buyer’s acquisitions director, says the all-cash buy on behalf of an L&B-advised pension fund turned into a bidding war with the win coming from the cash offer, certainty of close and takedown terms. Though she too isn’t elaborating, she did say the trophy sold for considerably more than its near $16-million assessment by Travis County. She attributes the hard push to win the deal to “the combination of location in the Arboretum shopping district, affluent demographics and the outstanding tenant lineup.”

The holding hit the market without an ask in November 2004. Running the Sarofim show were Josh McArtor, vice president with Trammell Crow Co.’s investment sales team in Dallas, and Chris Cozby, who previously led TCC’s retail sales group and now is a principal in Thackery Partners. “This is the nicest lifestyle center that Austin has today. I firmly believe it set a high-water mark for sales,” McArtor says, citing a roster with six tenants logging more than $1,000 per sf.

At sale time, occupancy was 98%, but Mussell says talks are under way for a spot opened up by Starbucks’ move to a larger space in the center and Sephora’s plan to expand. She says she’s confident enough that the deal will make to say the center’s 100% leased. Dan Wheat of Barshop & Oles in Austin will lease L&B’s new treasure; a TCC team will manage it. The ell-shaped center is anchored by a 55,000-sf Saks Fifth Avenue and includes names like Williams-Sonoma, Ann Taylor and Talbot’s.

Retail brokers in the region say the Austin-area sales record hovers $280 per sf. The Austin-based Endeavor Real Estate Group came close to the top price earlier this year with the sale of a 300,000-sf, five-center portfolio. In early March, the Indianapolis-based Kite Realty Group paid $36.1 million for Plaza Volente, a 156,308-sf, fully leased, grocery-anchored center in northwest Austin, and later that month Sarofim sold the 138,196-sf Westbank Market for $35 million to $40 million, sources reported. The winner of the 94%-leased center, also an 11-year hold for Sarofim, went to Dallas-based Crow Holdings. And still to come is the sale of the 460,795-sf Great Hills Portfolio, predicted to pull $80 million and now under contract.

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