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PHILADELPHIA-J. Grasso Properties has acquired Curtis Center from Los Angeles-based Oaktree Capital Management for $94 million or about $106 per sf. The 885,786-sf landmark is the former headquarters of Curtis Publishing Co., a 13-floor, class A office building with two underground parking levels with 350 spaces.

The historic building’s location at 170 S. Independence Mall West provides frontage along Independence Park to the east and a full block along Washington Square Park to the south across from Walnut Street. Constructed between 1901 and 1921, it is best known for “Tiffany Dream Garden Mural,” a 45-foot by 15-foot mosaic created by Maxfield Parrish and Louis Comfort Tiffany.

New York City-based Granite Partners marketed the building for Oaktree. Grasso used in-house representation to close the deal. A call to Oaktree was not returned by deadline. Joseph Grasso, president of the company that bears his name, says Oaktree is liquidating one of its funds.

Grasso tells GlobeSt.com the building currently is 83% occupied, with a quoted rental rate of $24 per sf. He plans to add a second location for his Conshohocken-based company in 10,000 sf of the building. Leasing is assigned to the local office of Trammell Crow Co.

Grasso says $10 million will be invested within a year, “refinishing marble, restoring original brass, replacing sidewalks and bringing it up to its full glory.” He is adding a 3,500-sf A/V-equipped, flexible conference center for tenants’ use and seeking a restaurant tenant for ground-floor space. Grasso, who has a restaurant background, concedes “there are logistical challenges to adding a restaurant, but we think the park frontage and the neighborhood are ideal for a white-tablecloth restaurant. We’re in conversation with local and national prospects.”

Concierge service will be added. Additional ground-floor space is coming available, Grasso says, and over the next six to 12 months he plans to add tenant-service retail, including a corporate travel agent, shoe repair shop and dry cleaner.

“I’ve always been interested in renovating historic buildings and there is no better building in Philadelphia. When I found out it was for sale, I had to buy it,” Grasso says. “It’s a beautiful, safe and sound structure with a lot of character. Furthermore, it has a very flexible floor plate that can accommodate office spaces of from under 1,000 sf to 75,000 sf. The building will be here longer than I will.” Grasso is a second-generation area developer along with his brother David, president of locally based Metro Development Co., which, coincidentally is in the process of converting a former Curtis Publishing Co. printing plant in South Philadelphia into the Bella Vista condominiums.

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