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AUSTIN-Proving that persistence pays off, Thomas Properties Group Inc. has realized its wish to build a stronger presence in the city, entering into a $1.15-billion contract to buy 3.5 million sf in the CBD and northwest submarket. The 10-piece portfolio includes more than half of the CBD’s class A office space.

Thomas and some unidentified institutional partners are expected to close the deal within 60 days with affiliates of Blackstone Real Estate Advisors. John R. Sischo, executive vice president of Thomas Properties, tells GlobeSt.com that his company has worked for years to find this type of portfolio. “We think of Austin as one of those cities that will continue to expand at a great level,” he says. “The econometric models and demographers have reinforced that thought process.”

Thomas Properties’ goal was to add to its single asset, the 333-acre Four Points Centre near Lake Travis in the northwest submarket. Earlier this month, the Los Angeles-based developer broke ground on two office buildings in a 275,000-sf first phase for the mixed-use Four Points development.

“When we first bought into Four Points, it became ‘how do we expand ourselves in this market,’” Sischo says. “We didn’t want one-offs. That would have taken too long and not given us enough momentum.”

The Blackstone portfolio hit the market in a timely fashion for Thomas Properties. Holliday Fenoglio Fowler LP’s Mark Gibson, executive managing director, and Andrew Levy, senior managing director, both in Dallas, marketed the portfolio for the New York City-based powerhouse.

Sischo says the portfolio’s occupancy is 82%, but boosting tenancy isn’t a concern. “We have a strong growth office and employment market,” he points out. “Most of the buildings last year had mid-70s occupancy, now we’re well in the 80s.”

Thomas will kick in about 6.25% of the 20% to 25% equity needed to close the deal. The plan is to leverage about 75% to 80% of the gross purchase price, according to yesterday’s press release.

The portfolio assets average 20 years old. The CBD component consists of the 561,000-sf Frost Bank Tower at 401 Congress Ave.; a 459,000-sf high rise at 300 W. 6th St.; 404,000-sf San Jacinto Center at 98 San Jacinto Blvd.; 549,000-sf One Congress Plaza at 111 Congress Ave.; and 523,000-sf One American Center at 600 Congress Ave.

The northwest submarket properties are 193,000-sf Stonebridge Plaza II at 9600 N. Mopac Expressway; 203,000-sf Park 22 Office Complex at 8601 Ranch Rd. 2222; 273,000-sf Research Park Plaza I and II at 12301 and 12401 Research Blvd.; 179,000-sf Westech 360 at 8911 Capital of Texas Hwy. N; and 141,000-sf Great Hills Plaza at 9828 Great Hills Trail.

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