BIRMINGHAM, AL-Colonial Properties Trust is turning over majority control to 9.6 million sf for $1.7 billion in separate pacts with DRA Advisors and Och-Ziff Real Estate Acquisitions LLC. The local REIT will retain 15% ownership in the two joint ventures plus continue to lease and manage the assets.

The 26 office properties and 11 retail assets are located in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Houston. Wachovia Capital Markets LLC was the financial adviser for both transactions, which are expected to close this quarter. The office package is 93.7% leased; the retail, 95.1%.

Colonial Properties’ senior vice president Jerry A. Brewer says the REIT will maintain full control only over a couple non-multifamily assets, including Colonial Brookwood Village at 780 Brookwood Village in Birmingham. “We’re keeping that because it’s part of our mixed-use project,” he tells, adding the plan is to focus on mixed-use projects going forward. “They’re a great way to ‘densify’ certain pieces of property.”

Colonial Properties has been pushing a plan to sell office and retail since October 2006. Brewer says the team believes that multifamily investment will be its best growth vehicle for the next five to 10 years. He says Colonial’s office and retail developments in the pipeline and coming out of the ground also will be moved into joint ventures or sold outright.

If both deals close as planned with the New York City-based groups, Colonial Properties projects common shareholders will receive a special dividend of nearly $10.75 per share pending approval by the board of trustees. A fund advised by DRA Advisors is paying $1.13 billion for the class A office piece, getting 6.9 million sf and a going-in cap rate of 6.9% based on the trailing 12-month net NOI. Och-Ziff’s 2.7-million-sf retail piece, valued at $360 million, carries a 6.6% cap rate based on the trailing 12-month NOI.

Meanwhile, the REIT is actively marketing another 13 retail assets, totaling three million sf in malls and grocery-anchored centers. It’s projected that the outright retail sales will reel in about $265 million. To date this year, Colonial has sold 300,000 sf in three retail properties for $33.1 million. When the dust clears, 75% to 80% of Colonial’s NOI will be derived from its multifamily operation versus the current 50%, Weston Andress, president and CFO, says in a press release.

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