HOUSTON-A joint venture of the Novati Group and an affiliate of General Electric Pension Trust, advised by GE Asset Management, has acquired the 1.3-million-sf Bank of America Center from Hines. An industry source says the two-building CBD trophy has sold for $380 million.

According to Holliday Fenoglio Fowler LP managing director Jeff Hollinden, the transaction for 700 Louisiana St. is the largest single-asset sale to date for the area. And, he adds that it put Houston on the map as a viable location for serious investment.

“Frankly, it was a shock to the investment community when this building became available because it was a Hines flagship building,” Hollinden tells GlobeSt.com. “It was a rare opportunity to buy a building a lot of investors thought they’d never get the chance to buy.”

Hollinden, teaming with HFF executive managing director Scott Galloway on behalf of the seller, says the buyer was selected from a huge pool of potential investors due to its sponsorship and ability to close. He says that with the current credit meltdown and uneasy markets, better buyer sponsorship can be as attractive as the price to a seller. “The buyer that can get things done in this market is the buyer who will end up with the asset,” he adds.

Hollinden says that, as a result of the 25-year-old Bank of America Center’s sale, other investors have eyed the 542,000-sf 919 Milam, which HFF also has on the market for Hines. Hollinden predicts it too will bring a similar price per sf as Bank of America Center.

“The important thing about the Bank of America sale is that this was a big, trophy national platform kind of asset. It was an asset that got people looking at Houston who otherwise wouldn’t have looked here,” Hollinden says.

HFF senior managing director John Brownlee in Dallas and managing director Susan Hill in Houston arranged financing. The new owners have retained Hines to manage the just-sold building. John Spafford, senior vice president and director with Houston-based PM Realty Group, will oversee leasing for the 93%-occupied buildings.

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