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HOUSTON-Local company Hines and partner California Public Employees’ Retirement System have closed on the 545,919-sf 919 Milam. Transwestern Investment Co. of Chicago acquired the 24-story asset as a value-add play for just more than $100 million.

The 50-year-old building at 910 Travis St. was once a regional and corporate headquarters for various banks. However, when Bank One Corp. moved out following its 2004 acquisition by JP Morgan Chase & Co., the first four floors were left vacant.

Hines and CalPERS, operating under the name National Office Partners LP, acquired the building in 2005 and spent $11 million converting those lower floors into on-site parking. Robert Williamson, managing director with Holliday Fenoglio Fowler LP’s Houston office, says the garage was a huge selling point when it came to marketing the asset.

“This ended up a win-win for Hines, converting crummy office space into premier parking space,” says Williamson, who worked with HFF’s senior managing director Dan Miller and executive managing director Scott Galloway on behalf of the seller. “This is probably the highest quality indoor parking space in the CBD.”

He tells GlobeSt.com that the self-represented Transwestern Investment beat out close to a dozen offers during the marketing period. Furthermore, 919 Milam fit into the buyer’s core competency. “This was definitely a big leasing play for them,” Williamson says. Transwestern’s Houston office is taking the building’s property management and leasing from Hines.

Given the demand for office space in a submarket flirting with a 6% vacancy rate, Williamson doesn’t foresee a problem with lease-up for the 69%-occupied building. “This buy was all about the current market momentum,” he comments. “Transwestern has been focusing on a CBD acquisition for a long time. This building is in good condition with an excellent location and will do well for them.”

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