SOLIHULL, UK-Blythe Valley Park here in this Midlands suburb of Birmingham is under new ownership following the sale to a partnership of US-based Liberty Property Trust and Doughty Hanson & Co. Real Estate, one of Europe’s largest CRE investment fund managers. The 14-building, 500,000-sf complex traded for $326 million, a price that also secures development rights for an approved 800,000-sf expansion expected to commence over the near term.

“Opportunities such as Blythe Valley Park don’t come around often,” says Andrew Blevins, managing director of the Liberty Property UK entity that acquired the 257-acre park. Not only does Blevins maintain that Liberty’s expertise in managing such assets makes for a good fit as it seeks to expand those services in the country, he notes that Doughty Hanson and his firm have an established relationship. The partners also recently acquired the 19-building, 535,000-sf Kents Hill business park in the city of Kent on England’s southeast coast.

The latest transaction, in which Doughty Hanson will contribute about 80% and Liberty the remainder, brings the amount invested in the Doughty Hanson & Co. European Real Estate Fund II to $532.5 million. The eight commitments made to date consume close to half the equity available after Fund II closed with a pool of $1.2 billion.

Blythe Valley Park is the “premier business park…in the Birmingham area,” says Doughty Hanson principal Kevin Grundy. The chief of the UK region says he believes the park can be further enhanced by both the new construction and improvements to existing stock. Blythe Valley “offers an attractive mix of value enhancement opportunities and future development potential within an established, prominent location,” says Grundy. Created in partnership with the Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, Blythe Valley Park was originally a venture between US REIT ProLogis and British Land plc before the latter firm bought out Denver-based ProLogis in 2003. The complex is located at Junction 4 of the M42 Highway, a major Midlands thoroughfare.

Located in suburban Philadelphia and listed on the New York Stock Exchange, Liberty today owns and manages 65 million sf of commercial space. Besides the UK initiative, the firm also invests in the US in a dozen states, including Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and North and South Carolinas. Liberty services 2,100 tenants in its global portfolio, including such firms as Centrica, Ove Arup and Vodafone at Blythe Valley Park. The asset is the third purchased in the UK on behalf of Fund II, with the others being Kents Hill and Howick Place in London, a mixed-use office and residential complex owned in tandem with Terrace Hill Group plc.

Fund II is targeting other investment and development opportunities in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Europe’s Nordic region. Among the acquisitions already committed to by the fund is a pair of residential joint venture developments in Italy, one in Brescia and the other in Rome; and six office buildings in Stockholm. Collectively, the Doughty Hanson & Co. European real estate funds have completed 21 investments in eight countries, deals representing 1.4 million sf of space and a portfolio value exceeding $5.6 billion.

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