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MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MO-In a sale-leaseback transaction, Wells Real Estate Investment Trust II has purchased a 188,500-sf office building here in the 500-acre Riverport Business Park. UnitedHealthcare Services, UnitedHealth Group, sold the five-story facility to the REIT and has signed a long-term lease for the entire building.

Officials wouldn’t divulge the purchase price for the 10-year-old building. A similar facility in the Riverport park, the 232,521-sf Magellan Behavioral Health building fully leased by Magellan Health Services, sold to HDG Mansur in June 2007 for $39.7 million, or about $171 per sf.

Peter Mitchell, SVP of Midwest acquisitions for Norcross, GA-based Wells Real Estate Funds, says the deal was the first property purchased in Missouri for the REIT. “We’re happy to have the opportunity to buy in St. Louis with a good tenant at a good location, at the exchange of Interstates 70 and 270, and to be part of the growth of St. Charles County,” Mitchell says.

He did not divulge the lease rate. Office property in the Riverport/Earth City leases at $21.11 per sf, on average, according to a Grubb & Ellis market report. The area is one of the most popular, but it had about 144,000 sf of negative absorption in 2007, the worst record in the St. Louis market for the year.

The REIT is still looking in the area for existing properties or build-to-suit projects, he says. “We are looking at two other office transactions in St. Louis currently,” Mitchell tells GlobeSt.com. The trust already has 72 buildings in 23 states, on an average about 98% leased, in about $4 billion worth of property totaling more than 17 million sf.

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