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NEW YORK CITY-The joint venture with locally based the Clarett Group and Prudential Real Estate Investors has closed on its purchase of 180 Madison Ave. from Sitt Asset Management. The duo purchased the 274,000-sf office building for $146 million.

CB Richard Ellis has been hired to manage the leasing of the building. Adam Spies and Douglas Harmon of Eastdil Secured LLC managed the marketing on behalf of the seller. As GlobeSt.com previously reported, four years ago, Harmon also handled the firm’s $92.7-million or $350 per sf purchase of the same building from SL Green Realty Corp. and Morgan Stanley Real Estate Fund III LP. The JV purchased the property in December 2000 for $41.2 million.

The property, built in 1927, stands 23 stories tall and is located on the southwest corner of Madison Avenue and East 34th Street. In addition its highly visible location, it is within walking distance of both Grand Central & Penn Stations has access to 12 subway lines. The property offers full-floor layouts ranging in size from 8,000 to 15,000 sf. Clarett plans to further improve the asset through a strategic renovation plan. Further Queries to the Clarett Group were unanswered by deadline, however a Clarett source did tell GlobeSt.com that the property was first put on the market in June 2007.

Veronica Hackett, managing partner of the Clarett Group, says in a prepared release that the company believes that the Midtown market is “poised for robust growth over the next several years.” Hackett further notes that the high-quality asset’s location will enable the firm to “achieve significant value appreciation.”

An anonymous industry source not involved with the same, but familiar with the Midtown market, tells GlobeSt.com that they question where the robust growth will originate “with widespread uncertainty and weakness in the credit and equity markets, strong inflation in food and energy prices, and an economy bordering on recession.”

Deborah Jackson, executive managing director of Weiser Realty Advisors LLC, who was also not involved in the sale, tells GlobeSt.com that although she isn’t sure if Midtown is poised for “robust growth,” she says that “demand should remain strong for space in midtown-both from domestic and foreign firms.” She says that “with the weak dollar, many foreign firms will find the cost of space in the city as attractive alternative to other locations,” adding that “with healthy vacancy rates, high rents and limited space for future development, I believe that we will continue to see positive trends for this market.”

As GlobeSt.com previously reported, the local office market here continues to feel the impact of the turmoil affecting the global financial markets, and although brokerage firms see overall vacancy rates increase, the waters aren’t as gloomy as they could be. Richard Persichetti, manager of client services at Grubb & Ellis, previously noted that direct average asking rents have declined, however he said that “despite average asking rents beginning to trend downward, prime spaces continue to command high prices in select areas of Manhattan when compared to their respective submarket.”

Daniel Hollander, senior managing director of the Clarett Group, says in a prepared statement that “this acquisition is particularly significant as it underscores Clarett’s ability to respond to changing market conditions. Although Clarett is more known in New York for residential development, we have deep roots in commercial development and are currently active in office developments in Los Angeles and Washington, DC. We have leveraged our broad expertise in the commercial arena to underwrite this value-added opportunity.”

According to MrOfficeSpace.com, asking rents at 180 Madison Ave. are $60 per sf. Current tenants include International Intimates, Vandale Industries Inc., Age Group Ltd., Kellwood Co., A.C.T., Andrew Levin, Bendon USA, Next Generation Intimates, O’Brian Brothers, Pacific Group, Panties Plus, Paradise Lingerie, Riveria Trading Inc., St. Eve International Inc., the Natori Co. Inc. and Vivien International.

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