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CHICAGO-Real estate investment firm Pearl Properties, based in Philadelphia, has purchased 15,200 square feet in the mezzanine and second floor of 55 W. Wacker. The space in the Central Loop building, which is in the process of being converted to office condos by Cape Horn Group, sold for around $4.5 million. The mezzanine space is currently leased to a national credit tenant, while the second level is leased to a subsidiary of a Chicago company headquartered nearby that uses the floor as an employee fitness center.

“Pearl Properties sees and understands the value of commercial property in downtown Chicago,” Juan DeAngulo, Cape Horn regional manager, tells GlobeSt.com. “Especially given the times that we’re in, putting equity in a brick and mortar asset is good.”

Office condos could stand to benefit from the current shaky economy, but for every buyer seeking investments not subject to the whims of a volatile stock market, there’s another standing on the sidelines nervous to make a move, DeAngulo says. “We have seen an increase in people understanding the value in buying, but it’s a mixed bag because on the other hand, some people are cautious right now,” DeAngulo says. “I think the election was a very important first step in getting people back to general activity. There are some smaller companies that are not as well capitalized that have been waiting and seeing before they do anything moving forward.

Cape Horn Group purchased the Central Loop building in April 2006, when it was 94% occupied with leases. Since then, the company has been letting leases expire and selling the space off. More than 50% of the building has been sold to various companies. “The people that are buying their office space are looking at a five- to 10-year period,” DeAngulo says. “These are the times to buy, because in five to 10 years, when they are looking to divest their assets, the economy will be on another upswing and it will be a good time to sell.”

The 15-story, 209,000-square-foot building was constructed in 1968 as the headquarters of Blue Cross Blue Shield Illinois, and has changed hands several times since then, DeAngulo says. An affiliate of Cape Horn acquired the building, in 2006, for $36 million, sources say. Cape Horn began selling the spaces in September 2007, according to DeAngulo. He says buyers have included the American Lung Association, several law firms, a financial institution, an entrepreneur who distributes diesel engines and an investor.

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