NEWPORT BEACH, CA—An undisclosed seller that industry sources identify as Cornerstone Real Estate Advisors has sold 5000 Birch St., a 306,000-square-foot, two-building, class-A office project in Koll Center Newport here, for $104.5 million to John Hancock Real Estate, the US division of large life-insurance firm Manulife Financial Corp. The asset, which features a highly coveted Newport Beach address, is located at the gateway between Newport Beach and the Irvine Business Complex.

The purchase represents the buyer’s further commitment to the Orange County market, where John Hancock owns the Michelson and Oracle Tower.

According to Kevin Adolphe, president and CEO of Manulife Real Estate and president and CEO of Manulife Asset Management Private Markets, Orange County is “one of the fastest-growing office markets in the US. Our acquisition of 5000 Birch further strengthens our long-standing investment in California, where we now actively manage more than 9 million square feet.”

A spokesperson from John Hancock tells that the property was built in 1983. “We have not finalized our plans for the asset, but we are exploring potential upgrades to revitalize the asset. We’ll be carefully assessing this in the coming weeks now that we’ve acquired 5000 Birch.”

According to Real Capital Analytics, the property was sold in November 2002 to Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers by a joint venture between Aetna and Koll Development.

As had reported earlier this year, following the retail trend of offering entertainment value for customers and the office and multifamily trends of providing engaging common amenities for employees and tenants, the real estate industry is doing more to engage potential buyers and users through its building-marketing programs. The Michelson building is one example of this. As part of a marketing campaign that highlighted the building as an iconic landmark, locally based marketing firm Idea Hall brought in local luxury publication Coast Magazine to do a fashion photo shoot at the building. The theme was also present in branding, logos and a website for the property.