One of Seattle’s prominent real-estate investors paid $17.6 million this week for a suburban office park in Kent, scooping it up for a fraction of what national investment manager TIAA-CREF paid in the heady days of 2006.

Unico Properties, which owns and operates 14 million square feet of offices, apartments and other property in the Western United States, said an investment fund it sponsored bought The Creeksides at CenterPoint, a 220,000-square-foot complex of three buildings on 72nd Avenue South in Kent.

TIAA-CREF bought the complex for a whopping $40.25 million, county records show, at a time when commercial real estate, like housing, was bid up to new highs.

The four-story buildings are 65 percent leased, and Unico expects to invest “substantial capital” upgrading them, with the goal of becoming “the premiere office location in Seattle’s South End market,” the company said in a statement.

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Suburban office parks have been under competitive pressure as corporate tenants flock to urban centers like Seattle, Bellevue and Kirkland. At Creeksides, the tenant roster includes GE Aviation, Iron Bow Technologies and state Department of Social and Health Services, Unico said.

The office park is close to Kent’s retail core, major freeways and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Unico noted.

“Creeksides represented an opportunity to buy one of the highest-quality assets in Seattle’s South End,” said Unico President Quentin Kuhrau

And the price was right: About $80 a square foot.

Unico has shown it can reposition a property, said Lori Hill, a managing director at commercial real-estate brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle, which represented the seller.

“As a company they are very skilled at value enhancement,” she said. “I think they’ll do well on it.”

Unico’s already made money on other CenterPoint buildings next door: In February 2012, Unico and Boston-based investment partner AEW Capital Management
picked up four buildings in lieu of foreclosure for an undisclosed price, records show.

About six months later, they sold the 436,000-square-foot complex to an Alaska-based investment group for $46.25 million, or $106 a square foot.

Unico manages the University of Washington’s 10-acre Metropolitan Tract in downtown Seattle under ground leases that start expiring next fall.

It has been on a buying spree: In July, Unico bought Kirkland’s Continental Plaza for $24.5 million in a joint venture with Seattle-based Laird Norton Wealth Management.

Other purchases this year: Seattle’s Logan Building and South Arcade near Pike Place Market, 51 University, 705 Union, 1505 5th Avenue, and Market Place I and II.

And in October last year, Unico bought 2323 Elliott Ave. for about $15.9 million.

Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or On Twitter @sbhatt