A Hong Kong investment company has a deal to buy downtown Seattle’s historic Dexter Horton Building, the third purchase by such a buyer since this summer.
Seattle’s historic Dexter Horton Building is under contract to be sold to a Hong Kong investment firm, the third purchase of a downtown Seattle tower by such a buyer this year.
Pacific Eagle, the San Francisco subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Great Eagle Holdings, has a deal to purchase the 15-story, terra cotta-clad building at Second Avenue and Cherry Street from Portland real-estate firm Gerding Edlen, say industry sources familiar with the matter. The deal is expected to close later this month.
Both parties declined to comment on the pending transaction.
On Pacific Eagle’s website, the firm says it was established in 1992 by its parent firm, which owns offices, a shopping mall and hotels in Hong Kong. Pacific Eagle says it has previously invested in New York, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles.
The Seattle region has seen a frenzy of office buildings sold this year: About $4.48 billion in sales through the third quarter, compared to $1.14 billion in the same period a year ago, according to New York-based Real Capital Analytics.
While local firms such as Expedia, Talon Capital and Unico Properties are the top buyers for the region’s office buildings so far this year based on dollar volume, Hong Kong-based investors are the second most active group, edging out buyers from New York, Los Angeles and Houston, according to Real Capital’s data.
In August, Hong Kong-based Gaw Capital Partners paid $711 million for Columbia Center, the Pacific Northwest’s tallest skyscraper, effectively pointing a giant arrow at Seattle for Asia’s institutional investors. Then last month, Gaw Capital bought the Seattle Tower for $49.5 million.
Hong Kong is part of the People’s Republic of China but as a former British colony it has special status and a distinct financial and political system.
National experts say the outflow of capital from Hong Kong and China into U.S. real estate is part of a global trend but also reflects specifically Chinese concerns.
“We don’t have to worry about political instability or currency instability — there’s change, but not wild change that could create a loss in value in assets,” said Jeanette Rice, head of investment research in the Americas for Los Angeles-based real estate brokerage CBRE.
CBRE estimates that investment from China into the world’s commercial real estate markets last year exceeded $10 billion for the first time, with U.S. cities getting one-fifth of that.
In the first half of this year, Chinese investors poured nearly $3.7 billion into U.S. commercial real estate, CBRE reports.
When Gerding Edlen put the 336,000-square-foot Dexter Horton building on the market this fall, it generated heavy interest from foreign institutional buyers, coming after the summer’s sale of the 76-story Columbia Center, brokers say.
Named after the founder of Seattle’s first bank, the building was one of the largest, most advanced office buildings in the country when it opened in 1924. Given landmark status in 1992, the historic building underwent a major renovation in 2002, according to Gerding Edlen’s website.
Dexter Horton’s tenants include digital media agency Corbis; design firm Hornall Anderson; The Climate Corp., a software firm; architecture firm CollinsWoerman; and consulting firm ICF International.
Gerding Edlen bought the Dexter Horton in 2013 for $76.6 million and spent 18 months renovating the common areas and some office suites.
Among the changes, the firm converted a retail space on Third Avenue into a commuter-bike facility that offers air hoses, a tune-up station with air hoses and showers, said Aaron Reuter, Gerding Edlen’s director of asset management.
Other renovations included installing an indoor dog-relief area, bringing more light into the elevators, and exposing concrete ceilings and columns in offices to appeal to creative firms, he said.
While declining to comment on any transaction concerning the building, Reuter said Gerding Edlen has been bidding on other properties in Seattle.
“We keep trying to get back into the market but we have not been successful yet,” he said. “It gives you an indication of how competitive the Seattle market is.”