Columbia Takes Giant Bite out of the Big Apple

Columbia Property Trust is making waves in Manhattan with the purchase of a historic building.
NYT building

229 W. 43rd St., N.Y., N.Y.

By Scott Baltic, Contributing Editor

Columbia Property Trust Inc. has agreed to purchase the commercial condominium unit of the former New York Times Building in Manhattan from affiliates of Blackstone Real Estate Partners VI L.P. for $516 million, Columbia, which is based in Atlanta, announced Friday. The 16-story, 481,110-square-foot Class A office building is at 229 W. 43rd St. in (of course) the Times Square submarket.

The acquisition is expected to close within 30 days. Columbia reportedly anticipates funding for the acquisition with a $300 million six-month bridge loan and short-term borrowings under its $500 million unsecured credit facility.

The building’s commercial unit currently is 98 percent leased and reportedly is expected to have first-year in-place NOI of about $22.3 million.

The purchase “will mirror what we have successfully achieved across our portfolio as a whole and in San Francisco in particular – blending a number of value-add opportunities with more stable assets in high-barrier primary markets,” Nelson Mills, president & CEO of Columbia Property Trust, said in a prepared statement. “Acquiring this iconic property with such strong tenancy and below-market rents at attractive pricing compared with other New York transactions enables us to increase exposure in what will be our second-largest market, while spreading out lease maturities and capital commitments.”

The headquarters of The New York Times until 2007, the building was developed in several phases between 1912 and 1947 and recently underwent a $167 million redevelopment program. The property, which Columbia noted is not encumbered by a ground lease, consists of a condo interest that spans a portion of the first and fourth floors and all of floors five through 16.  Major office tenants there include Yahoo, Snapchat, Collective Inc., and MongoDB.

The lower three and a half floors are owned by a separate entity and were also traded recently. In mid-May, Commercial Property Executive reported on the purchase of the building’s retail component by Kushner Cos. for $296 million from a partnership of Africa Israel USA and an affiliate of Five Mile Capital Partners L.L.C.

With a Federal Reserve interest rate hike looming this fall, sales velocity in the Manhattan office sector has been consistently high so far this year, with transaction volume and the average sales price per square foot up by double digits over the past 12 months, as the average cap rate sank about 20 bp to 5.5 percent, according to a second-quarter report from Marcus & Millichap.

As job growth in Manhattan remains healthy, the average asking rent is expected to climb 7 percent this year, on top of a 6.9 percent rise in 2014.