James Center under contract

The three-building, 1 million-square-foot James Center at 901, 1021 and 1051 E. Cary St.

The three-building, 1 million-square-foot James Center at 901, 1021 and 1051 E. Cary St.

Less than two months after hitting the market, a trio of downtown towers encompassing nearly 1 million square feet of office space has found a suitor.

The James Center complex at 901, 1021 and 1051 E. Cary St. is under contract to be purchased, according to an online listing from Pittsburgh-based brokerage Holliday Fenoglio Fowler.

The identity of the pending purchaser could not be confirmed by press time. Calls to HFF were not returned Friday afternoon.

Richmond-based Colliers International, which leases space in the James Center, and LNR Partners, the entity that owns the building, could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Built between 1984 and 1986, the James Center was placed on the market in September by LNR, which took control of the buildings in March in a deal that transferred the property’s deed in lieu of foreclosure. The properties were listed without a formal asking price.

The complex is technically owned in the name of GMACC 2006 C1 East Cary Street LLC, an entity tied to LNR.

Some of the James Center's interior space.

Some of the James Center’s interior space.

That change in ownership was a result of the James Center’s previous owner, an LLC tied to JEMB Realty of New York, defaulting on two loans totaling $150 million.

JEMB had owned the James Center since 2005 when it paid $184.4 million for the entire complex, according to city records. The properties were most recently assessed by the city at a total of $123.6 million.

The James Center’s three buildings have nearly 330,000 square feet of vacant space between them, fueled largely by One James Center’s 213,000 and Three James Center’s 98,000 square feet of available space, according to HFF’s flier notes.

Current long-term tenants in the buildings include Virginia Economic Development Partners, Connecticut General Life and Wells Fargo.

Of the 9.2 million square feet of office space in Richmond’s central business district, around 1.3 million square feet is vacant, according to a CBRE report published this month. That amounts to a 14.5 percent vacancy rate, with lease rates between $19 and $24 per square foot.

That sluggishness has proven to be an opportunity for buyers and investors over the last year.

The 24-story, 508,000-square-foot Bank of America Center facility fetched $42 million last February, while the 307,000-square-foot Gateway Plaza building sold for $104.5 million in December 2015.

Riverfront Plaza, made up of twin 22-story towers at 901 E. Byrd St., was sold to California-based Hertz Investment Group for $147.5 million in a deal that closed late last year.

The 15-story Williams Mullen building at 200 S. 10th St. sold for $78 million – a deal in which HFF also represented the seller.

And downtown’s low lease rates helped land a big new tenant to the riverfront last month when city and state economic officials announced CoStar Group’s plans to move into about 130,000 square feet on the top three floors of the WestRock building at 501 S. Fifth St.

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