Comerica Building
Comerica Building (Google Maps)

The Comerica tower, an 11-story Class A office building in downtown Fort Lauderdale, sold for $32.5 million to a Massachusetts buyer.

The 166,098-square-foot building was 82 percent leased when Hallandale Beach-based Beacon Investment Properties sold it in a deal that closed April 9, brokers said.

The buyer was Beverly, Mass.-headquartered Brookwood Financial Partners LLC, a commercial real estate investor with holdings in 13 states and a strong interest in office space. Nearly 71 percent of the 124 properties in its portfolio are offices – 61 percent in suburban markets and 10 percent in central business districts.

“Brookwood is acquiring the property at an attractive price and at a time when Fort Lauderdale’s downtown office fundamentals are showing signs of improvement,” the company said in a statement, citing the submarket’s positive absorption for every quarter of 2013 and the drop in vacancy rate to 14.3 percent from 18.9 percent over the course of last year.

“Similar to all of our value-add acquisitions over the last few years, our primary objective is to reposition the property in the market, which we expect will increase the appeal of the building to current and prospective tenants and enable us to lease the vacant space and renew expiring leases at higher rental rates,” said Thomas Brown, Brookwood’s director of acquisitions.

That’s a similar strategy to the one Beacon Investment used in the last two years to push lagging occupancy at the office tower to 82 percent from 69 percent.

Leveraging Fort Lauderdale’s appeal to corporate tenants, Beacon upgraded the tower and marketed it to firms looking for the convenience of nearby banks, restaurants, retail, major thoroughfares like Interstate 95 and quick access to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

“Downtown Fort Lauderdale absorption has been led by a migration of tenants from the suburbs to the CBD,” said Christian Lee, vice chairman of CBRE Inc. in Miami. “This has been a national trend where possible as employers find it easier to attract and retain higher level talent to urban locations.”

For Beacon, these market conditions created an opportunity to create value at a site where tenants now include national and regional players like Dallas-based Comerica Bank. They’ve also allowed a nearly 56 percent gain for Beacon Investments, which bought the tower for about $20.88 million in August 2010, according to public records.

Representing Beacon Investment on the sale was CBRE’s Lee, who worked with Jose Lobon from the real estate brokerage house’s capital markets institutional group, Charles Foschini and Chris Apone with CBRE’s debt and structured finance group, office leasing agents Deanna Lobinsky and Travis Herring, and JLL office leasing broker Jonathan Kingsley.