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In The Pipeline: CoStar Development & Construction News for Dec. 15 - 21

News, Notes and Comments on New Projects, Trends and Construction In the Commercial Real Estate Development and Planning Pipeline Around the U.S.
December 16, 2013

American Express to Buy Land for S. Florida Consolidation

After considering other states, American Express has confirmed it is purchasing about 40 acres in Sunrise, FL, for construction of a regional headquarters.

Tom Sclafani, vice president, public affairs for American Express in New York, said the deal to buy the land in the Sawgrass Mills submarket from Coral Gables-based Flagler Development is expected to close before the end of the month.

The company, which has a nearly 40-year history of operations in Florida, currently leases space in South Florida for a variety of business functions ranging from customer service to human resources, sales and marketing. Current operations include a customer service center in Plantation and facilities in Miramar and Weston.

In The Pipeline is a column on significant acquisitions of commercial land for sale, and other transactions and trends affecting office, industrial, flex, multifamily, mixed-use, hotel and public works developers. Send us news leads about your new commercial real estate project -- and sign up to be added to our distribution list to receive future In the Pipeline columns by e-mail.

American Express plans to consolidate those facilities into the Sunrise campus, where it plans to build a 400,000-square-foot building on the east side of NW 136th Avenue south of Sunrise Boulevard.

Construction would begin in fourth-quarter 2014, with delivery slated for 2017. But the site can accommodate far more than just one building for expansion-minded AmEx.

"This land gives us room to grow over time," Sclafani tells CoStar News.

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Forest City Moves Closer to Selling 70% Atlantic Yards Stake to Chinese Firm

The complicated transaction by Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA) to sell a majority stake in the 22-acre Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, NY, to Shanghai-based Greenland Group Co. moved another step closer to completion this week.

In October, CoStar News reported on the preliminary agreement between Forest City and Greenland to form a joint venture. This week, that tentative deal turned into a definitive agreement for a joint venture, expected to close next year, to develop the first two phases of the project.

The joint venture excludes Barclays Center and B2, the first housing tower on the former industrial site. The agreement includes infrastructure, a permanent MTA rail yard, a platform above the rail yard and future residential units.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIS) and the government of China must still sign off on the deal, among other regulatory requirements.

Under the agreement, Greenland would acquire 70% and co-develop the project with Forest City, with both organizations sharing in all project costs in proportion to their interests. The Greenland Group would also make a capital contribution to reimburse Forest City for certain costs incurred to date.

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Schnitzer West Buys Site for 16-Story Office Tower in Downtown Bellevue

Continuing to reinvest proceeds from its recent sale of North Creek properties, Schnitzer West has purchased a development site in the Bellevue's central business district where it plans to build a 16-story, 360,000-square-foot office building.

The proposed building at 106th Avenue Northeast and Northeast Fourth Street is slated for completion in 2016 and will include street-level retail and a Bank of America branch. Bellevue’s booming technology industry is running up against an increasingly tight office market, according to the developer.

"Leading companies are increasingly viewing office space as a competitive advantage for their business, one that reinforces their brand and helps them to attract and retain their most valuable resource, their employees," said Schnitzer West Investment Director Pete Aparico.

The new office tower will include several functional common areas that effectively extend the use of a tenant's leased space, including a conference and training center, on-site corporate concierge, a fitness center and a large indoor/outdoor 'great room.'

The project is Schnitzer West’s third major project in Bellevue, where it has developed more than 2 million square feet of commercial space. The company’s previous projects in Bellevue include Civica Office Commons completed in 2001; Advanta Office Commons completed in 2007; and The Bravern completed in 2009.

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Pacific Industrial Acquires 40-Acre Industrial Site in L.A. County

A Long Beach, CA-based industrial developer has acquired 39 acres of a former World War II air force base site entitled for 840,390 square feet of development in the City of Bell.

Bell sold the former Cheli Air Force Base site to Pacific Industrial, LLC in a transaction valued at over $44 million in one of the largest land transactions in central L.A. County of the last decade. CBRE’s John Privett and Cameron Merrill represented the seller.

"There is very little land available in the central Los Angeles market, and deals of this size are extremely rare," says Privett.

Bell City Manager Doug Willmore said the city was looking for a developer that could design a LEED-certified project which would attract jobs to the city.

The land sale will help significantly reduce the debt load of the city, which has sustained budget deficits in the wake of a massive corruption scandal involving misappropriation of public funds by elected officials and city staff in the late 2000s.

"The City Council has been committed to moving the city forward and their approval of this transaction represents that commitment. We see this transaction as one of the significant steps to moving Bell forward and beyond the issues of the past," Willmore said.

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