Ash Properties winning bidder for BB&T Tower

Company says it bid on the property because of “its location, its condition and its potential.”

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Jacksonville-based Ash Properties won the bidding last week for the BB&T Tower Downtown and hopes to buy the property this summer and quickly start renovations.

Randall Whitfield, COO of the commercial real estate developer, said Wednesday the tower’s 64 percent occupancy presents a “total upside” to attracting more tenants.

“We’ve always been interested in the Downtown office market. We want to take full advantage of that to participate Downtown and do our part for Jacksonville,” Whitfield said.

Whitfield said Ash Properties bid on the property because of “its location, its condition and its potential.”

Ash Properties made the winning $23.3 million bid May 31 after a three-day online auction of the 18-story property.

Whitfield said Ash Properties expects to close on the deal in midsummer and soon start renovations.

The 285,487-square-foot building at 200 W. Forsyth St. opened in 1975. Its 2018 assessed value in progress is $11.7 million.

Norfolk, Virginia-based Harbor Group International bought the building for $30.05 million in 2007. A group of lenders acquired it in 2016 after no one bid on the property in a foreclosure auction.

Whitfield said the deal includes the building and two outside parking lots on the entire block and a parking garage across the street, just north of the building

That allows Ash to offer two parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of office space, which Whitfield said is good for Downtown.

In addition to adding tenants, Ash Properties intends to offer some unidentified improvements.

Whitfield said there are some design elements to add some potential uses and fill some unmet needs Downtown.

“We might be able to fulfill a couple of missing opportunities,” he said, but declined to elaborate.

Ash Properties is led by Mike and Elaine Ashourian. The company specializes in leasing, managing and developing commercial, retail, storage and office space properties.

“We have certain renovations we plan to do. We have some good quality tenants there and we plan to add more tenants to it,” he said.

Whitfield said anchor tenant BB&T recently extended its lease, but he declined to disclose the terms.

Whitfield said Ash Properties wants to be part of the Downtown renovation efforts. “We would like to participate in it,” he said.

Whitfield said Ash Properties would buy the building through another entity, but declined to identify it.

Ash Properties already owns some significant office buildings, including Deerwood Park Center, also known as the CEVA building, in Deerwood Park and the Concorde Offices park along San Jose Boulevard at Interstate 295.

“We have increased our office exposure,” he said.

Ash Properties continues to develop retail buildings as well, including Flagler Center Shoppes along Old St. Augustine Road and Flagler Center Boulevard.

Transwestern Marketing was retained by LNR, the special servicer on the BB&T Tower, to provide investment sales services. It led the online auction efforts.

Marketing Director John Bell also sold the One Enterprise Center building across the street.

Transwestern said in an April 6 news release that the property encompasses a full city block connected by a tunnel to a six-story parking garage with ground-level retail.

It said property owners completed $3.87 million in upgrades this year.

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