The Air Rights Center — one of the largest office complexes in Bethesda and home to companies that include Calvert Investments — is up for sale at a reported price tag of as much as $257 million.
The Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund — better known as TIAA-CREF — which owns the 710,000-square-foot complex along Wisconsin and Montgomery avenues in downtown Bethesda, has hired commercial real estate firm Cassidy Turley to market the center.
Lindsey Groom, a spokeswoman in Cassidy Turley’s Washington, D.C., office, confirmed this week that the property is for sale, but declined further comment.
Typically, when a building is sold, the new owner must honor the terms of existing leases, said Douglas K. Hirsch, a lawyer with Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker and chairman of the Potomac law firm’s leasing practice group.
So in the short term, a sale won’t affect tenants, but there could be some long-term effects, he said.
“The new owner could have a different model,” said Hirsch, who has extensive experience in land acquisitions, ground leases, construction contracts and management and brokerage agreements. “They could make some nicer improvements and attract higher-income tenants that would drive business to restaurants and others there.”
The Air Rights Center is one of the largest properties in Bethesda and there are not many properties of its size for sale, he said.
“It’s a hard area [for developers] to break into,” Hirsch said. “There is not a lot of undeveloped land in that area.”
Last year, Brookfield Office Properties of New York bought the 368,400-square-foot 3 Bethesda Metro Center office center from Meridian Group of Bethesda for $150.1 million. That complex at the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and Old Georgetown Road is close to the Air Rights Center.
The Air Rights Center last sold for $140.7 million in 2002, according to Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation records. The $257 million price tag, which comes to $375 per square foot, was reported by Real Estate Finance Intelligence.
The Air Rights Center includes the 380,000-square-foot North Tower, which was built in 1980; the 218,500-square-foot West Tower, completed in 1976; and the 111,000-square-foot East Tower, built in 1964. The towers are connected on the main level by a 55,000-square-foot retail center.
The complex is 83 percent leased, according to its website. Besides Calvert, tenants include Acacia Life Insurance, the 216-room Hilton Garden Inn, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Bethesda Jewelers.
A representative for the property’s management firm, Jones Lang LaSalle, could not be reached for comment.
TIAA-CREF, a New York financial services organization with $481 billion in assets under management, provides retirement services in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields. The group is selling at least one other property, the 1.2 million-square-foot One South Wacker in Chicago.
TIAA-CREF recently purchased the 1 million-square-foot shopping center Gropius Passagen in Berlin, Germany, through a joint venture.