Oakland’s Tribune Tower Sells to User That Plans Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Submitted December 1, 2011, 1:37 PM

Sharon Simonson

The news just keeps getting better for Oakland’s Tribune Tower.

After spending most of the last year in receivership, downtown’s signature historic building is selling to an owner-user that intends to occupy 36,000 square feet of the 83,000 square-foot structure and to bring 300 new jobs to the center city.

The buyer, a newly formed international call-center services company that is based in Oakland and named CallSocket Holding Co. LLC, expects to do extensive improvements, according to public record and CB Richard Ellis Group Inc., whose brokers represented the buyer in the transaction.

CallSocket is paying less than $100 a square foot, said David Noravian, a CBRE vice president who specializes in Bay Area investment sales. That compares to a sales price of $15 million, or $182 a square foot, when the property last traded in January 2006. 

CBRE’s Hyoung Chon and Robert Newstead also were involved in the sale.

“We are really, really happy about it,” Noravian said. “We think this is going to have a material, positive effect on downtown. It is an Oakland group that is buying it. Community Bank of the Bay, which has an office several blocks from the tower, was instrumental in helping to finance it.”

“This building is a symbol of Oakland,” he said.

CallSocket intends to occupy its space in January, he said.

The 23-story Tribune Tower is 305 feet tall and was completed in 1923. It served for decades as the home of The Oakland Tribune newspaper. CBRE’s Oakland office is expected to handle the building’s leasing going forward.

The seller was lender Torchlight Investors, which was not represented by a broker. The receiver who managed the property and the sale was Sacramento-based Bluett & Associates. At the time of the sale, the property was approximately 20 percent leased, with most occupancy in the tower itself.

Noravian was not at liberty to identify the principals behind CallSocket. According to business-entity records on file with the California Secretary of State, the company’s agent for service of process is Thomas Henderson, who could not be reached for comment.

Gregory Hunter, deputy director of economic development and redevelopment for the city of Oakland, said he was not only jazzed about the new jobs in the city but also about what the new ownership would do to improve the quality of the building itself. “We are very interested in upgrading our office stock in downtown,” he said. “For a call center, they would need to do significant tenant upgrades because there are quite a few technology requirements.”

Those kind of investments help keep a building in use long term, he said.

John Dolby, a senior vice president for Grubb & Ellis Co. in Oakland, said he, too, welcomed the occupancy and sale. Dolby and two other Grubb executives were recently selected to market two historic office buildings in downtown Oakland for sale, including the former I. Magnin & Co., department store building at 2001 Broadway.

The 57,000 square-foot I. Magnin building, which is in downtown’s resurgent Uptown district and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was completely renovated in 2000, Dolby said. It is now used for offices. A sale like that of the Tribune Tower and its ultimate occupancy brings life to a building and a corner of downtown that has been fairly quiet in recent years, he said.

“This sets the stage for other trades,” he said.


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