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Houston History For Sale

Historic downtown skyscraper goes up for sale — and it could be a $110 million deal

Historic downtown skyscraper goes up for sale in $110 million deal

JP Morgan Chase Building Houston downtown skyscraper Art Deco
The Chase building, an historic Main Street tower built in 1929, is for sale for more than $100 million. Photo by Reagan Rothenberger/Wikipedia

The former Gulf Building — an Art Deco skyline fixture which reigned as Houston’s tallest tower for 30 years — is for sale.

The 37-story Main Street landmark could bring as much as $110 million in the sale, reports the authoritative Real Estate Alert newsletter, which caters to major real estate investors.

The building was completed in 1929 by Jesse H. Jones, the former publisher of Houston Chronicle years ago.

 It was Houston’s tallest building until the Exxon Mobil (formerly the Humble Building) was erected in 1963. 

From the time it was built, the 800,000-square-foot building was Houston’s tallest building until the Exxon Mobil (formerly the Humble Building) was erected in 1963.

The owner, Brookfield Asset Management, bought the building in 2010 and it has spent more than $6 million on improvements, including modernizing the elevators, Real Estate Alert said. Texas Commerce Bank performed an extensive $50 million renovation of the structure in 1989.

The Chase bank lobby on the first floor features stained glass windows, marble floors and three-story atrium.

Designed by architects Alfred C. Finn, Kenneth Franzheim and J.E.R. Carpenter, the tower is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The building, located at the corner of Main and Capitol, is now named after its address — 712 Main.

JPMorgan Chase has a long-term lease in the building for 480,000 square feet and its rent is below current market rent, Real Estate Alert said. That low rent for Chase — and the lease runs until 2030 — will keep the seller from getting a super-high sales price.

On the other hand, the Houston office market is so hot right now it’s being considered one of the best office markets in the nation, and a great office market even on an international scale.

The overall downtown Houston office vacancy rate is low — less than 10 percent — and average asking rents have risen to an average of $34 per square foot, according to a first quarter report by the CBRE real estate firm.

For prime office space in downtown, asking rents jumped to a phenomenal $48 per square foot in at least one building, CBRE notes.

The 712 Main building was the most-prized property in a 16-building portfolio Brookfield bought from JPMorgan Chase three years ago for $200 million. Brookfield has just retained the HFF firm to sell the 712 Main building.