By Maria Saporta and Doug Sams
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Georgia State University is trying to acquire the Equitable building, one of the most familiar office towers on the downtown Atlanta skyline.
In an e-mail Tuesday to faculty and staff, J. Mack Robinson College of Business Dean H. Fenwick Huss said, “an opportunity has arisen whereby the college may be able to move our offices much closer to the location of the anticipated Academic Building.”
Huss also said if the purchase of Equitable is successful, “We expect space in Equitable would be available for [college of business] administrative and faculty offices within two years.”
The university is a major player in downtown Atlanta real estate.
In 2007, the Georgia State University Foundation purchased the SunTrust building; a two-block area that includes the 26-story office tower at 25 Park Place; a three-story bank building; a six-story annex building; a four-story vacant building and an eight-story parking deck.
Also in ’07, the university purchased the Citizens Trust building, a 12-story office tower on Piedmont just south of the University Commons.
The school also has a history of buying and reinvigorating abandoned real estate, including refurbishing the Rialto Center for the Arts.
Georgia State continues to expand.
Its enrollment is growing the fastest among the University System of Georgia’s six largest institutions.
Georgia State enrolled an additional 2,198 students last fall for total enrollment of 30,427, a nearly 8 percent increase.
The school needs more downtown parking to accommodate its growth, real estate sources say.
The Equitable Building has three parking decks with almost 1,000 parking spaces.
The Equitable name has been one of the most recognizable images on the Atlanta skyline since the late 1960s.
Georgia State could put its name on top of the 33-story building, offering even more exposure as the school continues to grow.
The Equitable Building is symbolic of the growing amount of distressed U.S. real estate. The building was foreclosed on by the lender Capmark Bank last June for $29.5 million.
Its former owner, San Diego-based Equastone Real Estate Investment, bought the tower in 2007 for about $57 million with plans to upgrade.
But, as the job market collapsed, vacancy rose and real estate values began to plummet, Equastone fell into financial trouble and lost the building to the bank.
Since then, the Equitable Building has continued to lose tenants. It’s now less than half-occupied. At the end of 2009, the federal Defender Services Program — one of the building’s largest tenants — said it would relocate to downtown’s Centennial Tower.
Georgia State has interest in the Equitable Building because it represents an opportunistic buy, and it would help the school add another piece of real estate that borders Woodruff Park.