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Esperante building trading hands; Cole Scott firm moving in

The signature Esperante office building in downtown West Palm Beach is changing hands again, and the law firm Cole Scott & Kissane is poised to take big space in the tower.

Sources say a deal is in the works to sell the Esperante Corporate Center to Crocker Partners of Boca Raton and Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers LLC of Connecticut. Cornerstone is an indirect subsidiary of the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, according to the company website. Esperante’s current owner is CBRE Global Investors.

As part of the deal, sources say Crocker will manage the 17-story Esperante and Cushman & Wakefield, a brokerage, will lease it.

Cole Scott & Kissane, a statewide law firm known for its expertise in insurance defense, will take 50,000 square feet in Esperante. Cole Scott now is in the Sabadell United Bank building at 1645 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd.

Real estate sources say the firm will move nearly 30 lawyers to space in Esperante being vacated by the Akerman Senterfitt law firm, which is jumping to the Phillips Point office complex across the street next September.

Cole Scott has been scouting new office space for some time and was close to a deal with the Gateway Tower, a 200,000-square-foot office building planned by Related Cos. for the median of Okeechobee Boulevard, a spot known as “the triangle.”

However, word is Gateway would not be ready in time for Cole Scott’s needs, so the firm looked elsewhere.

Sources say the Cole Scott name will adorn the Esperante, a Class A, trophy office building totaling 256,000 square feet at 222 Lakeview Ave.

A CBRE official declined to comment on Esperante’s sale or possible new leases.

The broker for Cole Scott Kissane, Jon Bourbeau of NGKF in Miami, also declined to comment. Officials with Crocker and Cornerstone could not be reached for comment.

Esperante’s owner, a CBRE fund, recently was close to a deal to sell the property for around $83 million to Parkway Properties of Orlando. But the potential deal cratered after it became clear Akerman Senterfitt was leaving. Sources say the building’s sales price dropped by around $10 million as a result, sources said.

Crocker-Cornerstone is said to be buying Esperante for a figure believed to be in the low $70 million range, which isn’t much more than what a CBRE fund paid for Esperante in January 2009, when the building traded hands for $67.55 million.

That was a big discount to the previous sale in 2005, when ING Clarion paid $105 million for the building.

The Esperante deal seems to fly in the face of Cornerstone’s philosophy. According to the company website, Cornerstone “typically eschews Investment in so-called “Trophy Buildings,” concentrating Investment in Class A or Class B+ Buildings.”

But perhaps Cornerstone sees potential in the Esperante, which has an occupancy rate of about 72 percent.

With Cole Scott headed to Esperante, will Gateway Tower still be built?

Absolutely, according to a statement by the Related Cos.: “We are currently in the pre-leasing stage and given the quality and location of the asset, we have seen a great deal of interest from the office market.”

Related has yet to announce any signed leases.

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