July 14, 2024

2023 has been a challenging year for the U.S. office market. Despite the return-to-office trend picking up steam, many investors and developers are now pivoting toward more creative ways to occupy and monetize new or existing workspaces.

So, to gauge the effect of these shifts on the overall U.S. office landscape and to highlight the most active markets in terms of top sales values, we compiled a list of 50 of the largest office space transactions in 2023 by using CommercialEdge data on deals for office buildings larger than 25,000 square feet. (For a full methodology, see the end of the article).

Notably, demand for life sciences and medical offices continued to play a crucial role across several markets throughout 2023, while portfolio transactions were among the most high-profile deals within the top 50. Here are a few of the key highlights from this report:

Executive Summary

  • Prada’s $822 million deal was the most expensive office transaction of 2023
  • 15 out of the top 50 office sales were for portfolios – with Northeastern assets boasting the highest price tags
  • Boston was home to the largest medical office sale – $578 million for Waltham property
  • Manhattan, Boston & Denver boasted the highest total sales values across the top 50

Prada Dishes Out $822 Million for 2 Manhattan Assets in Most Expensive Office Deal of 2023

Office deals volume across the top 50 totaled $8.7 billion as the slowdown of the Manhattan market and the absence of several sales of more than $1 billion within the ranking resulted in a 67% drop compared to 2022 totals. Once again, transactions in the Northeast were a major contributor with an estimated $4 billion worth of sales involving assets in these locations.

By far the most expensive office deal of 2023 was the sale of two Wharton Properties buildings on Fifth Avenue: Italian fashion house Prada’s acquisition of 720 and 724 Fifth Ave. for $822 million in December demonstrates big retailers’ interest in investing their cash reserves to buy up some of the most expensive commercial spaces in Manhattan.

 

Next, two Boston market portfolios featured prominently in the ranking with the $578 million The Gauge and The Centerpoint landing in second place, while the $366 million Waltham and Cambridge life sciences portfolio landed in fourth place. Other properties located in the Boston market finished in the lower half of the list, such as the Riverside Center and Boston Medical Center in 27th and 28th places, respectively, as well as Boylston Street in 41st place.

Moving South, the 590,000-square-foot Metropolitan Square in Washington, D.C. was the most expensive office sale from that region within the top 50. Formerly owned by a joint venture between Blackstone and Boston Properties, the building was acquired through a deed in lieu of foreclosure for a loan held by Artemis Real Estate Partners. The transaction for this Washington, D.C. office space landed in fifth place on our list.

Other high-profile office transactions from the South included the $250 million sale of 801 Brickell in Miami (in eighth place), and another Washington, D.C. property just outside of the top 10 — Station Place III, which sold for $198 million.

Not to be outdone, Texas boasted five entries with the highest ranking being the 275,000-square-foot VA Outpatient Clinic in Austin, which was acquired by Boyd Watterson Asset Management for $142 million.

Further north, the largest Midwestern office sale to feature in the top 50 was the RBC Gateway in Minneapolis. The 37-story building was sold by United Properties in the third quarter of 2023 for $225 million. Beyond the office tower, the $450 million RBC Gateway boasts a luxurious Four Seasons hotel, 34 upscale residences, a vibrant public plaza and a convenient skyway link to the Minneapolis Public Library.

Lastly, Honolulu made a surprising appearance on the list with the $96 million sale of the Davies Pacific Center. The Avalon Group purchased the 1972 property in January and announced plans to convert 17 of the 23 floors into residential condos for sale.

Northeast Home to Largest Office Portfolio Deals of 2023

Prada’s $822 million portfolio deal wasn’t the only one to find its way into last year’s most expensive office sales ranking. In fact, 15 of the 50 entries included multiple-building transactions and the entire podium was taken up by such deals, all of which were assets located in Northeastern markets.

Outside New York, The Gauge and The Centerpoint (in second place), in addition to the Cambridge life sciences portfolio (in fourth place) were the costliest office purchases in the Boston market, while the Harbor Financial Center Plaza (buildings 1-3) in Jersey City, N.J. — which changed hands for $420 million — placed third.

Then, another portfolio transaction — the largest of its kind within the West — closed out the top 10. CGA Capital paid $205 million for a combined total of 394,000 square feet of office space in Lone Tree, just south of Denver’s downtown.

Notably, nearly half of the multiple-asset sales that made the ranking were from California. For instance, the five-building Western Digital campus in Milpitas, Calif., was snatched up by Blue Owl Capital in September for roughly $192 million. After acquiring the property, the new owner closed a lease-back agreement with Western Digital until January 2039, with the possibility of future extensions. The transaction landed in 12th place.

Meanwhile, portfolio sales within the top 50 for Southern assets included properties from the Tampa, Carolina Triangle and Austin markets. Of these, Tampa’s One & Two Urban Centre — sold by Starwood Capital Group for $123 million in May — had the highest price tag within this region and landed in 26th place overall.

Waltham Life Sciences Office Trades for $578 Million in Most Expensive Deal in Boston Market

The Northeast continues to attract the largest investors in lab and R&D spaces as seven out of nine deals that included such workspaces were located in this area. Boston, of course, was home to the two most expensive life sciences transactions of 2023 — the $578 million purchase of The Gauge and The Centerpoint in Waltham, Mass., as well as the $366 million deal for the Waltham and Cambridge life sciences portfolio.

However, it was the New Jersey office market that received the accolades for closing a deal for the largest (in terms of overall square footage) life sciences space in 2023: Pharmaceutical giant Merck sold its 2-million-square-foot 2000 Galloping Hill Road in Kenilworth, N.J., for roughly $187 million in February. The sale placed 14th nationally for its price tag.

Not to be outdone, two life sciences workspaces in New Haven, Conn. — 300 George St. Technology Center (22nd place) and Park Street Building (38th place) — also made it into the top 50.

The only major life sciences transactions outside of the Northeast last year were located on the West Coast. The highest ranking of these was 200 Medtronic Drive in Lafayette, Colo., in 13th place — which changed hands in the third quarter for $188 million — followed by the Lawrence Station at Kifer Road portfolio sale in Santa Clara, Calif., which was bought by Intuitive Surgical for $152 million (19th place), as well as the Seagate Campus in Longmont, Colo. (42nd place).

Manhattan, Boston & Denver Boast Highest Total Sales Value Across Top 50 Office Deals

Manhattan’s dominance across the top 50 was significantly reduced as the nation’s largest office marketplace contributed $2 billion less to this ranking in 2023 than it did in 2022. Thus, with many companies reevaluating their workspace requirements and choosing to reduce their footprint, the list of the most expensive office transactions in Manhattan was dominated by medium-sized properties. To that end, the 613,000-square-foot 850 Third Ave. sold by The Chetrit Group in March was the largest of the bunch.

Otherwise, the five office deals that were closed in the Boston market totaled $1.3 billion in sales value, making it the second-most active and expensive market among the top 50. Once again, large-scale transactions in greater Boston were driven by the demand for life sciences and medical office spaces. Specifically, the Alaska Permanent Fund’s $578 million acquisition of a three-building life sciences campus in Waltham made up a significant portion of the market’s total sales volume in 2023.

Out west, Denver was the most productive Western office market in terms of top 50 sales last year with four transactions within the top 50 combining for a total of $622 million. In total, some 1.5 million square feet of office space changed hands here. The most expensive of these was the two-building Trainstation Circle portfolio sale, which finalized in June for $205 million.

In fourth, Washington, D.C. deals totaled $613 million to make this the most prolific Southern market for office transactions, ahead of both Miami ($250 million) and Austin, Texas ($244 million).

Top Sellers in 2023: Alexandria Sheds Boston Assets, Blackstone Sells SoCal & Atlanta Offices

Office markets didn’t have it easy in 2023 with construction activity slowing across the country and rising vacancy rates. In this environment, the ability of investors to adapt to changing conditions and decide which assets to divest can go a long way in maintaining an attractive and productive portfolio.

To that end, in the second quarter of 2023, Alexandria Real Estate shed two important properties located in the Boston office market. The largest was the Waltham and Cambridge life sciences portfolio, which Alexandria sold to a joint venture consisting of Alloy — the life sciences real estate investment platform of private equity firm TPG — and Anchor Line Partners.

The 509,000-square-foot Riverside Center in Newton, Mass., was the other office space in Boston that the REIT decided to part with. Acquired in 2020 for $235 million, Barings gained ownership of the property for a discounted price of $117 million. Initially, Alexandria had planned to convert Riverside Center into a life sciences workspace, but later changed course as demand for lab spaces in Boston slowed following a rise in the cost of financing.

The two sales were part of a wider effort by Alexandria to raise approximately $1.5 billion in capital for 2024.

Likewise, Blackstone’s EQ Office also sold off three major properties last year, the largest of which was the 814,000-square-foot Three Ravinia Drive in Atlanta. The property fetched $175 million in Q3, when it was acquired by Orlando-based investment firm Estein USA.

And, as the southern California office market witnessed significant headwinds throughout the previous year with many sales closing at significant losses to the seller, EQ Office decided to offload two of its Orange County portfolios. After the $91 million sale of the Canvas North and South buildings in Costa Mesa, Calif., the investment company recorded a 10% loss on what it paid for the two assets in 2013 and 2015, respectively.

The other Southern California asset on the chopping block was the 450,000-square-foot Von Karman Creative Center in Irvine, Calif., which was sold in February for $100 million. The nine-building property was 60% leased at the time of the sale. The new owner, IRA Capital, announced plans to potentially redevelop the offices into life sciences labs or residential spaces.

Methodology

We ranked the most expensive office transactions of 2023 for properties larger than 25,000 feet.
Transaction data (including sale price, seller, buyer, transaction date and address) was provided by CommercialEdge. The data was extracted on February 6, 2024.

Market-wide sales totals only included sales volumes from the list of the 50 most expensive properties sold in 2023.
Portfolio transactions involving multiple properties were only counted as a single entry. Only same-market portfolio transactions were included.
For partial-stake transactions, only the majority stakeholder was included in the ranking as the buyer.
For transactions with undisclosed sales prices, the sale price was based on CommercialEdge estimates.

While CommercialEdge attempts to ensure the accuracy and timeliness of the data provided, it cannot be guaranteed and is subject to change.

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