Dewberry snags Midtown's Campanile

The old quarterback is throwing a long one, and the payoff could be big.

John Dewberry’s Dewberry Capital Group said Friday the company has Campanile under contract. The sale price for the former BellSouth headquarters is about $36 million.

Dewberry, a former Georgia Tech quarterback, bid about $80 per square foot for Campanile, or about one-third the price its previous owner paid.

The 20-story tower at 1155 Peachtree Street is in the heart of Midtown near Colony Square and the Woodruff Arts Center.

Dewberry is betting he can make the purchase pay off by expanding Campanile’s short tenant roster. The 446,000-square-foot building is only about 15 percent occupied.

Ridr Knowlton, a Dewberry executive vice president, said in a news release the move is in line with the firm’s “focus on premier urban real estate.”

Dewberry is known more as a landowner and developer of One and Two Peachtree Pointe. But he has caused consternation in Midtown for not redeveloping prime land he owns at Peachtree and 10th streets, a key component in the so-called Midtown Mile. Dewberry has said redevelopment will come when the time is right.

Dewberry said the firm has shifted focus to acquisitions in other parts of the U.S. and in Europe.

“In all of these markets, we focus on excellent quality in the best location,” Dewberry said in a statement. “Campanile achieves both of these objectives.”

Dewberry Capital beat competing bids from several firms, including Cousins Properties, Ackerman & Co. and Daniel Corp. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week that Dewberry was the leading bidder.

The previous owner, Transwestern Investment, of Chicago, paid $98.35 million in 2007. Transwestern returned the building to WellsFargo bank in March to avoid foreclosure, and Campanile has been in limbo ever since.

With a lower cost of entry, Dewberry Capital can be aggressive on price and improvements to the building, said Will Yowell, vice chairman of capital markets for CB Richard Ellis.

“I think we’re getting close to that bottom (of the market), but I don’t know if we’re all the way there yet,” Yowell said.

Dewberry Capital will be competing with newer skyscrapers like 1075 Peachtree as well as established buildings throughout Midtown and its own Peachtree Pointe buildings.

Occupancy at One Peachtree Pointe is down to 42.5 percent, in part because law firm Seyfarth Shaw relocated to 1075 Peachtree, developed by Daniel Corp. and Selig Enterprises. Dewberry staved off foreclosure on One Peachtree Pointe this year. Two Peachtree Pointe, home to Invesco, is 72.3 percent leased, according to CoStar Group data.

The strong interest in Campanile is a long-term a bet on Midtown.

“Midtown long term continues to be a great story,” said Mike Shelly, a senior vice president with Carter Real Estate, which developed the building in 1987.