Equitable building sells for $19 million

The iconic Equitable building downtown has a new landlord who plans to remove its most visible feature -- the Equitable name -- from atop the skyscraper.

“There’s no question that everybody knows it as the Equitable building,” said Allen de Olazarra, chairman and CEO of America's Capital Partners, based in Coconut Grove, Fl. “But the company doesn’t exist anymore.”

De Olazarra’s company paid $19 million for the building and plans to spend at least that much modernizing it.

A new anchor tenant could have its name on the building instead, he said. Meantime, he will rebrand the building by its address, 100 Peachtree. He hopes to attract a major corporate relocation from outside the state.

The biggest tenant now is Accenture, which takes about 40,000 of the building's 622,000 square feet. De Olazarra says the building is 30 percent occupied but needs new systems. He wants to make it more energy efficient and attract new restaurants.

The location near two MARTA stations, Woodruff Park, Georgia State and other universities, and along the planned street car route, he believes, makes it one of the best located buildings in Atlanta.

“As both an investor and a little bit of an academic, I’m a big believer of re-urbanization of the major cities in this country. Atlanta is a text book case of where suburban sprawl frankly changed and I think degraded the quality of life that once made this city enormously popular and attractive,” he said.

Built in the 1960s during one building boom, the 33-story building became emblematic of the problems that ended the most recent boom. An investment group bought it for nearly $57 million in 2007. But the lender foreclosed in June 2009 , making it one of the city's first big buildings to fall into distress. America’s Capital spent about $30.50 per square foot on the property, or a third of the previous price.

That gives the company room to invest and attract new tenants, said Ken Ashley, a senior director at Cushman & Wakefield, a real estate services firm.

“You certainly make your money on the buy in real estate. And at 33 cents on the dollar you could turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse,” he said.

The purchase by America’s Capital also means that Georgia State University was unsuccessful in its effort to buy the building and add to its growing downtown properties. GSU did not comment for this story.

The Equitable building currently is America’s Capital only Atlanta property, but it has owned more than a half-dozen buildings across the metro market, including part of Peachtree Center.

“I frankly have liked downtown best, and the place I leased the most space was downtown,” De Olazarra said.