Investment giant Starwood Capital Group is close to reaching an agreement to acquire Blue Back Square, West Hartford’s upscale office and retail jewel, two sources familiar with the discussions said.
Greenwich-based Starwood Capital would acquire 460,000 square feet of office, retail and apartment space if a deal is finalized. Blue Back has been on the market for nearly two years.
The purchase price or a possible timetable for closing the transaction couldn’t be determined this afternoon.
Farmington real estate developer Robert Wienner joined with European investors Ronald de Waal and Street-Works LLC to develop Blue Back. Two years ago, Blue Back was put up for sale, part of a larger U.S. portfolio being sold by de Waal’s Atlanta-based Ronus Properties, Blue Back’s principal owner.
Starwood declined to comment late this afternoon. Ronus did not return emails seeking comment.
The $159 million development, which opened in November, 2007, is anchored by several major tenants, including Crate & Barrel, Barnes & Noble, REI and The Cheesecake Factory restaurant.
Ever since Blue Back opened, there has been heavy demand for its 100,000 square feet of office space even through the recession. As of last summer, all the office space was leased, with the exception of 5,000 square feet that was on the market for sublease.
Office rents pushed up into the mid-$30s compared with the mid-$20s for downtown Hartford.
Blue Back Square, geared toward pedestrians, was built in the so-called new-urbanist style, with parking lots on either end of the development. From the lots, or from either side of Memorial Road — which bisects the development — visitors step into a village of low-lying buildings. Developers incorporated historic, brick municipal building facades along South Main Street into the complex.
Starwood Capital was founded in 1991 and has completed over 490 transactions valued at $36 billion, as of Sept. 30, 2012, according to its web site. The investment firm has $22 billion of assets under management.
Among its better known investments, Starwood Capital invested in 1994 in a nearly bankrupt hotel real estate investment trust, transforming it into the $20 billion Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Inc. Starwood Capital sold its interest in Starwood Hotels in 2000.
Starwood Capital also has invested in the Carlyle Hotel in New York and the Paramount Bay residential tower in Miami, the company’s web site says.