Wells tower buyer looking to buy more

Matt White's company has invested nearly $55 million in downtown Reno in the last seven months, and he's not done yet either downtown or elsewhere in the Reno area.

And he's backed by California investors who see the benefits of investing in Nevada every time they turn on the TV news and hear about another California company pulling up stakes.

White's Basin Street Properties, an investment firm based at Petaluma, Calif., said last week it closed an $18 million deal for the 120,000-square-foot Wells Fargo Building at 200 S. Virginia.

In December, the company paid $34.6 million for the 248,843-square-foot building known as Bank of America Plaza at 50 W. Liberty.

In a telephone interview from his home at Incline Village, White said Basin Street Properties continues to search aggressively for investment opportunities in the Reno area.

The story of the company's purchase of the Wells Fargo Building gives sense of its urgency:

Hearing through the grapevine that the owner of the Wells Fargo Building, Christiana Investments LLC, was preparing to sell the building, executives of Basin Street Properties moved quickly to present a strong offer and nail down the purchase.

Even though the vacancy rate in the Wells Fargo building is 20 percent, White said Basin Street Properties believes the downtown office market is poised for a boom.

strong offer and nail down the purchase.

Even though the vacancy rate in the Wells Fargo building is 20 percent, White said Basin Street Properties believes the downtown office marked it poised for a boom.

The development of residential properties in the downtown area allows office workers to live close to work, he said, while the development of amenities such as the Truckee River whitewater course creates ongoing buzz.

All that's missing, White said, is retail but that will follow development of residential projects.

Demand for downtown offices is further fueled, he said, by rising costs of newly constructed office space in south Reno.

"It's cheaper to do business in downtown Reno than south Reno," he said. "The market is very open to the idea of moving back to downtown Reno."

At the same time, however, Basin Street Properties is looking throughout the market not just downtown for investment opportunities.

It's having no trouble selling its story to bankers and investors, White said. In the last 20 years, Basin Street has financed about $300 million in real estate deals with 14 institutional investors and has raised $70 million in equity.

A good share of that equity has come from California investors who are painfully aware of the headaches that accompany doing business in the Golden State and who are knowledgeable about the attractions of Nevada's business climate.

While Basin Street is scouting properties throughout the region, White said the acquisition of two buildings within a block of each other provides some potential cost-savings.

Some management services might be shared between the two buildings, he said, and they provide two different types of products to meet different parts of the market.

One strength of the Wells Fargo building is its proximity to AT&T's main switch facilities in downtown. Already, the building is home to telecoms including Quest Communications, Eshelon Telecommunications, and Level 3 Communications. Other major tenants include Wells Fargo and Dean Witter.

Basin Street plans to upgrade the parking lot and HVAC systems at the Wells Fargo building and also will undertake interior improvements.

Ground-floor retail might be a possibility, White said, although Basin Street doesn't see much unmet demand at the moment.

Retail is part of the planning at the nearby 50 W. Liberty building, which also will house the fitness facilities of YMCA of the Sierra.

Other new tenants of the Bank of America Plaza include Blue Trout Restaurant and CTX Mortgage. The building is 85 percent leased.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment