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Fifth Avenue Financial Center

Mister A's building sells for reported $39.25 million

A joint venture of BBL Commercial Real Estate of San Diego and New York-based Westbrook Partners has bought the Fifth Avenue Financial Center, known as “The Mister A’s Building," for a reported $39.25 million.

The roughly 145,000-square-foot building at 2550 Fifth Avenue in Bankers Hill is covered in thousands of Christmas lights each year and is home to the rooftop-view restaurant Bertrand at Mister A’s, which will continue to occupy about 12,000 square feet on the 12th floor. The Alessio family has owned and operated the building since its construction in 1965.

Prominent San Diego businessman, banker, restaurateur and race-track operator John Alessio constructed the building, which was the first office tower in Bankers Hill (Park West).

“As a native San Diegan, this is an incredibly exciting acquisition, since the tower is one of the most recognizable buildings in the city and nearly every long-time resident has a fond memory or story related to it,” said Casey Brown, BBL president in a statement.

“We look forward to positioning the building to once again be a vibrant and exciting destination while embracing and respecting its past.”

The building has been managed by Bud Alessio since his father’s death in 1998 and is 74 percent leased to a variety of tenants, many of whom have been there for decades.

A joint venture of BBL Commercial Real Estate of San Diego and New York-based Westbrook Partners has bought the Fifth Avenue Financial Center, known as “The Mister A’s Building," for a reported $39.25 million. File photo courtesy of CoStar Group

“This is a bittersweet moment for me,” Alessio said. “The building is not just a part of our family history, it is a significant part of the city’s history. It’s time for us to pass the baton, and knowing that Casey and the BBL team have such strong ties to San Diego and truly understand what the building means is very reassuring. We’ve had many offers from investors over the years, but it was important to us that the building retain its local roots.”

The CoStar Group reports tenants including the law firm of Thornes Bartolotta Maguire, Evanco Realty Advisors, Citylink Investment Corp. and the Timken Museum of Art.

In what is hoped will help fill the rest of the building, BBL and Westbrook plan a multi-million dollar renovation to transform it into what they say will be "an amenity-rich Class A office and retail environment offering the very best bay and city views in San Diego."

The team says the building's street level focus on pedestrians will include a new 5,000-square-foot restaurant, and possibly a café, pub or brewery, and other strategic commercial uses. An architect is expected to be named in the fall.

Brown said Bankers Hill, or Park West, has evolved significantly, and the upgrades at Fifth Avenue Financial will fit in with the rest of the neighborhood.

Andy LaDow, Michael Burton and Danny Fitzgerald of Cassidy Turley will market both the available office space and the planned retail and restaurant space.

“The building is ideally situated in the heart of one of San Diego’s most sought-after live and work communities, with million-dollar-plus high-rise condos intermixed with single-family residential and traditional apartments,” Burton said.

Both BBL and Westbrook — often as a team — have been active in San Diego County real estate in the past 15 months.

In June of last year BBL bought the four-building 177,149-square-foot Ocean Terrace Corporate Center near Legoland in Carlsbad for $41.17 million.

In November of last year, BBL and Westbrook sold the 283,786-square-foot Bank of America Building at 450 B St. in downtown San Diego for $73 million to a Sumitomo Bank entity.

BBL, formerly known as BCL, stands for the current partners Brown, Steve Bollert and Paul LeBeau.

Brown also teamed with former San Diego City manager Jack McGrory and others to buy the Casa del Zorro resort in Borrego Springs for $2.35 million last year.

Since its founding in 1997, BBL and its principals have developed, bought and repositioned more than $2 billion of office and industrial properties. The company owns and manages a 1.5-million square foot portfolio and is seeking office and industrial assets in Southern California, Houston and Arizona.

Westbrook Partners is a fully integrated global real estate investment firm founded in 1994 and has offices in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Palm Beach, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, Munich, Paris and Tokyo.

Since its founding, Westbrook Partners has raised and invested approximately $11 billion of equity in about $44 billion of real estate transactions in major markets throughout the world. Westbrook Partners is investing its ninth real estate fund with capital commitments of about $2 billion.

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