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TIAA-CREF Buys Stake in New York by Gehry Apartment Tower

TIAA-CREF, the manager of retirement accounts for employees of nonprofit institutions, acquired a 49 percent stake in New York by Gehry, making it the biggest owner of the luxury apartment tower in lower Manhattan.

The recapitalization deal values the 76-story property at $1.05 billion, according to a statement today by Forest City Enterprises Inc. (FCE/A), the Cleveland-based developer, which previously held the majority stake. That’s the highest valuation for a single apartment building in the U.S., according to Dan Fasulo, managing director of Real Capital Analytics Inc.

The transaction reduced Forest City’s share of the tower to 26 percent, from 51 percent. Washington-based National Real Estate Advisors, which previously held a 49 percent stake, has reduced its ownership to 25 percent. Forest City expects proceeds of about $120 million from the recapitalization, according to the statement.

“We believe that high-quality, multifamily assets in cities with the strongest demographics such as New York can be powerful additions to our well-diversified real estate portfolios,” Phil McAndrews, head of real estate transactions and joint ventures at TIAA-CREF, said in the statement.

The tower, at 8 Spruce St. in the financial district, has 898 rental apartments. It was designed by Frank Gehry, 83, the 1989 winner of the Pritzker Prize and architect of buildings including the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Rents Climb

Manhattan apartment rents climbed 1.4 percent in November from a year earlier to a median $3,195 a month, according to appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate. The number of leases signed jumped 41 percent from November 2011 to 3,634 deals.

The median capitalization rate, or investment yield, for Manhattan apartment deals in the past 12 months is 5 percent, compared with a nationwide median of 6 percent, according to Real Capital, a New York-based research firm. Cap rates fall as property prices increase.

“The institutional-investor community is very bullish on multifamily and believes, even with super-low yields, it’s going to be a very good place to park money,” Fasulo said.