Canadian group buys D.M.’s Financial Center

The Financial Center, once Des Moines’ tallest skyscraper, has new owners who plan renovations they hope will attract more tenants.

Lawmark Capital, a Winnipeg-based investment group, bought the 25-story office tower last week, said Mark Buleziuk, a member of the Canadian investment team.

“It’s still a prominent building in the city,” he said. “Its location on Walnut Street is fantastic. I just think there is a lot of upside.”

The Financial Center, at Seventh and Walnut streets, was built in 1973 and at the time stood as the tallest building in the state. Wells Fargo is the tower’s largest tenant, Buleziuk said. Other tenants include Walgreens, the Belin McCormick law firm, Dwolla and John Pappajohn’s Equity Dynamics.

Lawmark bought the building from Tomorrow 30 LP. Buleziuk declined to discuss specifics of the deal, but said reports that his group paid roughly $9 million were accurate.

The property is assessed at $13.2 million and most recently sold in 2001 for $24.75 million, according to the Polk County Assessor’s website.

Buleziuk would not say what percentage of the building is occupied but said some entire floors are vacant. The goal, he said, is to keep existing tenants and attract new ones with a series of renovations that include new windows throughout the building and heating and cooling upgrades.

Office vacancy rates, while improving, have been a concern for downtown officials in recent years. Competitive office space was 80 percent occupied in the central business district during the third quarter of 2013, according to a survey from CBRE/Hubbell Commercial.

Several projects turning empty office buildings into apartments figure to put a dent in the vacancy rate.

The Financial Center’s sale comes as the city is looking to overhaul Walnut Street to attract pedestrians and retailers to the area.

Buleziuk, a native of Winnipeg, is familiar with the downtown Des Moines market. His investment group bought a pair of foreclosed parking ramps during the downturn: the Partnership Building at 700 Locust St., part of which he converted to office space, and the former Keck City Center at 500 Grand Ave.

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