Record Land Deal: WS Development Buys Out Morgan Stanley
In the largest land deal we can recall, WS Development paid $359M to Morgan Stanley and partner BGI for the last land parcel in their 6.3M SF mixed-use Seaport Square development—12.5 acres. WS expects it will take an investment of at least another $2B to build out the 2.8M SF planned and approved for the site, EVP Dick Marks tells Bisnow.
The new ownership in Seaport Square will add momentum as well as fresh capital to the compelling neighborhood. WS, known mostly as an upscale retail developer, closed the purchase Friday with an institutional capital partner (a North American pension fund), Dick tells us. The two parties are “completely aligned” in their goal to hold the property long-term, Dick says.
The acquisition doubles the amount of retail WS controls from 500k SF to 1M SF, he says. It also gives the privately owned real estate firm the opportunity to guide development on nine blocks in the Seaport District. In a few days, the changing of the guard at Seaport Square will be complete when Morgan Stanley and BGI close on the sale of another parcel to Chinese investor Celona.
In 2006, WS first became involved in plans for the new Seaport District and the $3.5B Morgan Stanley/BGI mixed-use project: Seaport Square. Back then, the only contemporary buildings on the waterfront were the federal courthouse and the ICA, Dick recalls. Now, 11 of Seaport Square’s 21 projects are underway or recently completed, while other developers are also putting up housing, offices, lab space, and retail that’s build-to-suit or being quickly leased at strong prices. With this purchase, WS has a chance to build out an enormous chunk of the waterfront in its own vision.
Dick says WS will bring a new level of unity and depth to Seaport Square projects that in the past have faced the criticism of being bland and removed from the pedestrian reality. His team plans to develop a new neighborhood and park in which retail activity will be more integrated with, and complemented by, the other uses created above. The Chestnut Hill-based developer also plans to program its space with events, music and green space. It’s a chance to build a new part of the city, Dick says.