The Buildings Will Have New Owners, but the Names Will Stay Skyline Semantics BellSouth Tower Sold, NationsBank May Be Next

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A major piece of downtown Jacksonville's skyline changed hands yesterday, and another landmark building may also have a new owner soon.

BellSouth Telecommunications sold its 30-story tower to the J.S. Karlton Co. for $67 million. BellSouth's name will remain atop the 18-year-old building, and the company will remain a major tenant.

NationsBank also plans to keep its name on the 42-floor downtown building it occupies once it is sold. The bank put the building on the market last year.

"We are committed to remaining in Jacksonville and as anchor tenant in downtown Jacksonville," said bank spokeswoman Jerri Franz.

Commercial real estate executive Walter Dickinson said the sale of the BellSouth building and potential sale of the NationsBank tower point to the strength of the downtown market.

"It shows there's a lot of value in the buildings downtown," said Dickinson, president Walter Dickinson Inc. "We've never had a stronger downtown than we've had now. These are very substantial buildings."

As for BellSouth, the telecommunications giant sold its tower because "it's not necessary for us to own the building," said spokesman Rande LeFevre. "It's a lot to take care of. We'll leave it to another company to oversee a building of this size."

The BellSouth tower, which is assessed for tax purposes at nearly $72.8 million, is about 95 percent leased.

Karlton, a Greenwich, Conn.-based real estate and investment management company, plans to concentrate on leasing the remainder of the Bay Street tower and developing plans for cosmetic and infrastructure improvements.

"Our initial approach is going to be to raise it to the preeminent building in Jacksonville," said Steve Lipkins, executive vice president of Karlton. "It's a terrific building in a terrific downtown and a terrific opportunity."

The privately held Karlton Co. owns about 6 million square feet of real estate around the country, including the 53-story Banc One building in New Orleans.

In addition to BellSouth, the other major tenants in the 1.1 million-square-foot tower in downtown Jacksonville include CSX Transportation and Wellspring Resources.

Construction on the tower began in 1980 as a partnership between BellSouth and the now-defunct Charter Co. After Charter folded, BellSouth took over the project and began occupying the building in late 1981, said LeFevre.

The NationsBank name went up downtown last year after the bank acquired the tower during its purchase of Barnett Banks Inc.

Later in 1998, Charlotte, N.C.based NationsBank put a portfolio of 30 Florida properties on the market, including the Jacksonville tower that has a taxable value of $62.5 million.

NationsBank put the tower on the market because "it has not been the NationsBank philosophy to tie up our resources in real estate," said Franz. …