[caption id="attachment_212431" align="alignright" width="437"] The sale of the Citizens Bank Center was the largest sheriffs sale in New Castle County in years. | DBT FILE PHOTO BY MIKE ROCHELEAU[/caption]
WILMINGTON – The city recently saw one of its most high-profile real estate losses since the COVID-19 pandemic began, after the Citizens Bank Center on Rodney Square changed hands following a foreclosure.Keystone Property Group, a real estate investment firm based in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., had owned the 18-story office building that is home to Citizens Bank offices, but also law firms like Ballard Spahr, Fox Rothschild, Neuberger Berman Group and others. Keystone bought the property for $22 million in 2011, marking the second time it had owned the 221,686-square-foot office building.In 2002, it acquired the then-Mellon Bank Center for $21.1 million, and invested in renovations of the façade, bathrooms, lobbies and mechanical systems. It flipped the property for more than $40 million to Maryland investment firm Bressler & Reiner in 2005, and six years later reacquired it after Bressler & Reiner fell into recession-related troubles.In November 2018, the $23.2 million mortgage underpinning the Citizens Bank Center was acquired by Minnesota-based investment and loan servicing firmO’Brien-Staley Partners (OSP). At some point in the last two years, it fell into foreclosure and proceeded to sheriff’s sale with an outstanding principal of almost $15 million, according to county records.With residential foreclosures paused through much of the pandemic by federal lawmakers and courts slowed to a crawl, the foreclosure case for the Citizen Bank Center was reportedly delayed. It landed at a sheriff sale auction on June 8, where OSP was the only bidder, buying back the property for $18 million. It was the largest sheriff sale in New Castle County in at least three years.Keystone officials declined to comment on the property sale and its foreclosure case.“Now that offices and courts are returning to normal operations, we look forward to serving the tenants of Citizens Bank Center and Wilmington,” Bill Muenzberg, managing director for O’Brien-Staley Partners (OSP), told Delaware Business Times. “OSP plans to invest in new tenants for the building and is looking forward to becoming a part of the Wilmington business community.”CBRE will continue to serve as property manager and leasing broker for the 56-year-old Class A office building, he said.