Oaktree unloads Philadelphia landmark

The Los Angeles-based distressed specialist sold the historic Curtis Center along the city’s Independence Mall for $94m to a local property investor.

Los Angeles-based Oaktree Capital Management has sold the Curtis Center, a 13-story office building located along Philadelphia’s Independence Mall for $94 million (€74 million). The former site of the Curtis Publishing Company lies near the Liberty Bell and National Constitution Center.

The Curtis Publishing Company published the Saturday Evening Post, which featured select covers designed by legendary American artist Norman Rockwell that have become a well know slice of Americana. When the Curtis Center was built in the 1920s, it was hailed as an architectural marvel, offering those who worked in the building new amenities such as clean drinking water.

The Curtis Center is also the site of “Dream Garden,” a famous Tiffany mosaic designed by painter and illustrator Maxwell Parrish. Estimates in news reports have valued the piece, which may be the second largest work of its kind, at between $5 million and $20 million.

In the late 1980s, Philadelphia developer Kevin Donohoe reportedly spent more than $140 million to acquire and renovate the building, including historical restoration and the refashioning of an open courtyard into a 12-story enclosed atrium that has become popular for charity events and receptions. At the time the project was dubbed the largest historical renovation of an office building in the country.

A partnership between Oaktree and Donohoe reportedly bought back a mortgage on the property from Sumitomo Trust and Banking for $62 million in 1997.

Local property investor J Grasso Properties bought the building from Oaktree and is reportedly planning renovations. In recent weeks, the building has been the site of union pickets after the custodians were dismissed in favor of a new cleaning contractor, according to local news reports.