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Symphony Towers Purchased by San Francisco Contractor

San Diego County Business Editor

The glamorous Symphony Towers office-hotel project, which at 34 floors is San Diego’s highest structure and envelopes the city’s refurbished Symphony Hall, has been purchased by a San Francisco general contractor that previously held a minority interest in the 1.1-million-square-foot project. Purchase price of the project, now under construction in downtown San Diego, was not disclosed Wednesday.

The acquisition by Guy F. Atkinson Co. comes as progress on the project’s 24-story hotel part remains stalled after a dispute between the hotel operator and the developer. Whether construction on the 264-suite hotel will now resume because of the new ownership structure was unclear Wednesday.

Atkinson spokesman Leo Heagerty declined to commit himself on the completion of the hotel. Sources said that whether Atkinson proceeds with the hotel will depend on a new market feasibility study.

To Open in March

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The site, which occupies a full block bounded by 7th and 8th avenues and A and B streets, was designed so that the hotel part could be left out. Construction on the 521,000-square-foot office portion of the project is 85% complete and scheduled to open in March. The structure is more than 40% leased.

Incorporated into the project is the old Fox Theater, renamed Symphony Hall, home of the San Diego Symphony. Thanks to giant steel joists, or supports, the project is literally being built over and around the performance hall. The project’s construction cost has been pegged at more than $140 million.

The seller of the full-block project is Symphony Towers Ltd., an investment entity controlled by Charlton Raynd Development Co. of Denver. Terms of the acquisition also stipulate settlement of all litigation between buyer and seller. Symphony Towers Ltd. has a right under certain conditions until January to repurchase the project.

Atkinson, which is the parent firm of Symphony Towers’ general contractor, Walsh Construction, formerly was a minority partner in the project but insisted on taking over as developer after the project experienced financing problems. Without elaborating, Atkinson described its purchase of the project as “necessary” for its completion.

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The Atkinson officials who could explain why the restructuring of the project’s ownership was necessary were not available for comment late Wednesday, Heagerty said. Charlton Raynd partner Doug Wilson was also unavailable for comment Wednesday.

The project’s problems came to light earlier this summer when the developer and the designated hotel operator, Interstate Hotels of Pittsburgh, failed to come to an agreement concerning Interstate’s purchase of the completed hotel, which was to be situated on the north half of the block. Interstate was to have operated the hotel as a franchised Marriott all-suites hotel.

After talks between Symphony Towers and Interstate broke down, Atkinson withdrew its offer to invest equity capital for the construction of the hotel. Construction thus was halted on the hotel half of the block in June after parking levels were completed. Work on the office component of the project is continuing.


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