CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NASCAR Plaza office tower is being bought for $100 million by an Orlando-based real estate investment trust that is looking to own high-quality office properties in the South.

Parkway Properties Inc. announced Wednesday a deal to acquire the 390,000-square-foot office tower at South Caldwell and East Stonewall streets. The building has struggled to attract tenants since opening May 2009.

The plaza scored a coup this year, though, when banana-giant Chiquita Brands International signed a lease for more than 130,000 square feet to relocate its corporate headquarters from Cincinnati to Charlotte. Chiquita moved in this fall, occupying six floors of the tower.

This past May, Parkway announced it paid $250 million for the Hearst Tower, which had been owned by Bank of America. Parkway is also close to buying 525 N. Tryon St., say sources familiar with the deal.

The purchase of NASCAR Plaza represents another off-market transaction that enables us to expand in one of our key, target submarkets with a high-quality asset, James R. Heistand, Parkway s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

NASCAR Plaza has a strong tenant base and is the headquarters for several well-known companies, and we expect to create additional value through leasing and rent growth in a submarket that we believe will outperform during a recovery.

Under Parkway s deal to purchase the tower, the real estate trust will own 100 percent of the building. Parkway will assume the first mortgage on the property, which now has a balance of $42.3 million, according to the real estate trust.

The office tower deal is a joint venture involving Trinity Capital Advisors, which announced January 2011 it bought the debt and equity interest in NASCAR Plaza. The tower had been scheduled to be sold by its lender at a foreclosure auction that month. Trinity partnered with Rubenstein Partners, a Philadelphia-based real estate fund manager, to buy the tower located next to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. NASCAR occupies 120,000 square feet of the tower.

Parkway owns or has an interest in 39 office properties in nine states. Charlotte properties include Oak Hill Business Park and Carmel Crossing.

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