For months, there has been speculation about what would happen to the Carmike Cinemas corporate headquarters in downtown Columbus since the movie theater chain sold.
The sale of Carmike — a local business institution since its founding as Martin Theaters in the 1930s — to Kansas-based AMC Entertainment Holdings was finalized in late December.
Last week, that speculation turned into a new reality as Greyrock Properties LLC purchased the five-story headquarters building at 1301 1st Ave. and a four-story building at 301 13th St. for $3.2 million, according to deed records filed in Muscogee County Superior Court.
Columbus apartment and real estate developer Will White is the managing member behind Greyrock Properties and the one who will now try to lease the more than 65,000 square feet of Class A office space left in the wake of Carmike’s sale.
Asked if it was a roll of the dice, White was quick to respond.
“It was a very measured, intentional, deliberate, analytical decision based on our knowledge of the market,” he said. “At the price we paid, we have a lot of buffer.”
For the $3.2 million, Greyrock Properties acquired the two properties and all of the contents, including office equipment, furniture, movie memorabilia, theater seats and much more. The headquarters also comes with 150 parking spaces just off Broadway.
City records list the market value of the former headquarters structure, which has five stories and sits on 1.65 acres, at $4.325 million. The other property that was part of the transaction is a 22,254-square-foot building, constructed in 1965, according to tax records. The city’s tax office lists the property with a market value of about $590,000.
Thursday afternoon as White walked through the former headquarters, he said he was ready to make a deal with prospective tenants.
“I don’t like to speculate very much and I don’t like to have buildings sit empty,” White said. “... I want somebody in here. The best time to make a deal with us is now. I am ready to lease it. ... We will be able to lease this at a very, very competitive rate because of what we paid.”
And the fully furnished property — with much of it executive-quality furnishings — is ready to be leased.
“What we know is almost every office has a desk, sofas, chairs, credenzas — ready to move in,” White said. “We know there are eight to 10 high-end copiers. We have a theater. Everything is in good shape, and they kept the building in good condition. There is no deferred maintenance to speak of. But I would have expected a company like Carmike to maintain it.”
Initially, the space will be marketed for professional offices for law firms, financial companies, insurance businesses, brokerage houses and accounting firms, White said.
Over the past few years, White has expanded his company’s business portfolio, added office buildings to his multi-family residential development business, Greystone Properties Management LLC. White owns all or part of about two dozen office buildings scattered throughout Columbus. One of the Greyrock Properties is the Wells Fargo building across First Avenue from the Carmike building.
“We sort of backed into it, but it has turned into a reasonably good-sized business,” White said. “We stay about 97 percent occupied.”
With that as the platform, White made the big leap when the Carmike building came on the market in early March. He looked at the property the second week of March and submitted an offer at the end of March to the Chicago-based commercial real-estate company, JLL, which had the listing.
And it happened quickly.
“When you are dealing with large corporations, you don’t know what’s driving them at that moment in time,” White said of the negotiations with AMC. “Our contact didn’t have any contingencies. We signed a contract and closed 12 days later. That is as fast as you can do it.”
As the 1200 block of Broadway expands with hotel, restaurant, retail and office space, and as W.C. Bradley Co., begins construction on a new 226-unit riverfront apartment complex, the purchase made sense, White said.
“There is a lot of activity and a lot of energy in uptown,” White said. “It is on 13th Street with great exposure. Somebody who leases enough space can name the building. It is next to the YMCA, near TSYS, near the pedestrian bridge — right in front of where the Bradley Company is going to build their apartments. Uptown is moving this way with the restaurants. I think it’s the best location in Columbus for office space.”
The building also comes with a movie theater on the second floor. If it is not rented by the fall, White has a pretty good idea what he will do with it.
“Depending on how leasing goes, my intent is to watch SEC football down here,” he said. “My hope is we have leased it to someone and I am not able to do it. But if it is not leased, we will do it.”