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Boston firm buys CenTrust Tower

CenTrust Tower, a downtown office high-rise stuffed with luxuries ordered by ousted thrift chairman David Paul, will be sold for $44-million, a $6-million discount on the asking price, federal regulators said Friday. The sale to Winthrop Financial Associates, a Boston-based real estate investment management firm, is the second biggest real estate deal by the Resolution Trust Corp., which is responsible for selling seized savings and loan assets.

"This is a trophy property and a landmark property," said Jeffrey Furber, Winthrop's vice president of acquisitions. "We're just excited to be coming to Miami."

The federal agency is financing 70 percent of a 10-year mortgage and will get an undisclosed share of the cash flow and sales proceeds.

Winthrop is contributing $7.2-million cash plus $12-million to boost the 49 percent occupancy rate in the 37-story building, which sits atop a 10-story, city-owned garage.

Although bidding in January required a $50-million minimum offer, subsequent negotiations with several parties fell through. RTC spokeswoman Felisa Neuringer would not address the price cut.

"We're going to take the best offer, and generally that means the highest bid," she said. The 4-year-old I.M. Pei-designed building, roughly shaped like a one-quarter slice of a three-tier wedding cake, comes equipped with a stunning, 355,000-watt floodlight system that can illuminate the building in any color combination.

Plumbing fixtures in CenTrust's old executive suites are plated with gold, a single staircase cost $1-million, and tons of

green marble ooze extravagance in a tower overlooking the aqua waters of Biscayne Bay.

Paul's leftover luxuries include a never-used health club with mahogany lockers, a 24-seat table in the 47th-floor board room and a reflecting pool on the 11th-floor Sky Lobby, the first elevator stop above the ground floor.

Winthrop hopes to close the deal _ actually an 80-year lease _ before September. Winthrop and the RTC will share in the building's income, with the government agency receiving the major share until the mortgage is repaid.

Banks were not seen as interested buyers because RTC allowed Great Western Bank, which bought most of CenTrust's branch system, to keep the street-level lobby space.

Paul's decision to spare no expense while outfitting the thrift's headquarters fed his image as a symbol of S&L indulgence in the high-flying 1980s. CenTrust's takeover in February 1990 cost taxpayers $1.7-billion.

Paul is under investigation by two federal grand juries and faces dozens of civil suits for CenTrust operations and his personal dealings.

Other Winthrop properties include a combination office-hotel-retail complex called National Place on Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue and Fort Lauderdale's Pier 66 Hotel Resort.

The RTC's only bigger real estate deal for a property was the $66.5-million sale of the Hyatt Grand Champions Hotel in Indian Wells, Calif.