AUGUST 19, 2009
BY MAURA WEBBER SADOVI, Wall Street Journal
The California Public Employees’ Retirement System has given up control of its stake in a trophy office tower in Portland, Ore., a sign that even the largest institutional investors are cutting their losses rather than throwing good money after some badly battered real-estate assets. The decision by Calpers, the country’s largest public pension fund by assets, to walk from its investment in the Koin Center, one of Oregon’s tallest buildings at about 509 feet, nicknamed the “mechanical pencil” for its signature shape, also shows that leasing problems are cropping up in even the country’s healthier markets. While it is on the rise, downtown Portland’s Class A office vacancy rate was 6.1% as of June 30, below the average of 12.9% for major U.S. downtown markets, according to Colliers International. Despite Portland’s relative health, in July a partnership that includes Calpers and CommonWealth Partners, defaulted on the Koin Center’s $70 million mortgage provided by New York Life Insurance Co., according to court papers. A state circuit court judge approved New York Life’s request that a receiver be appointed to control and possibly sell the property.