Thursday, December 27, 2018

Stark Enterprises sells its HQ, but to whom? And why?

Stark Enterprises' headquarters building at 1350 W. Third St.
in downtown Cleveland's Warehouse District as seen in 1964
 (left) and in 2017 (CPL, Google). (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

A potentially strategic property transfer in downtown Cleveland nearly slipped under the radar last week. Not only was the transfer publicly filed the Friday right before the Christmas holiday weekend, perhaps to avoid attention, but it was sold using a process that concealed the details of the transaction.

On Dec. 21, Stark Enterprises sold its 18,290 sf headquarters building at 1350 W. 3rd St., according to public records filed with the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Officer. The buyer is a company called 1350 W6, LLC. The person who formed that company on Dec. 13, per Ohio Secretary of State records, was none other than Stark Enterprises' founder Robert L. Stark.

No dollar amount was included. So anyone scanning the hundreds of property sales at the end of the month would probably look for transactions with larger dollar amounts first. Stark 1350 LLC bought the property in 2007 for $1.3 million and was asking $2.9 million, according to its since-removed listing on LoopNet.

Why would Stark sell a property to his own company? Because the company that Stark created in order to buy the property is probably going to be sold to another party. Why do that? Because the buyer can acquire the company for less money than the property. Acquiring a property incurs more transaction fees and potentially a higher property tax burden if the sale price is known. It's a process called Entity Sales.

The presence of another party is also inferred by the fact that Stark sold the property via a "Limited Warranty" exchange. If no other party was involved, Stark would have probably sold it via a "General Warranty" deed transfer. A limited warranty protects the seller in the event that some unknown liability could be passed on from the building's past. The Stark headquarters building was built in about 1900 and modernized with a new fa├žade in the late 1960s.

The location of Stark Enterprises's headquarters is visible in
this map courtesy of the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Officer.
All of the parking lots visible in this image are owned by
subsidiaries of Weston Investments. West 6th Street is
in the buildings' shadows on the lower left (CCFO).
It begs the question why Stark didn't just sell the company that had previously owned his HQ. A possible reason is that the company, Stark 1350 LLC, had Stark's name in it. The new buyer probably didn't want any reference to Stark in the company's name. That name, 1350 W6 LLC, is also an enigma. The property isn't at 1350 West 6th. It's at 1350 West 3rd. Both are at the corner of St. Clair Avenue. Unless it's a typo, the company's name suggests that the buyer has plans for the south side of St. Clair, all the way from West 3rd to West 6th.

The property along the south side of St. Clair from next to Stark's HQ west to West 6th is owned by a subsidiary of Weston Investments, a major real estate developer based in Warrensville Heights. None of these properties have transferred in the last two years and there's no indications from any other public records databases that these Weston subsidiaries were sold, added new partners or transferred to new statutory agents.

Stark Enterprises' proposed nuCLEus development in down-
town Cleveland will includes about 200,000 square feet of
offices, including for Stark's new headquarters (NBBJ).
I have reported on recent rumors about the Dream Hotel chain being interested in a site on "St. Clair Avenue in the Warehouse District" but had no further details regarding its location. I have contacted Stark Enterprises to learn more about the sale of it headquarters property but have yet to hear a reply.

Stark Enterprises plans to relocate its HQ offices from 1350 W. 3rd to its massive nuCLEus mixed-use development just north of Quicken Loans Arena. But Stark has been unable to fill a gap in their capital financing stack. It isn't yet known if this sale will contribute to it or otherwise affect Stark's timetable for building nuCLEus and relocating its HQ to it. But, unless Stark Enterprises moves to temporary offices, any redevelopment of Stark's HQ building is unlikely to occur until after nuCLEus is built.

END

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