A Dallas-based real estate investment group is nearing a deal to buy the downtown Union Bank Plaza building for $89 million, according to local real estate sources familiar with the deal.

Skyrise Properties LLC prevailed among four bidders for the office highrise and has put up money contingent on one of the building's co-owners agreeing to participate in the deal, sources said.

Union Bank Plaza, at 445 S. Figueroa St., is co-owned by Nippon Life Insurance Co. of America and The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States. Under their ownership agreement, either party can solicit buyers for the building, sources said, after which the other party must either agree to a sale or match the top bidder's price.

Nippon enlisted the services of Cushman & Wakefield of California Inc. to market the building. Cushman & Wakefield officials declined to comment.

Sources with knowledge of Skyrise's offer said that Equitable has until mid-April to respond to the bid. Equitable officials did not immediately return calls last week.

Skyrise officials have spoken to downtown L.A. landlord Judah Hertz about a potential partnership if the sale closes, sources said. Hertz's company, Hertz Investment Group, already owns the California Mart (the hub of Southern California's apparel industry), as well as the Wiltern Theatre on Wilshire Boulevard and several other buildings.

Union Bank Plaza, the first office building constructed in the Bunker Hill redevelopment project, was completed in 1968. The 40-story structure stands 516 feet tall and contains 617,988 rentable square feet of space. At the reported offer price, the building would go for $144 per square foot. Aside from Union Bank of California, which occupies 50 percent of the building's total space, there are some two dozen other tenants in the 96 percent-occupied building.

One source familiar with the deal said that Nippon wants to sell the building for two reasons: First, because Japanese companies in generally are eager for liquidity in their faltering homeland economy. And second, because Nippon has become weary of being a partner of Equitable, which for months has been indecisive about whether or not to sell many of its properties nationwide, including Union Bank Plaza.

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