Growing by Leaps and Buys

BY Debra Hazel

Editor’s note: Chain Store Age’s 23rd annual survey of Fastest-Growing Acquirers measured retail square footage purchased during the 2011 calendar year.

For some companies, being among the top acquirers of shopping centers almost is business as usual — top-ranked Inland Real Estate is a perennial leader, largely through avidly scouring daily for possible deals, while Kimco maintained its focus on top projects in top markets.

For others, though, their ranking is a return to the top. DDR Corp. (formerly Developers Diversified) regained its place among the leaders with a new name and focus on acquisitions, while Cole Real Estate Corp. returned in part by closing deals other companies can’t. And Westfield ranked fourth through the most dramatic strategy of all — entering new continents through joint ventures.

1. Inland Real Estate Group of Cos.

Volume and research are key for top-ranked Inland, which acquired 8.9 million sq. ft. of space last year. The company scans 200 opportunities a day looking for the right investments for its portfolio.

“We are like piranhas when it comes to deals. Nobody closes more individual deals than Inland,” said G. Joseph Cosenza, vice chairman and a director of Inland Real Estate Group and president of Inland Real Estate Acquisitions, Oak Brook, Ill. “We will do anything and everything to make sure we get it, as long as we do due diligence to make sure it is right for Inland and its investors.”

That due diligence has become more difficult throughout the market recovery, even for a company that has always researched potential acquisitions thoroughly.

“I’ve seen things in the last six or eight months I’ve never seen before,” Cosenza said, including utility demands for certain easements that would leave landlords at risk.

The result of the company’s aggressive growth is a presence in all 48 continental U.S. states. But predicting the future remains a mystery.

“Every year, I’m always asked, ‘What do you think you’ll be doing?’ ” Cosenza said. “I never know. I don’t know how much money we’ll have in the bank. And how would I know what’s going to be on the market?”

2. Cole Real Estate Investments

Class A centers in major metropolitan areas have been the major target for real estate companies and financial institutions looking to enter or re-enter the retail sector. Phoenix-based Cole Real Estate Investments, however, achieved its second-place ranking, with more than 4 million sq. ft. in acquisitions around the United States, by looking a little more broadly.

“All of the REITs want to be in the top-tier MSAs,” said Scott Holmes, senior VP acquisitions for Cole, a non-traded real estate investment trust. “But we have been successful at finding great deals in secondary areas, as that traffic hasn’t picked up yet.”

Cole has been a big player in general, Holmes said, but acquisitions are not getting any easier. As the market recovers, Cole is finding that it’s bidding against more players for quality properties. However, that can be an advantage.

“Toward the end of last year, we picked up six or seven deals on the rebound,” Holmes said. “They came back to Cole, because we close deals all-cash.”

The market will be even more competitive this year, Holmes added.

“We won’t see the cap rate compression we did last year,” he said. “We’re not seeing interest rates rise.”

3. Kimco Realty Corp.

Kimco Realty Corp.’s 3.7 million sq. ft. of acquisitions last year — placing it third — are a sign that the sector remains a safe haven for investors, said David Henry, vice chairman, president and CEO of the New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based company.

“Real estate increasingly is in favor again,” Henry said. “It is a hard asset, and an alternative investment, as Treasuries yield next to nothing. That said, it’s still a tale of two cities.”

Investors still prefer primary and gateway markets, and capitalization rates continue to drop, Henry said. Meanwhile, secondary and tertiary markets, as well as Class B centers, are less in demand, with high cap rates and prices still compressed.

“That also extends to the area of financing. Nobody wants to lend [on lesser product and locations],” he said.

Would the upside on such properties attract Kimco? Probably not — conscious of its obligation to its shareholders, the REIT maintains its criteria of acquiring top properties in major markets. There’s no lack of quality out there, Henry contended.

“We have narrowed our acquisitions, identifying 25 core markets where we have offices and properties,” Henry said. “There are 100,000 shopping centers in the United States, so it’s not a question of having nothing to buy. We’re trying to be more careful, more disciplined.”

4. Westfield

Fourth-ranked Westfield acquired 3.5 million sq. ft. of space by continuing to pioneer the globalization of the industry.

The Australian developer, which also has projects in New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom, last year acquired developments in Brazil and Italy in joint ventures with other companies, with the transactions literally occurring within a week. Both deals are a direct result of the company’s successful development of Westfield Stratford City, its regional mall opened as part of the London Olympic Village, said Peter Lowy, co-CEO of Westfield Group.

“We did a business restructuring in November 2010,” Lowy said.

The company acquired a 50% interest of a development site for a 1.8 million-sq.-ft. mall adjacent to Milan’s Linate airport in a joint venture with Gruppo Stilo. Plans call for the project to be complete in 2015 or 2016.

“Gruppo Stilo did a lot of the approvals on the site,” Lowy said.

Less than a week earlier, Westfield had acquired a 50% interest in Almeida Junior Shopping Centers, entering South America for the first time. The deal created Sao Paulo-based Westfield Almeida Junior.

An emerging market, “Brazil is very different for us,” Lowy said. “But we found a middle class that will grow by 20 million people and has a stabilized government. It’s a commodity-based economy with high tariffs, high taxes and high barriers to entry. It’s a well-developed retail world, very similar to Australia.”

5. DDR Corp.

After two years off the list, DDR Corp. (previously Developers Diversified) returns to rank No. 5 with 1.9 million sq. ft. acquired and a new name.

The shortened name reflects the company’s focus on acquisition rather than new construction, and on one sector, the firm said in 2011.

“We target select acquisition opportunities that can be enhanced by inclusion in our leasing, operating and redevelopment platforms, with a focus on owning prime power centers populated with high credit quality tenants,” said David J. Oakes, CFO of DDR, in an email to Chain Store Age.

The market is becoming more competitive, Oakes said, but in the third quarter of last year alone, the company acquired Cotswold Village and The Terraces at SouthPark in Charlotte, N.C., for $85 million, and Chapel Hill East in Colorado Springs, Colo., for $25 million.

The deals continue in 2012. In January, DDR announced a joint venture with Blackstone to acquire 46 shopping centers owned by EPN Group for $1.43 billion (including $640 million of assumed debt).

“Over the course of the year we expect to continue our stated strategy of investing the proceeds of the disposition of non-prime assets into the acquisition of prime assets with higher and longer-term growth potential,” Oakes said.

For a breakdown of properties and portfolios acquired during 2011 for each of the companies in this article, visit


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Back to Building

BY Katherine Boccaccio

While there still is not enough new shopping center construction to warrant a “Fastest-Growing Developers” ranking system — as Chain Store Age provided for 20 consecutive years, from 1989 to 2008 — progress continues to be made.

Rather than tally the top five or six shopping center owners’ added square footage for the prior year and generate a fastest-growing list, since 2009’s recessionary climate we instead have turned our focus to those developers that have built new ground-up centers or expanded through comprehensive redevelopment projects, and recognized those companies as “top developers.”

Our research and surveys revealed a dozen firms that led the development charge in 2011. We showcase those companies, and their most significant projects, here. And there is plenty to crow about. New centers have added jobs and improved communities. Expansions have brought desirable retailers to new markets. A new kind of outlet center has redefined the format.

We have arranged the companies alphabetically, below, and have described one or more projects for each. All new developments and expansion square footage were completed between Jan. 1, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2011.

Brixmor Property Group
New York City
Brixmor Property Group added nearly 1.3 million sq. ft. to its portfolio in 2011, which ranked the New York City-based shopping center owner among our top in terms of pure square footage. Brixmor counts among its most significant projects of the year its Sarasota (Fla.) Village redo, involving the addition of a new 46,000-sq.-ft. prototypical Publix and a rehab of the center. Additional anchors include Big Lots, Gold’s Gym and HomeGoods.

Columbus, Ohio
Of the 489,684 sq. ft. added last year, Casto’s hallmark projects were the Phase I opening of Park West Village mixed-use development in Morrisville, N.C., and the redevelopment of Randhurst Village, Mount Prospect, Ill.

Park West Village saw major Phase I tenant openings in 2011, including Target, T.J. Maxx, Buy Buy Baby and PetSmart. The project in total spans 100 acres and will include a town center district, community center, upscale casual restaurants and a movie theater, mixed with residential, office and hospitality.

The Randhurst Village redevelopment has so far seen openings from T.J. Maxx, AMC12, Charming Charlie and Old Navy, among others.

CBL & Associates Properties
Chattanooga, Tenn.
CBL entered the outlet arena in a big way in 2011, completing The Outlet Shoppes at Oklahoma City (in a joint venture with Horizon Group Properties) as part of its 890,372 sq. ft. of new construction last year.

On Aug. 5, 2011, The Outlet Shoppes at Oklahoma City opened fully leased to huge crowds. The 350,000-sq.-ft. outlet center introduces more than 40 new retail names to the area, including Nike, Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH, Brooks Brothers, Guess, Chico’s, Coach, Banana Republic, DKNY, J.Crew, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger and Under Armour.

Excel Trust
San Diego
New to our list is Excel Trust, which added 258,000 sq. ft. last year, with the redevelopment of Northside Plaza in Dothan, Ala., the opening of Phase II of the Plaza at Rockwall (Texas), and the Phase I opening of Red Rock Commons in St. George, Utah.

The West Coast-based company highlights the Plaza at Rockwall property as its most significant, as the redevelopment of the 436,000-sq.-ft. retail center added a new dimension in the form of food and service offerings. J.C. Penney, Dick’s, Staples, Best Buy and Belk anchor Phase I, and HomeGoods and Jo-Ann Fabrics anchor Phase II.

Forest City Enterprises
Of all the developers listed here, Forest City probably generated the most headlines with the opening of its Westchester’s Ridge Hill project in Yonkers, N.Y.

The 1.3 million-sq.-ft. Westchester’s Ridge Hill has delivered to affluent Westchester County a full spectrum of desirable offerings. Open tenants include Whole Foods Market, REI, National Amusements’ Cinema de Lux, Dick’s, L.L.Bean, Sephora, The Cheesecake Factory and Yard House.

At press time, Lord & Taylor was preparing to open its landmark store at Westchester’s Ridge Hill, and will be joined in 2012 by Brio Tuscan Grille and Republic of Couture, among others.

Kimco Realty Corp.
New Hyde Park, N.Y.
Kimco added 1.6 million sq. ft. of new development in 2011, plus completed nine redevelopment projects. The company highlights one of its international properties, La Ciudadela in Guadalajara, Mexico, as a significant project for the year. The Wal-Mart- and Cinepolis-anchored center features 758,000 sq. ft. in an open-air setting, making it one of just a handful of open-air centers in the City of Guadalajara. That, and the fact that Kimco was able to offer the community a combination of service, fashion and entertainment via La Ciudadela, makes it a notable project.

PREIT has never wavered from its core mission of making its centers as relevant and customer-centric as any of the best properties in the country. Transforming the outdated Echelon Mall, in Voorhees, N.J., into Voorhees Town Center is an example.

The multi-year, multi-phase project included right-sizing and renovating the enclosed mall, adding outparcels and constructing an office building, and then incorporating a mixed-use Town Center Boulevard. The addition of street-level retail and dining along the Boulevard is part of the center’s transformation into a “downtown” for the community. In 2011, Voorhees Town Hall relocated to the center and several new eateries opened, furthering the town center appeal of the project.

Regency Centers
Jacksonville, Fla.
In March 2011, Regency Centers opened Market at Colonnade, a 57,625-sq.-ft. neighborhood center in Raleigh, N.C., that features the state’s first newly constructed Whole Foods Market. Partnering with WelCor Development, this infill development set a new standard for environmentally responsible development as the first retail project in the Triangle designed and constructed to meet the LEED Core and Shell standards established by the USGBC for certification, and as an innovator of a stormwater management system recognized by the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund. Key tenant Whole Foods designed its store interior to meet USGBC certification guidelines.

The Sembler Co.
St. Petersburg, Fla.
Of the 355,471 sq. ft. it added last year, Sembler counts Town Brookhaven, in Atlanta, as its most significant. Community impact cannot be overstated; Town Brookhaven replaced an aging apartment complex in a commercially blighted area of the Peachtree corridor and has sparked new development and economic growth for DeKalb County. The project is anchored by LA Fitness, Publix, Costco, CinéBistro and Marshalls, as well as a lineup of hot restaurants that include Stir Crazy and Olive Bistro. Nearly 1,000 residential units and more than 22,000 sq. ft. of office space are part of the project as well.

Simon Property Group
A value-center heavyweight added even more bulk in 2011, as Simon’s Premium Outlet division unveiled its first presence in Malaysia with the Johor Premium Outlets in Johor, a second Premium Outlet in South Korea and an expansion to, and name tweak of, Las Vegas Premium Outlets – South.

In fact, among its 818,000 sq. ft. of new development in 2011, only about l00,000 sq. ft. were NOT outlet space, demonstrating Simon’s clear understanding of where the market is trending.

Los Angeles
In total square footage added in 2011, Westfield was the runaway winner, expanding its portfolio size by 2.4 million sq. ft. last year. And it wasn’t just international growth. Besides centers in Australia and the United Kingdom, Westfield added domestic muscle with expansions to malls in California, Washington and Illinois, among others.

However, the company highlights as its most significant project Westfield Stratford City, in London. The $2.3 billion new development comprises what Westfield describes as the most ambitious project in its history. Situated directly adjacent to the London 2012 Olympic Park, the property is an international gateway to the upcoming Olympic Games, with three-quarters of all spectators expected to walk through the grounds on their way to the Games.

Westfield Stratford City encompasses 1.9 million sq. ft. of retail space and is now the single largest urban shopping center in all of Europe.

WS Development
Chestnut Hill, Mass.
The redevelopment of its Center at Lenox (Mass.) is the project that WS heralds as its most noteworthy of last year. The 194,000-sq.-ft. property, built in 1973, consisted of Price Chopper, CVS, Marshalls and additional retail. The 2011 redevelopment entailed Price Chopper’s relocation to a new, environmentally friendly building at the opposite side of the center, the addition of a new freestanding CVS, space for new tenant Berkshire Bank, and parking lot and façade improvements.

The resulting $8-million Price Chopper superstore is a state-of-the-art building designed to achieve silver-level LEED certification.

[email protected]


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M.Donovan says:
Nov-26-2012 12:47 pm

This is the future! We should
This is the future! We should build more and more and for sure we will have improvements! lavrion charter

M.Donovan says:
Nov-26-2012 12:47 pm

This is the future! We should build more and more and for sure we will have improvements! lavrion charter

D.Khatri says:
Nov-23-2012 12:52 pm

Im glad to be back on your
Im glad to be back on your website and reading your latest posts. Its great to see you types of essay still pushing out some great reading material for us loyal readers. Ill be back soon.

D.Khatri says:
Nov-23-2012 12:52 pm

Im glad to be back on your website and reading your latest posts. Its great to see you types of essay still pushing out some great reading material for us loyal readers. Ill be back soon.


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Moving Dirt


There wasn’t a retail real estate insider in the country who didn’t send up a little cheer on March 22, when the only regional shopping center to open in 2012 did just that — it opened. To retailers. To dignitaries. To shoppers.

In fact, when City Creek Center owner/operator Taubman snipped the ceremonial ribbon draping the entrance of the downtown Salt Lake City center, the significance couldn’t have been lost on anyone, not even the “civilians” in attendance.

A new shopping center came out of the ground. On that one day, just like the day a year earlier when Forest City’s 1.3 million-sq.-ft. masterpiece Westchester’s Ridge Hill opened in Yonkers, N.Y., we could focus on growth, and not on an agonizingly slow economic recovery.

Like Ridge Hill, City Creek Center isn’t your run-of-the-mill regional shopping center. If I were comparing it with ice cream, I’d liken City Creek to Pecan Praline Crunch (yes, my Louisiana roots are showing). With whipped cream and sprinkles.

A retractable skylight roof — the first in the United States on a mall — covers the 700,000-sq.-ft. retail and dining destination. A 140-ft. skybridge creates a column-less connection between city blocks and offers a stop-off point from which to view Main Street. A 1,200-ft. creek (recreating historic City Creek, no less) courses through the property, and two 18-ft. waterfalls cascade onto sandstone boulders.

It wouldn’t be practical to focus just on the bells and whistles, though, because we all know that the only sound that really counts is the ring of cash registers.

Ninety-two retailers opened in concert with the opening of the center, with another three stores slated to open in 2012. Nordstrom and Macy’s are anchors, and a third of the stores and restaurants are new to the city or the state, including Tiffany & Co., Michael Kors, Coach, Tumi and Brooks Brothers.

This April/May issue of Chain Store Age — geared toward the International Council of Shopping Centers’ RECon event in Las Vegas this month — has a good bit of development chatter, but don’t discount the importance of the redevelopment movement. Our annual survey of Top Developers demonstrates a weighted focus on rehabs over new build, as you might expect, and our annual RECon preview confirms that redevelopments will take center stage at the Vegas convention.

Just as developers keep building and rehabbing, acquirers keep buying and third-party managers continue to add properties to their management portfolios at a dizzying rate, dominated by CB Richard Ellis and Jones Lang LaSalle. Enjoy!

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